Way back in the mid-’90s, George Lucas apparently exerted some mental energy trying to decide whether he’d rather create a trilogy of bloodless films in order to experiment with his new computer-imaging software, or hire some real filmmakers and make some decent Star Wars movies. He ultimately went with the former option, but—at least according to Ron Howard—it could have easily gone the other way.
“[Lucas] didn’t necessarily want to direct them,” Howard explains in a recent interview on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “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.”
If this story is true, that is some criminally negligent counseling from some of Lucas’ supposed friends. It’s pretty easy to imagine why those filmmakers might not want to take the reins themselves (especially with the benefit of hindsight), but they were well aware that Lucas hadn’t directed a feature film since the original Star Wars back in 1977. They couldn’t really have thought that him jumping back on the tauntaun for a mostly green-screen production was a good idea.
Later in the interview, Howard—who’s distinguished himself as a craftsman who makes a wide variety of films at a pretty good clip—revealed that it’s not just space operas he turns down. “I’ve had opportunities over the years [to make superhero movies]. I really feel like you shouldn’t make a movie as a kind of exercise. You have to be all the way in,” Howard told host Josh Horowitz. “I was never a comic book guy. I like the movies when I see them, especially the origin stories. I never felt like I could be on the set, at 3 o’clock in the morning, tired, with 10 important decisions to make, and know, intuitively, what the story needs. For me, I’d be copycatting and not inventing. I’ve never said yes to one.”