Before Ron Howard was on board as director of Solo: A Star Wars Story, and before the film even had an official title, creatives Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were at the helm. That is, until they were dropped from their directorial duties in June of 2017, a reported firing as a result of irreconcilable creative differences. Now, over half a year after the fact, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has opened up about her decision to remove Lord and Miller from the project.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Kennedy stated that it wasn’t an easy choice to make, but things simply weren’t panning out as smoothly as everyone had hoped they would. Lord and Miller were apparently clashing with Star Wars franchise scribe Lawrence Kasdan, who penned the Solo script, and had reportedly gone off the set story and taken the narrative in their own direction. This went against Kennedy and Kasdan’s wishes, and the two weren’t pleased with Lord and Miller’s improvisational approach.
“I just say over and over again that, yes, it was an incredibly difficult decision that we had to make, and obviously it was pretty late in the game, which shows we spent a lot of time trying not to have to make that decision. And I think both Chris and Phil are enormously talented and incredibly funny. When all of this came together, all of us wanted nothing more than to have this be an incredible working experience. And when it was not working out as we had all hoped, it wasn’t out of lack of talent,” Kennedy explained.
Despite the axing, there’s no real bad blood between Lord, Miller, and Kennedy. The Lucasfilm president actually praised the two creatives, commending them for their comedic skills, but she reiterated that their fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants mindset caused trouble behind the scenes. As a result of their improv antics, Lord and Miller were ultimately unable to stick to the production timetable. Kennedy confirmed that this process spurred the final decision, squashing rumors that she disapproved of their shooting style in particular. It all came down to the simple fact that they weren’t getting done what they should have.
“I think these guys are hilarious, but they come from a background of animation and sketch comedy, and when you are making these movies, you can do that and there’s plenty of room for improvisation. We do that all the time, but it has to be inside of a highly structured process or you can’t get the work done and you can’t move the armies of people to anticipate and have things ready,” said Kennedy. “So, it literally came down to process. Just getting it done.”
Kennedy’s decision to fire Lord and Miller came in the late stages of production, right as Solo was nearing the end of its principal photography shoot. But it also came after the studio had exhausted all other options, including writer Kasdan attempting to retool the project in the vein of how Tony Gilroy reworked Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Kennedy was left no other choice.
“There comes a point where there’s only so much you can do and then you have to take a different course and that’s where we ended up. So, it’s not like there’s anything I can really add to it because the last thing I want to do is [reopen a wound]. Yeah, I just don’t want to do that,” she said.
Kennedy added that Lord and Miller are “really great guys” and that “nobody wanted this to happen.” Their firing “was just one of those unfortunate things,” she stated.
Lord and Miller themselves previously discussed their exit in an interview at Vulture Festival, explaining that working on Solo was a “wonderful” experience, but their creative vision didn’t line up with that of Lucasfilm.
“We had the most incredible cast and crew and collaborators,” said Lord. “I think in terms of us leaving the project, I think everybody went in with really good intentions and our approach to making the movie was different than theirs. That was a really big gap to bridge, and it proved to be too big … Sometimes people break up, and it’s really sad, and it’s really disappointing, but it happens and we learned a lot from our collaborators and we’re better filmmakers for it.”
At the end of the day, filmmaker Ron Howard swooped in and finished up Solo: A Star Wars Story, starring Alden Ehrenreich as the titular smuggler, in time for its May 25 release.