In a somewhat unbelievable turn of events this week, the same day that Solo: A Star Wars Story hit cinemas saw the news revealing the focus of Star Wars’ next outing – male bounty hunter, Boba Fett – which is to be directed by James Mangold. ‘Terrific!’ I thought, with Boba being one of my all-time favourite characters, while Mangold’s Logan was one of the best films of 2017.
It didn’t take long, however, for Lucasfilm’s lack of foresight to eventually dawn on me. Booking my tickets for an evening screening of Solo, I realised how strange it was that a largely mute, supporting character from the ‘80s – more a cool action figure than a multi-faceted individual – was getting his own film before a certain princess. You guys over at Lucasfilm know who I’m talking about, right? Leader of the Rebellion, icon of pop culture, guiding light for female representation in mainstream cinema… oh, she wore a gold bikini once? Thought so.
The discontent doesn’t stop with the on-screen decision, either. You might have already guessed by this point that James Mangold is indeed a middle-aged white guy – an obviously talented one (as I said, Logan is incredible), but a middle-aged white guy he remains. Including those fired during production and those hired to oversee reshoots, Mangold would be the 11th white man in-a-row to direct a Star Wars film (and that’s overlooking the fact that George Lucas directed four himself). Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy has consistently spoken about her eagerness to hire female filmmakers, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Just in the past few months, Game of Thrones showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, have been given the go-ahead for a new series of Star Wars films, while Marvel regular Jon Favreau will lead a live-action TV series for Disney’s new answer to Netflix.
The series’ return for directors like J.J. Abrams (The Force Awakens) and Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi) are more permissible – granted, they’re still middle-aged white guys, but they’re also proven in the franchise. It’s just that, when presented with a blank slate for new stories and no shortage of diverse filmmaking talent, Lucasfilm have nevertheless opted for the ‘safe bet’ – the white guy, apparently.
From Wonder Woman to Black Panther, this tired excuse has well and truly lost its legs. Not only can women and people of colour direct successful blockbusters, but they should – given their respective subject matter. But herein lies the problem: the subject matter, what’s on-screen, is too often a white man’s story. A Han Solo origin story? Here’s $250m. Leia? We’ll discuss it.
Yet, this isn’t even to suggest that ‘Leia: A Star Wars Story’ would make a great film. Aside from Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing in 2016, the character’s privileged upbringing would just make any prospective origin story a tedious and unengaging one. We just know her too well, and her best years have already been covered. Han’s have too, of course – yet here we are, with Solo: A Star Wars Story fresh on our screens.
It’s not surprising that a Leia film isn’t at the forefront of Lucasfilm’s slate – just look how long it took Disney’s other megabucks franchise, Marvel, to deliver a female-led film (Captain Marvel in 2019, which will be the series’ 21st entry). But it’s a culture that needs to change for purposes both cinematic (Solo was predictably terrible, by the way), and social, for all those young girls out there – whether actress, filmmaker, or fan.