Phil Lord and Chris Miller are no longer the directors of the untitled Han Solo Star Wars Anthology Film after months of production. In the Director’s Guild of America agreement, Lord and Miller may have a right to make a Director’s Cut of the movie. While the details are being sorted out, the man responsible for Star Wars Episode: The Phantom Edit has offered his skills to make this happen.
The Empire Forces Out The Directors
On June 20, 2017, a joint statement between Lucasfilm and Lord and Miller cited “creative differences” as the reason for the team leaving the project. Ron Howard was later announced as the new director of the Han Solo film.
Almost two years has passed since the press release naming them as the directors. Filming began on the movie in January 2017 and the main cast started principal photography at the end of February. It is unusual to replace any director this late into production.
The DGA’s Basic Agreement of 2014, which protects the rights of the director, states:
“The Director shall be responsible for the presentation of his or her cut of the motion picture (herein referred to as the “Director’s Cut”) and it is understood that his or her assignment is not complete until he or she has presented the Director’s Cut to the Employer, subject to the terms and conditions.”
It goes on to say:
“a Director who is replaced after directing ninety percent (90%) but less than one hundred percent (100%) of the scheduled principal photography of any motion picture shall be the Director of the film entitled to all the post-production creative rights set forth…”
This would mean that if Lord and Miller have met the 90 percent threshold, they are legally considered the directors and are responsible for presenting a Director’s Cut of the film. All parties are scrutinizing the language of the agreement to determine if this is the case.
A New Hope Awakens
While you may or may not recognize the name Mike J. Nichols, you may be familiar with his work. In May 2001, he re-cut Star Wars: The Phantom Menace into what he called Star Wars: The Phantom Edit. At the time, he was anonymous and only known as “The Phantom Editor.” In September 2001, The Washington Post revealed his true identity, squashing rumors that Kevin Smith was responsible.
Nichols’s cut was most known for cutting down a significant amount of Jar Jar Binks’ screen time, but he used the art of editing to create more emotional beats, better comedic timing, and form a stronger overall narrative. The only source material he used was the VHS release of the original movie. According to the email he sent “To George Lucas and Star Wars fans everywhere“:
This project began as a personal endeavor when I watched ‘The Phantom Menace’ as an audience, analyzed it with the care and attention of a Lucas team member, and carefully re-edited it, concentrating on creating the storytelling style that Lucas originally made famous.
His work has been praised in multiple articles, as well as referenced in the 2010 documentary film, The People vs. George Lucas. Since then, he has been a professional editor working on several television shows, independent narrative movies and documentary films.
We Don’t Have A Bad Feeling About This
Lucasfilm/Disney will most likely fight the DGA contract to the fullest extent. If the company has to accept that a Director’s Cut must be made, Disney is going to make it as difficult as possible. As the Phantom Editor, Nichols was able to work with a VHS tape without access to the original footage, sound effects, music, etc.
Lord and Miller should choose to work with Nichols for a couple of reasons. They will have someone who not only cares about the source material and the Star Wars fans, but someone who, as a filmmaker, will be able to aid them in making the best possible film without the resources of the studio, re-shoots, or the final scenes that haven’t been filmed yet. Not only can Nichols work under these conditions, he is actually known for it.
Of course, Disney is under no obligation to release the Director’s Cut version. If the company is smart, it will be released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of a special release. This way Disney can make money from both versions.
What Are The Odds?
If Lucasfilm is confident with Ron Howard, what is the harm in allowing the Director’s Cut to exist? After all, if Lucasfilm is right, it has nothing to fear. It will prove the studio made the right decision, and the theatrical version will be the superior film. No harm in that, right?
Which version do you think would be better?