6 directors we'd love to see in the pilot's chair for Star Wars Episode IX

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Sep 5, 2017

Director Colin Trevorrow, who had been set to helm the final episode in the Star Wars nonology, has now exited the film due to apparent creative differences. That means a new director is now being vetted, interviewed, debriefed, stamped, and numbered by Disney and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. So who will direct the final film of the most recent Star Wars trilogy?

I don't know, or I'd flat-out tell you. And I don't have any insider intel on the subject matter either, other than Deadline mentioning that Episode VIII director Rian Johnson's name may be somewhere near the top of the list. But it could be any number of capable directors, so that got my thinking cap a cooking. So here are six potential candidates who could blast Star Wars IX into hyperspace.

Brad Bird

Bird is a great choice for any film. He directed one of my all-time favorite superhero movies, The Incredibles, as well as the heartstring-tugging The Iron Giant. Yes, both of these films are animated. However, Bird has worked with humans in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, as well as Tomorrowland. And considering how many animated characters, robots, and Muppets appear in the Star Wars saga, “can work with humans” may not be a priority on Disney’s directorial check-list.

With The Incredibles and Tomorrowland, Bird also has a proven track record with Disney. And a good working relationship should help soothe those pesky “creative differences.”

Ava DuVernay

At first blush, Ava DuVernay seems like an unlikely choice. The director has some experience in television and shorts, one TV series (Queen Sugar), several documentaries, an independent movie (I Will Follow), and only one studio film (Selma) to date. It’s quite a body of work... but that’s not all to her story.

When I say “to date,” what I mean is her most recent film work is on the upcoming A Wrinkle in Time, a story-driven-yet-effects-laden film with positive buzz from Disney itself. That alone makes her noteable.

But DuVernay one-ups any potential candidate for this important reason: J.J. Abrams, who directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, credited his pal Ava with thoughtful notes that helped improve the epic battle between Rey and Kylo Ren. Her suggestion that Rey pause in media res to take in Kylo’s actions and Maz Kanata’s words made Rey a force to deal with.

It will make DuVernay a force to deal with too.

Michelle MacLaren

The X-Files. Game of Thrones. The Walking Dead. These are genre’s most beloved television series, and MacLaren has directed them all. Even her non-genre work—which includes Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul—is a cut above standard television fare. MacLaren has extensive experience as a producer, too.

Yes, the bulk of MacLaren's experience is in television, and television is a different animal. But film and TV directors have flipped switches before (David Lynch springs to mind.) MacLaren, who also directed episodes of Westworld and The Leftovers, looks as if she has the talent to do the same. It’s the longest of long shots, but so was the Millennium Falcon's odds of navigating an asteroid field.

James Wan

Wan has made a name for himself in the horror genre—and what a name. He co-created the Saw franchise. Then he directed The Conjuring. Then came the highly successful Insidious. This is in addition to his producing and executive producing work, mind you.

If you’re seeing an upward pattern of success, so did the producers of The Fast and the Furious, who gave Wan the keys to Furious 7. It raked in $1.5 billion, which makes it the sixth highest-grossing film of all time.

Wan is currently at work directing Aquaman, which has a multimillion budget, countless special effects to envision, and all the studio notes he could ever want. He’s got what it takes to go ten rounds with the House of Mouse.

Taika Waititi

Have you ever seen What We Do in the Shadows? It’s really very good: a horror mockumentary about vampires that manages to be both laid back and uproariously funny at the same time. I saw it over two years ago, and I still laugh when I think about werewolves.

So why does Waititi’s experience with a low-budget movie qualify him for a film like Star Wars? It doesn’t. What does qualify him though is his uncredited first draft of Moana, as well as directing one scene in Doctor Strange. Put this together, and Marvel pulled pulled up the Thor: Ragnarok director’s chair for Waititi.

With only a few feature films to his name, you might not think Waititi could direct a movie like Star Wars. But I say he has unique insight. Star Wars has moments of horror in it (Owen and Beru Lars are seen as charred bones; Kylo Ren’s killer mentality), as well as a wellspring of humor. Waititi made an eminently enjoyable $1.6 million movie, and the latest Thor adventure seems to be shaping up nicely, too. Think about what he can do with a Star Wars budget.

Rian Johnson

Hey, why not give the job to Rian Johnson?

Johnson is already directing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and there has been no talk of “reshoots,” as there were with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, or of replacing him in the middle of production, as was the case with Phil Lord and Chris Miller during shooting of the upcoming Han Solo standalone film.

As such, Deadline's sources are putting Johnson near the top of the list. I say he’s an excellent choice, too, considering he was initially thought to be at least writing a treatment for Episode IX.

But I also say that considering most directors would grab at the chance to wield the directorial lightsaber, the media company can pick and choose. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mickey Mouse spreads his four-fingered hands far and wide in order to find the right director.

After all, the fate of the galaxy is at stake.