During a press conference today at Lucasfilm’s San Francisco campus, the cast and crew of Rogue One answered questions about the upcoming film. During the Q&A, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was asked about her earlier remarks about female directors — and pushed back on the idea that the company was excluding female directors.
“We have every intention of giving someone an opportunity,” Kennedy said, arguing that her original remarks were taken out of context. The company’s requirements, she said, are only that a filmmaker show an interest in the Star Wars property, and that they have some degree of experience directing bigger-budgeted movies. When asked at the press conference, she noted that while she had spoken to a number of female directors working in the industry, none have been brought onboard yet.
Thus far, Lucasfilm’s directing roster has reflected that, with the company hiring a number of filmmakers with mid-to-big budget credits, such as Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), Rian Johnson (Looper), Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (The Lego Movie), and Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World). The lone exception to that was filmmaker Joshua Trank, who had been signed to direct a Star Wars spinoff film while still working on his first large-scale feature Fantastic Four. Trank and Lucasfilm parted ways in 2015, however, with reports alleging at the time that Trank’s struggles during the Fantastic Four shoot played a role in the decision.
Kennedy’s original comments had caused controversy because they had been widely read to mean that the producer thought female filmmakers with the necessary experience didn’t exist, a sentiment that’s sorely out of step when directors like Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) are Michelle MacLaren (Game of Thrones) are regularly lauded for their filmmaking chops. But signing onto a major franchise such as Star Wars or Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe are enormous commitments that not every director is willing to sign on to, something that Selma’s Ava Duvernay cited as one of the reasons she decided to pass on Marvel’s Black Panther last year.
But while Lucasfilm may be operating with specific criteria on its part, the same cannot be said for other studio and production companies, who have been regularly snapping up male independent filmmakers and giving them an opportunity to direct larger films, even while female directors argue the same opportunities aren’t being offered to them. Trevorrow, for example, had nothing but the indie Safety Not Guaranteed to his name before he was handed the keys to the Jurassic Park franchise.
Given the scope and scale of films like Rogue One and The Force Awakens, it’s easy to understand why Lucasfilm is being cautious. Blockbusters are complicated beasts, and it’s obvious why a company would want to make sure a director can manage that kind of undertaking before putting them behind the camera.
But it also signals that Lucasfilm is practically waiting on other studios to help shape the careers of female directors, or directors of color, before handing over the keys to the Star Wars toy box. For example, Kennedy said that Gareth Edwards proved he could handle Rogue One with his work on the 2014 Godzilla reboot.
Legendary Pictures gave Edwards the opportunity to direct that film — which was reportedly budgeted at $160 million — after directing a movie called Monsters that cost just $500,000.
Bryan Bishop contributed to this report.