'Star Wars' Fails Once Again To Hire A Director Who Isn't A White Man

Despite promises, Lucasfilm continues to exclusively enlist white men to helm its projects. Did Disney learn nothing from "Black Panther"?

Another day, another white man hired to shepherd a “Star Wars” joint.

This time, it’s Jon Favreau, a blockbuster warhorse who has already directed, produced and/or starred in umpteen Disney titles, including the “Iron Man” and “Avengers” series, “The Jungle Book,” and the forthcoming “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “The Lion King.” Lucasfilm was “excited to announce” Thursday that Favreau will write and produce a live-action “Star Wars” series for the new streaming network that Disney is set to launch in fall 2019. 

“Jon brings the perfect mix of producing and writing talent, combined with a fluency in the ‘Star Wars’ universe,” Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement published on the franchise’s official website. “This series will allow Jon the chance to work with a diverse group of writers and directors and give Lucasfilm the opportunity to build a robust talent base.”

Director Jon Favreau at the premiere of "Black Panther" in Hollywood on Jan. 29.
Director Jon Favreau at the premiere of "Black Panther" in Hollywood on Jan. 29.

Kennedy’s words are telling: She has hopes for a “diverse” roster of writers and directors, but that roster will be led by the 12th white man to captain one of the franchise’s movies (or, in this case, live-action series) since George Lucas launched “Star Wars” in 1977. Even as the new trilogy and spinoff installments, including “Rogue One,” bring more women and minorities to the forefront of the galaxy far, far away, the films’ talent behind the camera remains largely white and masculine.

In fact, the only woman who has landed a creative leadership role in the “Star Wars” universe is Leigh Brackett, co-writer of 1980′s “The Empire Strikes Back.” No man or woman of color has held such a position since then.

With the “Star Wars” properties threatening to continue as long as the Earth spins, Kennedy has yet to make good on her supposed desire to recruit a woman to call the shots. In 2016, Kennedy said “there are many” women who could direct a “Star Wars” movie ― and she’d “talked to most of them.” Just last month, J.J. Abrams, who is preparing the follow-up to “The Last Jedi,” told Metro that Kennedy is “actively working to do the right thing” with regard to the lack of female directors in Lucasfilm’s annals.

But in the interim, Ron Howard was selected to replace Phil Lord and Christopher Miller on “Solo,” after which “Last Jedi” maestro Rian Johnson and “Game of Thrones” show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were handed the keys to brand-new chapters that depart from the Skywalker saga. “Selma” and “A Wrinkle in Time” director Ava DuVernay was at one point rumored to be in contention for a “Star Wars” entry, but this week she said on Twitter that it’s “not for me.” 

“It’s absolutely essential that we get some women directing these movies, and there’s so many talented female directors working today it’s just an embarrassment of riches right now in terms of the possibilities,” Johnson told HuffPost when “The Last Jedi” opened. “So, yeah, man, it’s time. And anything I can do to make it happen, believe me I’m going to do it.”

The carrot Kennedy has dangled is an understandable source of ire for “Star Wars” disciples longing to see their sci-fi bible become more inclusive. This is, after all, a saga whose original trilogy featured all of three significant female characters: Princess Leia, Mon Mothma and Aunt Beru, the latter of whom died in the first half hour. It’s especially disheartening to see Disney hire another white man since the studio has taken strides in recent years to diversify its stable of talent, from “Black Panther” and “A Wrinkle in Time” to the half-baked gay subplot in last year’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

Maybe Kennedy & Co. will hire women (or men of color) to helm individual episodes of Favreau’s show ― great! But they’d still be working for a white guy who’s been invited to the table again and again over the years. Favreau is a decent director, and he deserves a prosperous career. But if Kennedy wants to maintain a reputable brand going forward, she should put her big-budget money where her socially conscious mouth is. 

Additional reporting by Bill Bradley.

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