Report: Ron Howard leads three contenders to take over Han Solo film

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Dec 20, 2018, 4:00 PM EST (Updated)

Following the shocking dismissal of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, Lucasfilm reportedly has some candidates in mind already to take over the Han Solo movie.

Hollywood was stunned late Tuesday afternoon (June 20) when Lucasfilm announced that Lord and Miller were exiting the film — a nice way of saying they were fired — four months into shooting with three weeks left to go.

With the studio determined that the Han Solo film make its May 25, 2018 release date, three names have already surfaced as potential new directors for the project. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the first is Ron Howard, the Oscar-winning director of A Beautiful Mind, Cocoon, Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code and many others. Howard is a solid, seasoned craftsman who can bring a movie in on schedule with minimum drama, if little real flair.

The second name mentioned is Joe Johnston, who started in the business as an effects artist and art director on the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as the first two Indiana Jones films, before embarking on a directorial career that has included The Rocketeer, Jumanji, Jurassic Park III, The Wolfman and Captain America: The First Avenger. Like Howard, Johnston is a professional and a master technician who can step on board a project and quickly get up to speed.

The last option mentioned so far is Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote the Han Solo movie with his son Jon. Kasdan has played a major creative role in the Star Wars franchise since nearly the beginning: he also co-scripted The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

Kasdan — a director as well on movies like The Big Chill — played an important role in shaping the character of Han in the early films, and it's being reported that he clashed repeatedly with Lord and Miller over the tone of the new movie and their more improvisational approach toward the script, as well as their interpretation of Solo himself. In the end, sources said that Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy backed her old friend and collaborator over the directors, finally showing them the door.

Production on the Han Solo movie is currently shut down for several weeks, and it's expected that once a new director is appointed, that person will review everything that Lord and Miller have shot so far and determine what is needed to finish the film, including reshoots.

There is much, much more to say about all this and I have no doubt that this story will develop in the days ahead. But this surprising, if not unprecedented, turn of events — combined with the many other snafus that the the new series of Star Wars films have hit over the past couple of years — leaves me pondering some big questions.

Why did Lucasfilm wait four months into shooting to pull the plug on Lord and Miller? Are any individual artistic visions going to be allowed to flourish at Lucasfilm, and if not, what does that say about the company? And finally, can the Han Solo movie — which I never saw as a terrific proposition to begin with — be salvaged?

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