“At Lucasfilm, we believe the highest goal of each film is to delight, carrying forward the spirit of the saga that George Lucas began forty years ago,” Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, said in a statement. “With that in mind, we’re thrilled to announce that Ron Howard will step in to direct the untitled Han Solo film. We have a wonderful script, an incredible cast and crew, and the absolute commitment to make a great movie. Filming will resume the 10th of July.”
Howard is an Oscar-winner for 2002’s A Beautiful Mind and has been directing films since the late 1970s. He’s one of Hollywood’s most well-regarded producers, but his recent projects have fallen flat with audiences and critics alike. If he can save the Han Solo movie from disaster, it would go a long way to fixing his reputation.
Here’s what you need to know about Howard directing the film and where the project stands now.
1. Miller & Lord Were Fired 5 Months After Production Started
Miller and Lord, the filmmakers behind The LEGO Movie and the 21 Jump Street films were fired on June 20, five months after Disney and Lucasfilm announced the start of production in February. The news came as a shock in Hollywood, since Miller and Lord have a successful track record and had been working on the film for a couple of years already.
Kasdan, who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, wrote the Han Solo movie with his son Jon and prefers directors to film everything that’s on the page as is. However, reports suggest that Miller and Lord’s improvisational style clashed with this. It’s not clear why they would have been hired in the first place, since their style is so well known.
“It was a culture clash from day one,” Variety’s source said. “[Kennedy] didn’t even like the way they folded their socks.”
The official version of Miller and Lord’s departure was “creative differences.”
“Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project. We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew,” Miller and Lord said in a statement.
2. Howard Emerged as the Top Replacement Just Hours After Miller & Lord Were Fired
Howard quickly emerged as the top choice to replace Miller and Lord. Deadline first reported just minutes after the duo was fired that Howard was in talks because the industry vet could just slide in and give the film a professional guiding hand.
The Hollywood Reproter’s sources say that Howard will meet with the cast, which includes Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo and Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, to let them know that the project will continue. He’ll also look at a rough cut of what Miller and Lord have already shot.
According to THR, there was only three and a half more weeks of production and five weeks of reshoots in post scheduled.
Somehow, Howard will have to finish the film in time for its May 25, 2018 release date. He’ll have to put off work on a couple of other projects he had in mind, including a Luciano Pavarotti documentary and a movie based on J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Eulogy.
3. Howard Desperately Needs a Hit After Back-to-Back Bombs
Howard desperately needs a box office hit after two major bombs back-to-back. His last two films, Inferno and In The Heart of the Sea were expensive bombs. Inferno, the third film in the Tom Hanks-starring Robert Langdon series, only grossed $34.3 million domestically and $185.6 million overseas. In The Heart of the Sea, which cost Warner Bros. $100 million to make, only earned $25 million domestically and $68.9 million overseas.
The last film Howard made that was successful with critics was the racing movie Rush, but even that film was a box office disappointment. It only grossed $26.9 million domestically and $63.3 million internationally. At least that one “only” cost $38 million to make.
Howard has found more success with documentaries lately. In 2016, he helmed The Beatles: Eight Days a Week and also made 2013’s Jay Z concert film Made in America. He’s also a prolific producer with his Imagine Entertainment partner Brian Grazer. They have two highly anticipated projects coming out in 2017 – The Dark Tower and American Made.
4. Howard Was Approached to Direct ‘The Phantom Menace’
Howard has a long relationship with George Lucas and Lucasfilm, although he has never directed a Star Wars movie. Howard’s first major adult film role was in Lucas’ American Graffiti in 1973. In 1988, Howard directed the Lucas-produced Willow, which has become a cult classic.
In 2015, Howard revealed in a podcast that Lucas actually asked him to direct Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Lucas also asked Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, but they all wanted Lucas to direct it himself. So, Lucas broke down and did it, directing all three Star Wars prequels.
“He didn’t necessarily want to direct them. 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,'” Howard said at the time. “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.”
5. Every Star Wars Stand-Alone Movie Has Now Suffered Director Problems, Including ‘Rogue One’
Kennedy’s attempts to make Star Wars stand-alone films haven’t gone as well as planned. While Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ended up earning good reviews and even a couple of Oscar nominations, director Gareth Edwards ended up needing help from Tony Gilroy during reshoots and post-production to make the film work.
In addition, a stand-alone film planned with Josh Trank directing has gone nowhere since Trank was fired after 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four bombed.
Making the main sequel trilogy hasn’t been a picnic either. The Force Awakens went through a major screenwriting change after Michael Ardnt left and the film was pushed form May 2015 to December 2015. The production of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi has been smooth-sailing, but some have wondered if Colin Treverrow should really direct Episode IX after The Book of Henry failed with critics and audiences. That film also had to be re-worked after Carrie Fisher’s death last year.