While we wait on the revelation of who they pick to direct Eppy VII, which could be a matter of months to as long as a year from now, I’m laughing (I have to laugh or I will cry) at the fanboys, professional geeks, and ill-informed unimaginative hacks at various entertainment news media trying to do their best to guess. Or more accurately, campaigning for the most obvious and pleasing choice to them.
Now I will say a few people have thought up at least some interesting choices: Catherine Hardwicke, the guy who did the last few Harry Potters, Kathryn Bigelow. It would be neat to see a lady direct a Star Wars film and I don’t think Bigelow for example would be a bad choice.
A few fans have mentioned Kevin Smith but he’s had a pretty shaky track record and he’s a pothead, meaning he’d have some disciplinary issues. You don’t want that behind the camera on a Star Wars movie.
But as I’ve said before, all of the obvious and pleasing choices are all busy right now with other projects. While anything is possible, even for VIII and IX From Outer Space, I think we need to remember something here. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Let’s take ourselves back to 1978. Lucas had already decided he was never going to direct a movie again so he was going with hired guns for TESB and ROTJ. Who would have been the most obvious choices to people at that time? Somebody who had directed a few James Bond movies? The guy who directed the 1976 remake of “King Kong" and some of those mid ‘70s Irwin Allen disaster flicks? Somebody who had directed some Star Trek episodes? Steven Spielberg? Robert Wise? Richard Donner?
So who did Lucas pick for TESB? Irvin Kershner, someone with no science fiction or fantasy experience, someone who had never made a blockbuster or anything sfx-intensive. He was best known for a cult Western, “A Man Called Horse,” and a thriller called “The Eyes Of Laura Mars.” Why did Kersh get the nod? Because he was one of Lucas’s instructors at USC, there were stylistic similarities, and Lucas figured Kersh wouldn’t mess things up.
When Lucas had to pick another guy to helm ROTJ, his first choice was…David Lynch. Lynch had some mainstream critical success with “The Elephant Man” but Lucas is a huge fan of Lynch’s “Eraserhead,” a movie only seen by generations of college students in need of something to watch during an acid trip. (I’ve seen “Eraserhead” sober and it is a weird, weird movie.)
When Lynch turned it down, Lucas went to the next logical choice, Richard Marquand. Why? Lucas liked Marquand’s 1981 drama/thriller “The Eye Of The Needle.” Marquand’s previous film was a horror movie “The Legacy.” Again, a guy with no sci-fi, blockbuster, or sfx experience.
I’m sure Kathleen Kennedy will be the one making the list but I doubt she will make a final decision without Lucas’s input or approval. And Lucas tends to go for people whose work he’s familiar with and admires, generally avoiding blockbuster directors and choosing people who make smaller movies.
Now, given that Spielberg has done unofficial work on the Star Wars films and he had been joined at the hip with Kennedy and her husband Frank Marshall lo these many decades, he may be the guy who breaks that pattern. I don’t know what’s on his plate right now but he seems to me a solid choice to handle the first one at least.
If it’s not Spielberg, I’d say look to anyone else who’s worked with Kennedy, particularly recently. I would also look at any other longtime Lucas associates/pals. I think Francis Ford Coppola is done with mainstream movies forever, so it wouldn’t be him. But what about Walter Murch? He directed one of the popular Umbaran arc episodes for Clone Wars. Coppola’s daughter Sofia is a possibility. Then there’s Sofia’s ex-husband, Spike Jonze. Jonze is probably the greatest music video director of all time. He also made the highly-regarded “Being John Malkovich” and directed “Where The Wild Things Are” just a couple of years ago. And guess what? Around that time Lucas mentioned Jonze as his favorite young director. Ding ding ding ding!
Then there are indie newbies like South Africa’s Neil Blomkamp, director of “District 9,” and Duncan Jones, who directed “Moon.” Both were sf features. Jones did an interview on starwars.com just a few years ago describing his love for the saga. Hmmm….ding ding ding ding!
A few speculators have mentioned Danny Boyle, who proved with “Sunshine” he can do sf, but Boyle’s style is very distinctive and it just wouldn’t work with Star Wars.
Maybe they will pick Brad Bird, whose work at Pixar I admire (but he has to promise to keep Simon Pegg away). Or Jon Favreau. I’m just arguing that given what Lucas did in the past, he’s likely to look at solid filmmakers who aren’t necessarily popcorn movie geek heroes.
Then the other day I was also thinking about the all-important costume design. That’s right, while everyone is thinking about who might compose in John Williams’s place or something, I’m thinking about clothes!
My first choice is the awesome Tricia Biggar, who might get three more chances at an Oscar nod. But if she can’t do it or if they want to go in another direction, I would not be toooo surprised if they pick up the Mulleavy sisters, better-known to the world as the fashion house Rodarte. Why would I pull these designer chicks out of thin air? Earlier this year, I read about Rodarte’s FW2012 show. I was not surprised to read that Natalie Portman was there. She is friends with them and frequently wears their duds; they even designed her wedding dress. But I was shocked that not only was Natalie there, but so were George Lucas and his main squeeze Mellody Hobson. Why were they there? Was Mellody looking for something to wear to her next soiree? Maybe. However, Lucas told the press that he LOVES Rodarte’s work. How many straight men do you know would ever want to go to a fashion show purely for the artistry? I'm sure that back in February during Fashion Week, Lucas had known was planning a new trilogy. Moreover, Rodarte does have experience doing film costumes; they worked on “Black Swan.” They've also done costumes for ballets (including for Natalie's hubby's productions) and costumes for other stage productions. They've worked on short films. They guest edited Frances Ford Coppola's "Zoetrope" magazine. How many more connections do you need?? Hmmm...ding ding ding ding! I'm not saying it's a done deal but I'm sure Papa George is keeping Kate and Laura Mulleavy on his short list. We shall see!