Now that the Skywalker Saga is over, what exactly is a Star Wars movie? It’s a question Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has been dealing with on a daily basis for years. Things on the streaming side are purring along fairly smoothly. But in theaters? Much less so, and Kennedy thinks it’s mostly because these things take more time than many people are ready to commit.
“With Jon Favreau and the TV side, we’ve gotten very fortunate that he’s made the long-term commitment,” Kennedy said in an extended interview with Vanity Fair. “I would love to find somebody on the feature side that would make that kind of a long-term commitment. There’s a couple of people I’m pretty close to that we may get there, but it’s such a competitive landscape right now that availability, exclusivity, those kind of ideas [make it] tough.”
Currently, the next Star Wars film on the release schedule is Rogue Squadron from director Patty Jenkins. But Kennedy makes it quite clear that particular film isn’t meshing up with where she and others see the future of Star Wars, and won’t be what’s next.
“We have a road map,” she said. “I would say that Taika [Waititi]’s story fits more specifically into that. Rogue Squadron … we kind of pushed off to the side for the moment. Patty is developing the script further. Then we will talk about how that connects to the central spine that we’re working on. There’s a couple of [filmmakers] that we’ve been in conversation with over quite a long period of time that I’m hoping will come in and make the overall commitment that Jon and Dave [Filoni] have made. That’s ideally what I would love to see happen in the feature space.”
It seems like Kennedy is looking for a filmmaker to dig deep and really commit to the franchise. One person who that almost could have been was Rian Johnson, who Kennedy says is the perfect example of this issue she’s finding.
“Rian has been unbelievably busy with Knives Out and the deal that he made at Netflix for multiple movies,” she said. “I’ve had meetings with Rian; he’s somebody that’s come in as part of our little brain trust discussions along the way. He remains very committed to what it is we’re trying to do. He just literally hasn’t had the time to devote. That’s what I’m saying: anyone who comes into the Star Wars universe needs to know that it’s a three, four, five-year commitment. That’s what it takes. You can’t step in for a year and shoot something and then walk away. It just doesn’t work that way. So it requires that kind of nurturing.”
It’s the kind of nurturing that didn’t happen on the Sequel Trilogy, with J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson ping-ponging ideas back and forth between films. One of those ideas was Rey’s origins, and Kennedy explained that while many options for who the character’s parents might be were discussed, one popular rumor was never on the table: Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“The bigger issue is talking about Obi-Wan as a Master Jedi, and the issue of attachment and selflessness,” Kennedy said. “In order for Obi-Wan to have a child, you are really, really impacting the rules around the Jedi. What does that mean? If that were explored—and certainly there were a lot of ideas being thrown around—but anything to do with Obi-Wan in that regard was pretty much off the table because it flies in the face of everything George created in the mythology. We’re not rigid about it. It’s certainly open for discussion all the time. But that’s a pretty significant tenet in the mythology of the Jedi that we’d be reluctant to mess with.”
Kennedy does seem amicable about messing with Star Wars as a whole though. She said specifically that “we are moving on from the Skywalker saga. That’s what’s taking a lot of time, discussion, and thought right now,” and looks at one project in particular as a good goalpost of what’s possible.
“[The Acolyte] is a bit of an experiment for us because it isn’t building within the timeline and the era that Jon and Dave are,” Kennedy said. “It isn’t necessarily going to be where features are. We are moving into a new era with what [showrunner] Leslye Headland is doing.” She admits that publishing, such as The High Republic books The Acolyte will touch up upon, are a testing ground for what stories fans really respond too. But also admits that traditional outlets might not be the only place fans find crucial Star Wars stories in the future.
“As we look at where Star Wars is going, we don’t just assume it’s only going to be on television and in movie theaters,” she said. “That’s another evolution we’re having a lot of conversation around.” Head over to Vanity Fair to read more of Kennedy’s conversation, including talk about Obi-Wan Kenobi, recasting major characters, and more.
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