We’re Still Waiting for More Women to Direct Big Movies Like ‘Star Wars’

Is Lucasfilm actually serious about getting more women behind the camera?
By  · Published on January 22nd, 2018

Is Lucasfilm actually serious about getting more women behind the camera?

The Hollywood Reporter recently profiled The Handmaid’s Tale director Reed Morano, detailing her rise to prominence from cinematographer to acclaimed filmmaker. But the piece specifically draws our interest in with an effective headline: “Is Reed Morano the Next Star Wars Director?”

THR’s query served as a prelude to the Sundance premiere of Morano’s newest feature, a sci-fi vehicle titled I Think We’re Alone Now starring Elle Fanning and Peter Dinklage. Highlighting Morano’s tendency to “push her career bigger,” the profile notes her tenacity in making sure her vision for The Handmaid’s Tale thrived instead of the “Ridley Scott type” of vibe Hulu and MGM were after. Morano’s efforts paid off and she received an Emmy Award last year for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Unsurprisingly, she apparently also caught the eye of Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and they have since met.

Morano told THR:

“I guess she was watching with her daughter and then called people and was like, ‘Who’s this Reed person?’ She probably thought I was a guy because of my name. She’s amazing. We’re talking about adventure movies, and I’m not even remembering that she produced ‘Goonies.’ Any movie that I put my finger on that I loved when I was growing up was a movie that she produced. Anyway, it was a great meeting. Obviously, I can’t say anything about what else we were talking about.”

Morano’s reveal that she and Kennedy have had some kind of conversation is certainly of note. Kennedy hasn’t totally dismissed the notion of women directing Star Wars, but she also hasn’t been the most accommodating in the past. “[Star Wars movies are] gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience,” said Kennedy in 2016. Which is easy to call bullshit on in the light of inexperienced male directors landing big movies constantly — Simon Kinberg getting to helm X-Men: Dark Phoenix comes to mind as an example.

Carey Mulligan also had a Sundance film to promote this weekend — Paul Dano’s Wildlife — but took the opportunity to speak about Dee Rees, with whom she worked on Mudbound. It’s no secret that Mudbound has been shut out of the 2018 awards race almost entirely, despite the film being lauded by critics; we even predicted it to be an Oscar contender this year.

“If Dee Rees was a white man she’d be directing the next Star Wars, she’d be nominated for an Oscar without question,” Mulligan pointedly opined. And she’s right. The Golden Globes set a tone for the season by snubbing Rees, along with other highly-praised women directors from last year such as Patty Jenkins and Greta Gerwig. Beyond awards, Rees has secured a directorial follow-up or two, which is, of course, fantastic news. But the fact remains that people aren’t giving her credit where it’s due.

“There’s something not right, and we’re working on it,” Mulligan said. “I think Greta [Gerwig] and Patty Jenkins have been overlooked for too long. If it doesn’t happen I fell like it will send out a big signal and I think that people will react to that.”

Mulligan’s Star Wars mention was simply an example of the privileges that white male directors have. White male filmmakers get to make virtually any project they dream of, from blockbusters to Oscar contenders. The soundbite is a snappy quote that critiques that system, but not without reason. Mulligan’s comment may not be anywhere close to tangible Star Wars news, yet it comes from a similar sentiment as THR’s framing of Morano’s anecdote about Kennedy.

The THR piece didn’t really address Morano’s potential involvement in Star Wars either or even confirm there is any kind of budding partnership between Kennedy and Morano. But it’s a fun mention that would understandably get readers buzzing. Fans like myself wouldn’t have necessarily thought about such a collaboration, but now we want it more than ever in order for Star Wars to set a strong precedent with its cultural legacy. Comments like Mulligan’s and headlines like THR’s prove how important the franchise remains to the cultural conversation surrounding Hollywood as a whole.

Star Wars is often cited as a benchmark of success because of how influential it has been for over four decades. The concept of Kennedy approaching Morano to direct something at Lucasfilm is a good start to bucking the trend of male directors helming stories in a galaxy far, far away. Even if that wasn’t at all what Kennedy and Morano discussed, the ideal scenario would be that the buzz surrounding the possibility would make it a reality. Furthermore, the search for talent has to also be more intersectional and include women of color too, which is what Mulligan’s comment reminds us of.

“There’s nothing we’d like more than to find a female director for Star Wars,” Kennedy has stated in the past. Lucasfilm could lead by example and provide a drastic shift in industry practice (and should have done so a long time ago), especially when it comes to big movies.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)