I’m betting I wasn’t the only one who chuckled when the news broke on Tuesday that the Patty Jenkins Star Wars film—the one that Disney trumpeted with a video of the Wonder Woman director saying her goal was the “greatest fighter pilot movie ever made”; the one that had a title, Rogue Squadron, and a release date, in 2023; and the one with the it’s-really-taken-this-long? designation as the first Star Wars film to be directed by a woman—was not happening. Well, not not happening, just delayed indefinitely, if you believe Disney. Scheduling problems, prior commitments, we’ll regroup next year, yadda yadda.
I talked to a few insiders this week that said the real culprit was the dreaded “creative differences”; specifically, Jenkins couldn’t agree on the script with Lucasfilm executives, including senior V.P. Michelle Rejwan. That’s not unusual, of course, but it’s a laughably recurring problem at Lucasfilm under president Kathleen Kennedy, say agents: Top filmmakers are dying to make a Star Wars movie—until they sign on and experience the micromanagement and plot-point-by-committee process. It happened to the Game of Thrones guys, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, who were hired to create a new trilogy but bailed. It also happened to Rian Johnson, writer and director of 2017’s The Last Jedi, whose own planned trilogy was shelved. Jenkins wasn’t willing to dick around, and she has other projects, notably Wonder Woman 3 at Warner Bros., where she enjoys more creative freedom. (Disney and personal representatives for Jenkins and Kennedy declined to comment.)
You’ll forgive my skepticism when it comes to Kennedy’s management of the Star Wars film franchise. Since 2012, when Disney paid $4 billion for George Lucas’ company and installed Kathy (everyone calls her Kathy) as his handpicked steward, Disney has sold billions of dollars in toys, books, games and merchandise; incorporated Star Wars lands into its theme parks; pioneered virtual production techniques at Industrial Light and Magic; and generated a slew of TV projects, including The Mandalorian, by far the most important series to Disney+. But when it comes to the Star Wars films—the basis of the franchise, and the skillset that Kennedy, one of the most successful and prolific film producers of all time, brought to the company—what a mess. It might seem hyperbolic to say that, given that the five Star Wars movies under Disney’s umbrella, beginning with 2015’s The Force Awakens and ending with 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker, have collectively grossed about $6 billion. But the litany of botched productions and missed opportunities could form the curriculum for a film school seminar called Franchise Mismanagement. Let’s briefly revisit: