It's hard to believe now, but Lucasfilm approached horror director David Cronenberg about possibly directing Return of the Jedi in the early 1980s. In a recent interview, Cronenberg recalled getting the invitation and explained why he said no. The director has carved out a successful career since turning down a chance to play in the Star Wars universe with some of the most iconic characters in cinematic history. However, one has to imagine what it would have been like had he said yes to Lucasfilm.
David Cronenberg's career is about to be celebrated at this year's Beyond Fest in Los Angeles and he took a second out of his day to discuss getting a phone call from Lucasfilm that many directors would give their tight arm for. Getting a chance to direct Return of the Jedi would have certainly sent Cronenberg's career off into a different path, for a little while at least. The director admits that he was young at the time, describing the phone call and the reaction that followed. Cronenberg had this to say.
"I still recall getting a phone call. Somebody said that they were from, I guess it was Lucasfilm, and asked me if I was interested in - at that point it was called Revenge of the Jedi, actually, until somebody pointed out that it was against Jedi philosophy to think in terms of revenge. But, anyway, I was asked if I would be interested in considering that, and meeting with everybody, and I said, with the arrogance of youth - relative youth, anyway - I said, Well, I'm not used to doing other people's material. And there was like a stunned silence and then Click - hang up. Basically, that was as close as I came to that."
In the end, David Cronenberg doesn't regret his decision. Return of the Jedi ended up with Richard Marquand in the director's chair, and the film is seen by many as the worst out of the original trilogy. But, this is still the original Star Wars trilogy that is still held in very high regard. It could have opened up doors for Cronenberg, but he says that he's never really thought about what could have been. He says this when asked if he regrets his decision.
"No, not really, because, in a way that's like doing one episode in a well-established TV series. The casting is fixed of the main characters - the look of it, the tone of it, people's expectations for it, are all fixed. You are not involved in the creating of that. And therefore you're a little bit more like a traffic cop than you are like, for me, what a creative director can be. So that's why it wouldn't have interested me, really. I mean, you have Alfonso Cuaron doing a Harry Potter episode, and he did his best to try to make it stand out from the others, but basically, it's a Harry Potter episode. And if you didn't know that Alfonso directed it, you wouldn't be able to tell. So, these are not attractive options for me. I mean, there's the lure of money, and having a big budget, and having excitement around the film you're making - but on the deep creative level, it would for me be frustrating, I think. Just frustrating."
Lucasfilm has been pumping out Star Wars projects since they were bought by Disney in 2012, all of which have been criticized for different reasons. However, it would have been pretty amazing to see David Cronenberg's name on a film from the original trilogy, especially if he would've gone on to make The Fly and Naked Lunch afterwards. Cronenberg has carved out an impressive niche for himself with the uncomfortable "body horror" genre, and is considered to be a legend in the field.
Back when Lucasfilm called David Cronenberg in the early 1980s, he had already built a cult following with projects like Shivers, Rabid, The Brood, and Scanners. The idea that Lucasfilm would even consider bringing Cronenberg on is pretty awesome in itself. Who knows, the Ewoks could have ended up as something far more dangerous and hideous in Return of the Jedi had Cronenberg helmed the movie. You can read the rest of the interview with David Cronenberg at Entertainment Weekly.