The Hardest Part Of Making a Modern Star Wars Movie, According To Kathleen Kennedy

The Hardest Part Of Making a Modern Star Wars Movie, According To Kathleen Kennedy

Now that the Skywalker Saga is over, what exactly is a Star Wars movie? It’s a question Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has been dealing with on a daily basis for years. Things on the streaming side are purring along fairly smoothly. But in theatres? Much less so, and Kennedy thinks it’s mostly because these things take more time than many people are ready to commit.

“With Jon Favreau and the TV side, we’ve gotten very fortunate that he’s made the long-term commitment,” Kennedy said in an extended interview with Vanity Fair. “I would love to find somebody on the feature side that would make that kind of a long-term commitment. There’s a couple of people I’m pretty close to that we may get there, but it’s such a competitive landscape right now that availability, exclusivity, those kind of ideas [make it] tough.”

Currently, the next Star Wars film on the release schedule is Rogue Squadron from director Patty Jenkins. But Kennedy makes it quite clear that particular film isn’t meshing up with where she and others see the future of Star Wars, and won’t be what’s next.

“We have a road map,” she said. “I would say that Taika [Waititi]’s story fits more specifically into that. Rogue Squadron … we kind of pushed off to the side for the moment. Patty is developing the script further. Then we will talk about how that connects to the central spine that we’re working on. There’s a couple of [filmmakers] that we’ve been in conversation with over quite a long period of time that I’m hoping will come in and make the overall commitment that Jon and Dave [Filoni] have made. That’s ideally what I would love to see happen in the feature space.”

It seems like Kennedy is looking for a filmmaker to dig deep and really commit to the franchise. One person who that almost could have been was Rian Johnson, who Kennedy says is the perfect example of this issue she’s finding.

Rian has been unbelievably busy with Knives Out and the deal that he made at Netflix for multiple movies,” she said. “I’ve had meetings with Rian; he’s somebody that’s come in as part of our little brain trust discussions along the way. He remains very committed to what it is we’re trying to do. He just literally hasn’t had the time to devote. That’s what I’m saying: anyone who comes into the Star Wars universe needs to know that it’s a three, four, five-year commitment. That’s what it takes. You can’t step in for a year and shoot something and then walk away. It just doesn’t work that way. So it requires that kind of nurturing.”

It’s the kind of nurturing that didn’t happen on the Sequel Trilogy, with J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson ping-ponging ideas back and forth between films. One of those ideas was Rey’s origins, and Kennedy explained that while many options for who the character’s parents might be were discussed, one popular rumour was never on the table: Obi-Wan Kenobi.

“The bigger issue is talking about Obi-Wan as a Master Jedi, and the issue of attachment and selflessness,” Kennedy said. “In order for Obi-Wan to have a child, you are really, really impacting the rules around the Jedi. What does that mean? If that were explored — and certainly there were a lot of ideas being thrown around — but anything to do with Obi-Wan in that regard was pretty much off the table because it flies in the face of everything George created in the mythology. We’re not rigid about it. It’s certainly open for discussion all the time. But that’s a pretty significant tenet in the mythology of the Jedi that we’d be reluctant to mess with.”

Kennedy does seem amicable about messing with Star Wars as a whole though. She said specifically that “we are moving on from the Skywalker saga. That’s what’s taking a lot of time, discussion, and thought right now,” and looks at one project in particular as a good goalpost of what’s possible.

“[The Acolyte] is a bit of an experiment for us because it isn’t building within the timeline and the era that Jon and Dave are,” Kennedy said. “It isn’t necessarily going to be where features are. We are moving into a new era with what [showrunner] Leslye Headland is doing.” She admits that publishing, such as The High Republic books The Acolyte will touch up upon, are a testing ground for what stories fans really respond too. But also admits that traditional outlets might not be the only place fans find crucial Star Wars stories in the future.

“As we look at where Star Wars is going, we don’t just assume it’s only going to be on television and in movie theatres,” she said. “That’s another evolution we’re having a lot of conversation around.” Head over to Vanity Fair to read more of Kennedy’s conversation, including talk about Obi-Wan Kenobi, recasting major characters, and more.

Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.


    • yeah nah, three word slogans or excuses from incels never counts as intellectual insight. At least the article and her words feature a lot more plausibility and show a rather more complicated and understandable web of issues.

      But by all means keep blaming one woman, if it gives your life some form of validation.

      • Kathleen may not be entirely at fault, but unfortunately as the president of Lucasfilm a lot of her decisions resulted in where the film-side of the Star Wars brand is now. Of course some blame goes to Disney for aiming to pump out too much too quickly, but when you have a face in front of a faceless corporation she becomes the scapegoat for all fan-rage.

  • Here’s a thought. Disney borrowed $4bn and had to make that money as quickly as possible. Coupled with Kennedy’s personal agendas, a poorly developed series of films resulted.
    Hence the drivel that was served up to audiences.

  • As a hungry, avid Star Wars fan, I was unfortunately disappointed by the new trilogy. The Force Awakens (TFA) was a lot of fun to watch, but admittingly, the film did rely on a lot of safe tropes and nostalgia to succeed. The Last Jedi (TLJ) was drastically different, but still entertaining, and then The Rise of Skywalker (ROSW) seemed like blatant fan service, in an effort to “fix” what The Last Jedi did.

    Ultimately, it was evident that this new trilogy did not have a plan.

    I read online that Rian Johnson, the director of TLJ, essentially could not begin working on the film until TFA was released, so in Rian’s defence, he didn’t know how TFA was going to play out, and how his film would be written, until TFA was out.

    Likewise, I feel that due to all the controversy TLJ received from Star Wars fans, J.J. Abrams made a gigantic effort to try and “fix” TLJ with ROSW, to please said fans, and that in itself didn’t have great execution.

    When compared to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy stated that unlike Marvel, they (writers and directors for the new Star Wars films) did not have much inspiration to draw from, as the MCU has decades worth of comic books… this comment seemed ignorant, and upset Star Wars fans, as Star Wars had a huge amount of narrative material in novels, comic books, video games etc. (the Expanded Universe, now known as Star Wars Legends, e.g. pre-Disney).

    Daisy Ridley, who portrays Rey in the new trilogy, stated that Rey’s parentage was constantly being changed and an idea was never settled. Daisy stated that originally, Rey was going to be related to Obi-Wan Kenobi, then it changed, and changed again, and eventually, the film makers settled on her parentage to be a “mystery”. Rian Johnson revealed the mystery in TLJ, making Rey a “no body”, with the whole point being that you do not have to come from a special family (Skywalker) to be special, and do special things… then J.J. Abrams was like, “Yeah, nah mate, she’s Palpatine’s granddaughter now”.

    I think I’m rambling, and I don’t mean to rant, but I feel that the new Star Wars trilogy could have been a lot better, but in my opinion, it was created by people who did not have an overarching plan to chain the movies together, and I feel like these people were not passionate or understanding about Star Wars. Sure, they’re film makers, and they want to make good movies that their audiences will enjoy, but I feel that the filmmakers for the new trilogy were more concentrating on the big dollar signs at the end of the tunnel.

    • You do know that GWL didn’t have an all-powerful overarching plan either, right? Making Leia a Skywalker and The Other were both post-TESB decisions. The Alan Dean Foster novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye started as a treatment for a low-budget sequel. And the decisions GWL made in the original Trilogy were not accepted by all fans, either.

      As to the MCU, Star Wars, for all its action and FX sequences, isn’t the same as a comic book movie. The heroes and the villains don’t constantly interact; Luke’s mission in ANH isn’t a showdown with the Big Bad; it’s Dam-Busters heroics. And when he DOES fight the Big Bad, he comes off second-hand. (sorry).(that was underhanded). (I’ll stop now). It’s a lot more complex to have heroes who screw up and villains who carry the hope of redemption.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!