For fans of the franchise, it can be difficult to think about the director’s credit on Solo: A Star Wars Story without it having a little asterisk next to it. Around this time last year—and right at the tail end of principal photography—Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired from the production and replaced by veteran director Ron Howard, forcing us to forever wonder how much of the finished product belongs to each creator. But anyone seeing the movie next weekend will only see one name under “Director” in the opening credits thanks to an old rule in the Director’s Guild guidelines.
According to the DGA basic agreement, which every major studio agrees to, the film’s director is not only guaranteed to have full say in the director’s cut of the film but must be involved in every step of the post-production process. However, to be considered the primary director of the film, you must be responsible for at least 90% of principal photography. Lord and Miller were given the boot about 75% of the way through their shooting schedule and thus had no say in the film’s production from that point forward and would not be given a director’s credit (they were given EP credits instead and are totally cool with it). Ron Howard may have only lead the remaining 25% of principal photography, but that was well over the 10% he needed as a substitute director to get the credit.
As the detailed video from Royal Ocean Film Society notes, the timing of Lord and Miller’s firing is a bit easier to understand when you look at what Disney went through with Rogue One. The director of that film, Gareth Edwards, completed 100% of principal photography and submitted a director’s cut that Disney was less than happy with. They felt the need to bring in another director for post-production and reshoots but, per DGA rules, Edwards had to be involved in every step. So, it makes sense that, if Kathleen Kennedy was already butting heads with Lord and Miller, she might strategically fire them at a point when she knew she wouldn’t have to involve them in the rest of the process. Just speculation of course, but pretty cold-blooded nonetheless.
Clearly, the anthology branch of the Disney Star Wars era is still going through some growing pains. Maybe one day they’ll figure out how to hire a director they’re happy with before the movie is almost completely done. Hopefully, that day comes before they start production on that Obi Wan installment.
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