Obi-Wan Kenobi goes solo: Why Stephen Daldry is a great choice to direct the Star Wars spin-off

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Aug 18, 2017

The master is finally getting his moment.

Multiple reports surfaced Thursday that a stand-alone Obi-Wan Kenobi film is in the works, and for fans, the news was simultaneously a disturbance in the Force — and far from a big shock.

Although this marks the first real confirmation that Old Ben will finally get the spotlight he deserves, chatter about a solo Obi-Wan movie kicked off the moment Lucasfilm announced it would release stand-alone films that explored characters from the Star Wars universe. Naturally, the vaunted Jedi Master's name floated above the din.

Details surrounding the Obi-Wan spin-off are scant — including plot details and a narrative timeline — but one element has come to light: Three-time Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry is attached to direct.

The British filmmaker may seem like a curious, unconventional choice to helm a Star Wars property focusing on one of the saga's most revered characters: The 56-year-old filmmaker is better known for directing refined literary fare like The Hours and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

But a closer look at his filmography and chops shows the director may have much more up his sleeve. Here are five reasons why the auteur may be perfectly suited to bring Obi-Wan Kenobi's sprawling story to the screen.

He's a pro at navigating complex narratives and sagas

As he's proven with The Hours and The Reader, Daldry knows his way around tricky scripts. Both those films bounced around multiple timelines and — in the case of The Hours — multiple interlocking storylines. That'll come in handy when telling the tale of Obi-Wan, which has the potential to be nothing short of epic. The Jedi Knight's narrative arc covers the full expanse of the Star Wars mythos, from his training with Qui-Gon Jinn to the Clone Wars to his stewardship of the ill-fated Anakin Skywalker to his vigilance protecting young Luke. Then there's a whole universe of plotlines from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which even includes a hint of a romance. Many fans, however, are rightfully suspecting that the bulk of the story may focus on what's been referred to as "the Dark Times" — that nebulous period between the prequels and the original trilogy. If there's one director who can pull everything together, Daldry — who is also the producer of the sprawling Netflix saga The Crown — is a good bet.

He's a master of character

Unlike Rogue One, whose conceit really hinged more on its concept (steal those Death Star plans!) than its characters, the Obi-Wan movie will be the ultimate Star Wars character study. Which means it needs a director well versed in the nuances of crafting a film around one compelling figure. (It's unclear whether Ewan McGregor, who played a young Obi-Wan in the prequels, will be returning to the role, but he's certainly still of the right age — and has enough A-list clout — to make sense in it.) Take a look at Daldry's body of work and you'll find lots of powerful characters leading the charge: Kate Winslet's tram conductor with a Nazi past in The Reader; Jamie Bell's fleet-footed ballet dancer in Billy Elliot; Helen Mirren's steely Elizabeth II in The Audience.

He's an actor's director and can navigate off-camera drama

If Lucasfilm is looking to score even more cred with actors, bringing in Daldry should do the trick. The filmmaker has always been a magnet for top talent, and his films have starred no fewer than 12 Oscar nominees and winners, including Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. More important, the actor has proven he can deliver even under testy circumstances — something that Lucasfilm, unfortunately, has weathered (see: Rogue One reshoots, Han Solo director switcheroos). While shooting The Reader, for example, Daldry's cinematographer left and producer Sydney Pollack passed away. There was also persistent talk of friction between him and producers Scott Rudin and Harvey Weinstein.

He's already been dabbling in fantasy fare

Star Wars might be Daldry's first full shot at helming a sci-fi epic, but he's already been hard at work on a very different kind of fantasy project. He's currently attached to direct the big-screen adaption of the hit Broadway musical Wicked, with its cheeky take on the Wizard of Oz universe. While that film is a ways off from heading into production, he did reveal late last year that development has been underway, adding, "We haven't done casting yet ... but it'll be great." It's set to arrive in theaters in December 2019 — the same month when Star Wars: Episode IX hits screens.

He can bring Lucasfilm the awards prestige it needs

Under Kathleen Kennedy's watch, Lucasfilm’s reinvigorated Star Wars universe has been a box office juggernaut, notching one record after another (The Force Awakens whipped up more than $2 billion globally, while Rogue One was last year's domestic top-grosser, with a $532 million haul). However, the one thing the new Star Wars films have been angling for — and which has remained elusive — has been awards prestige. Although The Force Awakens and Rogue One have scored Oscar nominations in technical categories, neither factored in any of the marquee races — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, or any of the acting derbies.

That could all change with Daldry, though. To date, he remains the only filmmaker to have scored Best Director Oscar nominations for his first three films, and he's directed two actresses to victory at the Oscars. Could an Obi-Wan movie (which, with its sweeping Tatooine sandscapes, could potentially become Star Wars' version of Lawrence of Arabia) be the one to finally earn Oscar's attention? Don't count out Daldry — or the Star Wars franchise as a whole.

Remember: Back in 1978, Star Wars was in the running for Best Picture, and one of its stars was up for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The thespian? The original Obi-Wan Kenobi himself, Alec Guinness.