Producer Kathleen Kennedy said the franchise might be a while away from its first woman in the director's chair, but here are some directrices who could handle it now
In certain corners of the Internet, if anything the rebooted Star Wars franchise is too female-friendly, what with The Force Awakens Rey and this month’s Rogue One’s Jyn seeing two women take the lead role. The decisions to reshape the story was largely made by the balanced gender team of executive producers, with Kathleen Kennedy largely credited with helping the George Lucas-created series find some gender balance while balancing the force. But recent comments by the super producer, behind such megahits as the Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park franchises, it looks like there’s a while to go until a female director takes the helm.
Although Kennedy has categorically said that it will happen someday, it sounds like that someday is far, far away. Speaking to Variety, the producer revealed that keeping up Star Wars recent push for diversity would continue, and that finding a woman to direct is a top priority. But Kennedy also added: “We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do Star Wars, they’re set up for success. They’re gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience.”
Kennedy’s choice of words is interesting; first of all, it is perfectly understandable to everyone that a film franchise that comes with expectations bigger than its mammoth budget should probably be helmed by someone with experience. However, the franchise has a noted history of giving a leg up to directors with their feet only on the first rung of the blockbuster ladder. JJ Abrams had directed several big action features before The Force Awakens, but Gareth Edwards and Colin Trevorrow had really only direct one each (Godzilla and Jurassic World, respectively) before being announced, and Rian Johnson, whose next project is Episode VIII, was best known for his indie favourites Brick and Looper before Kennedy came knocking.
There is no shortage of women directors who’ve brought a project of the same scale as Looper to screen, more than capable of bringing something to a franchise release guaranteed to be a hit no matter what. Here are seven women who could take the reins on Star Wars...
Jennifer Yuh Nelson
The Korean-American director is best known for helming the latter two movies in the Kung Fu Panda trilogy, a series of critically-lauded family movies, but which show a deft touch for design and CGI-powered action sequences. The franchise, which sees a rotund panda bear discover his inner power, train with a tiny old mentor, and reconnect with his father seems plucked from the Star Wars playbook.
As the first woman to ever win ‘Best Director’ at the Academy Awards, Bigelow cut her teeth and broke it big with Point Break, before becoming a master of suspense and brutality with The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Perhaps considered too hardboiled to handle the franchise’s more family-friendly aspects, there’s no denying a Bigelow episode would be thrilling to behold.
Best known for her sensitive serial killer drama Monster, which helped turn Charlize Theron into a versatile A-lister, the biggest impediment to having Jenkins tackle Star Wars is that she’s currently directing Wonder Woman for Warner Bros., arch rivals of the Disney-backed Marvel, with the House of Mouse also owning Star Wars. But the early buzz on Wonder Woman has been positive and if Jenkins can turn the tide on the critical drubbing the series has seen so far, she could well be tapped for Star Wars.
The Australian horror movie The Babadook was arguably one of the biggest breakout hits of 2015, receiving rave reviews for it terrifying and utterly unsettling account of grief and motherhood. And further proof, if it was even needed, that nothing good ever comes from top hats. Certainly, the horror flick didn’t have a Star Wars budget to pull off its set pieces, but each of those was realised in a way that transfixed the viewer and never gave away the film’s modest budget.
Given what we know about the interpersonal relationships between Carrie Fisher’s Leia and Adam Driver Kylo, who better to tackle a Star Wars episode than Ramsay, whose biggest hit was We Need to Talk About Kevin. Taking Lionel Shriver’s mawkish novel and turning it into a gut-punching drama about a mother and her sociopathic son is grist for the mill for Lucas’ series of intergenerational warfare.
After making a critical knockout with 2000’s Girlfight, Kusama’s first stab at sci-fi blockbuster Æon Flux failed to find favour with anyone, even if it did have some arresting visuals. Some ground was regained with Jennifer’s Body, but it’s last year’s little-seen The Invitation, a micro-budget thriller set in the Hollywood Hills at a dinner party gone wrong that shows there’s greatest still to come from Kusama.
While 2014 was her breakthrough year, with Selma seeing her become the first black woman to be nominated for 'Best Director' at the Golden Globes and her absence from the Oscars' shortlist a point of much contention, DuVernay just made history after she was chosen to direct A Wrinkle in Time for Disney. Now as the first woman of colour to helm a film with a budget north of $100m, DuVernay is gaining the 'experience' required, with her fingerprints all over one of the most pivotal scenes in The Force Awakens after JJ Abrams showed it to her looking for advice.