Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Report: Details Into What Caused David Benioff & D.B. Weiss To Leave 'Star Wars' (Updated!)

By: Dominic Jones

It's almost tradition now. A high profile person making a Star Wars film quits (or is fired), official statements about creative differences and wishing each other well are made by all parties involved, and then, within a few days, Hollywood insiders starting spreading details about what exactly caused this latest split.  We've been through it with Josh Trank, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Colin Trevorrow, and now Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who announced on Monday that they were no longer working on their planned series of Star Wars films.

The duo cited their recent development deal with Netflix, worth $250 million, as the reason they couldn't do Star Wars, saying they felt they didn't have enough time to work for both Lucasfilm and Netflix.  This is, at least in part, true, according to a new report from Variety's Justin Kroll.  When Benioff and Weiss signed on with Netflix in the summer, the streaming giant was reportedly not too keen to wait several years before seeing their first returns from the deal (Benioff and Weiss' first Star Wars film was slated to come out in December 2022). 

Meanwhile, however, their relationship with Lucasfilm was deteriorating as well.  According to Kroll, "The “Star Wars” period the pair was interested in exploring was how the Jedi came to exist. However, Lucasfilm executives and the creators begin to see their visions for the films diverge during meetings last summer."  Around the time of these meetings, Lucasfilm reportedly began to have meetings with other writers about other potential Star Wars projects.  However, Kroll says it's unclear if this was in response to the differences the company was having with Benioff and Weiss.

UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit and Lesley Goldberg have also chimed in on what caused the departure of Benioff and Weiss.  While their story covers much of the same ground as Kroll's, it also shed's light on a few other details regarding the timeline of their departure as well as some additional reasons for it.

Kit and Goldberg write that the duo's, "exit has been brewing since August" and that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was "unhappy" with their Netflix deal because she "was not convinced the pair — known for focusing on one project at a time — could develop a sci-fi trilogy while also overseeing film and TV projects at Netflix."

Their deal with Netlfix also reportedly came with a stipulation, requiring, "them to be exclusively on the sets of the projects they created during production, and not be away for Star Wars at the same time."
Original Story Continues:
It seems that with Netflix pressuring them to get started on original projects combined with a fracturing relationship with Lucasfilm caused Benioff and Weiss to cut bait with Star Wars and choose to focus on their own original ideas.  An understandable choice from their perspective, seeing as their vision wasn't aligning with what Lucasfilm wanted--not to mention the fact they spent the last decade working on an adaptation.

One thing that doesn't come up at all in Kroll's story is whether the reaction to the final season of Game of Thrones factored into their Star Wars departure.  The final season of Game of Thrones, one of the most successful TV shows of all time, was largely panned by critics and audiences alike, and some expressed concern about the future of Star Wars if it was left in their hands.  But, it seems that it was not a factor (or, at least, not a major one), given they were still having meetings with Lucasfilm this summer, presumably after the final season had aired, so it seems that the company was still willing to go forward with them even after the Thrones finale.

UPDATE: While Kit and Goldberg don't report that the reaction to the ending of Game of Thrones resulted in Lucasfilm wanting out of the partnership, they do report that it may have been a factor in Benioff and Weiss'.  According to one of their sources, "toxic fandom" was a key factor in them wanting out of Star Wars.  Kit and Goldberg point to the treatment of Star Wars actors like Kelly Marie Tran, who deleted her social media presence after relentless bullying from "fans", as well as The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson.

Benioff and Weiss were never less popular with fans than they were following the airing of season eight of Game of Thrones.  And having seen what people involved in Star Wars are frequently subject to from "fans", it is, again, understandable that they would want out.  (Which is not to say that the criticism of their handling of Thrones is not valid, because it absolutely is).

Original Story Continues:
Something that does come up in the story, however, is how all these high profile exits from Star Wars projects that we've seen in the past few years are impacting Lucasfilm.  Kroll writes that, "insiders at the talent agencies believe that top filmmakers may become wary of working on the series, particularly if the end result will be an embarrassing dismissal" and that, " the high rate of turnover is raising eyebrows across Hollywood".  Why this keeps happening is a question that has plagued the Star Wars franchise since 2017.  However, Kroll also reports that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy's job is still safe (and that Marvel Studio's Kevin Feige is not being groomed to replace her, and that his Star Wars project is believed to be a one-off).

UPDATE: Kit and Goldberg add that Feige's film is unlikely to be ready for the 2022 release date that Benioff and Weiss vacated.  Which means, by process of elimination, the most likely project to fill that slot is the first film in Rian Johnson's trilogy (assuming, of course, that we are still getting a Star Wars film in 2022 and that it is a project we already know about).

Original Story Continues:
Star Wars is facing many questions going into the release of The Rise of Skywalker, which closes out the sequel trilogy and (at least for now) the Skywalker saga, this December.  How have the past few years of negative press surrounding the toxic debate over The Last Jedi impacted the current health of the franchise?  Was the failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story at the box office a one-off caused by poor marketing and a bad release date, or indicative of something else?  Do audiences want Star Wars movies that take the series in new and exciting directions?  Or do they want nostalgia-fueled romps? The answers to these questions, combined with those surrounding who gets to make these films, are what will shape the post-Skywalker saga era of Star Wars.

Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.


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