A new hope for Han Solo film?

Ron Howard is tak­ing over ‘Star Wars’ spinoff days af­ter fir­ing of its di­rec­tors.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Jen Yam­ato

It’s of­fi­cial: Os­car-win­ning di­rec­tor Ron Howard is tak­ing over the reins of Lu­cas­film’s Han Solo “Star Wars” spin-off. Whether that’s a win for fans or the mark of a trou­bling turn to the dark side for the 40-year-old fran­chise re­mains to be seen.

The news comes two days af­ter the shock­ing de­par­ture of “Lego Movie” duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the ir­rev­er­ent helmers whose style and vi­sion for the pre­quel re­port­edly clashed with that of the bosses up the chain — namely, Lu­cas­film Pres­i­dent Kath­leen Kennedy and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and screen­writer Lawrence Kas­dan.

Their ouster sparked a frenzy across the “Star Wars” galaxy Mon­day, given that they got the boot an all but un­prece­dented 4½ months into pro­duc­tion, with only three weeks of prin­ci­pal pho­tog­ra­phy and sched­uled reshoots left.

“At Lu­cas­film, we be­lieve the high­est goal of each film is to de­light, carrying for­ward the spirit of the saga that Ge­orge Lucas be­gan forty years ago,” Kennedy said in a state­ment Thurs­day. “With that in mind, we’re thrilled to an­nounce that Ron Howard will step in to di­rect the un­ti­tled Han Solo film.”

There are pre­cious few in­stances in Hol­ly­wood history of a di­rec­tor be­ing re­placed dur­ing pro­duc­tion. It hap­pened on two bona fide clas­sics (“Gone With the

Wind” and “The Wiz­ard of Oz”), but in re­cent years, the re­sults have more typ­i­cally been ma­jor flops (films such as “Ex­or­cist: The Be­gin­ning,” “The 13th War­rior,” “Ru­mor Has It...” and “The Is­land of Dr. Moreau”).

In­dus­try watch­ers have been quick to point out how the fir­ing fits a pat­tern more in­dica­tive of cor­po­rate Hol­ly­wood moviemak­ing than any­thing else.

Un­der Kennedy’s lead­er­ship, the “Star Wars” cre­ative ca­bal has made a PR­boost­ing point to bring younger di­rec­tors into the fold, in­di­cat­ing a de­sire to breathe fresh en­ergy and new blood into the fran­chise. Be­hind the scenes, how­ever, tu­mult has fol­lowed.

“Rogue One” di­rec­tor Gareth Edwards was benched dur­ing reshoots on his “Star Wars” spin-off as word spread that Tony Gil­roy had dis­creetly come in to fin­ish the film; even J.J. Abrams was ru­mored to have clashed with Lu­cas­film ex­ecs over “The Force Awak­ens” be­fore dis­tanc­ing him­self from a re­turn to the fran­chise. Both movies went on to en­joy crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess in spite of be­hind-the-scenes chaos.

A spin-off cen­tered on bounty hunter Boba Fett, to be di­rected by “Chron­i­cle” and “Fan­tas­tic Four” filmmaker Josh Trank, fell apart on the eve of its planned an­nounce­ment. Buzz over “Star Wars: Episode IX,” to be di­rected by Colin Trevor­row (“Juras­sic World”), has suf­fered from the poor re­cep­tion to his new in­die film, “The Book of Henry.”

“Kong: Skull Is­land” di­rec­tor Jor­dan Vogt-Roberts chimed in on­line in de­fense of the im­pro­vi­sa­tion that Lord and Miller re­port­edly had adopted on set, to the dis­may of Lu­cas­film ex­ecs. “Read this and then re­mem­ber one cru­cial thing: Han Solo LIKE A BOSS quip­ping ‘I know’ in re­sponse to Leia say­ing ‘I love you’ WAS IM­PRO­VISED,” he tweeted.

On the f lip side, writer-di­rec­tor Rian Johnson (“Brick,” “Looper”), whose “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” is set for a De­cem­ber re­lease, tweeted: “I had as much cre­ative con­trol on [‘The Last Jedi’] as I’ve ever had on any of my own movies.”

Lord and Miller made their de­but with the 2009 an­i­mated hit “Cloudy With a Chance of Meat­balls” and went on to di­rect “The Lego Movie,” “21 Jump Street” and its se­quel “22 Jump Street” be­fore land­ing the Han Solo gig. Last year, Lord won the con­fi­dence of fans when he shared his take on the char­ac­ter of Han Solo, played by Alden Ehren­re­ich in the pre­quel: “I sort of re­late to him. He doesn’t want to do any­thing that he’s told. When told not to do some­thing, it makes him want to do it more. [He’s] very sar­cas­tic, and at the end of the day he’s un­rea­son­ably op­ti­mistic… ”

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, Lu­cas­film bosses be­came wor­ried af­ter watch­ing dailies in which Lord and Miller strayed from the script writ­ten by Kas­dan and his son Jon. Dis­agree­ments on tone, script ad­her­ence and Han Solo’s essence re­port­edly led to the split.

Due to the amount of ma­te­rial al­ready com­pleted, it’s un­clear how the Di­rec­tors Guild of Amer­ica will han­dle the ques­tion of who re­ceives credit on the fin­ished film.

Howard, 63, is a safe, old guard choice for Lu­cas­film: A solid, proven Os­car win­ner who starred in Ge­orge Lucas’ “Amer­i­can Graf­fiti” four years be­fore the re­lease of “Star Wars ” in 1977, he hails from the same filmmaking gen­er­a­tion as Kennedy, 64, and Kas­dan, 68.

Howard re­vealed in 2015 on the “Happy Sad” pod­cast that Lucas ap­proached him to di­rect “Star Wars: Episode I: The Phan­tom Menace.” “He told me he had talked to Robert Ze­meckis, Steven Spiel­berg and me. I was the third one he spoke to. They all said the same thing: ‘Ge­orge, you should do it!’ I don’t think any­body wanted to fol­low up that act at the time. It was an honor, but it would’ve been too daunt­ing.”

At the time, Howard said, su­per­hero movies didn’t in­ter­est him.

Howard is com­ing off a series of un­der­per­form­ing do­mes­tic earn­ers, most re­cently the Tom Hanks se­quel “In­ferno,” which marks the fourth dis­ap­point­ment in a row for the “Beautiful Mind” Os­car win­ner af­ter “In the Heart of the Sea,” “Rush” and “The Dilemma.”

Re­gard­less of the be­hindthe-scenes chaos, the un­ti­tled Han Solo movie, still sched­uled for a May 25, 2018, re­lease, will need only to top the $260-mil­lion take of 2000’s “How the Grinch Stole Christ­mas” to be­come Howard’s high­est-gross­ing film to date in the U.S. When ad­justed for in­fla­tion, no “Star Wars” ti­tle has grossed less than $400 mil­lion do­mes­ti­cally.

Jonathan Prime Warner Bros.

RON HOWARD is trad­ing the sea for a galaxy far, far away af­ter sign­ing on to di­rect Lu­cas­film’s trou­bled Han Solo pre­quel.

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