Written by Kirk BairdThe sudden and surprising news of George Lucas selling his Lucasfilm studio and its properties to Disney sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry. Just as big, though, was Disney’s announcement that it would be continuing the Star Wars series with Episode VII due in 2015, with Lucas serving only as an advisor. The man who created the franchise, wrote and directed four of the six films, and produced all of them is stepping away from his franchise to now let someone else carry on the space saga. And so let the rumors and speculating begin about who will carry the torch as director.
Here are some of the sure to be top candidates, with reasons why they will or won’t be attached to Star Wars: Episode VII.
Christopher Nolan: He reinvented the superhero movie with his billion-dollar-plus Batman franchise. He also made one of the smartest summer blockbusters not involving a pop culture icon, Inception. He even helped develop the story for the upcoming Superman reboot, Man of Steel, and currently has nothing else in the works.
Why he wouldn’t do it: Nolan would be a fanboy’s dream as director for the next Star Wars installment, but after tackling Batman he may want to go easy on the major studio franchises for a while. Or maybe not.
Peter Jackson: He specializes in bringing beloved stories to the big screen in threes. His Lord of the Rings trilogy was a triumph with audiences and critics and earned him several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Next up is his film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s first work, The Hobbit, beginning Dec. 14 with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Why he won’t do it: Jackson’s wrapped up in The Hobbit series — recently announced as a trilogy — through July, 2014, which wouldn’t give him the chance to begin production a new Star Wars film until well after it should have started. Plus, he’s already committed to directing the next The Adventures of TinTin film, with Steven Spielberg producing. And after six Tolkien movies, would he really want to tackle another fanboy obsession such as Star Wars?
Brad Bird: Bird made his reputation directing animated films: the overlooked The Iron Giant in 1999, and two successful Pixar movies, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. But what really got everyone’s attention was his work behind the camera for last year’s Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, arguably Tom Cruise’s finest action film.
Why he won’t do it: Next up for Bird is his long-in-development live-action film 1906, about the Great San Francisco Earthquake. IF this movie ever gets made — and that’s a big if considering the concerns over the film’s $200 million budget and its epic script — it’s likely to consume Bird for a while. But if 1906 gets placed on the backburner again, Bird may emerge as the frontrunner. Plus, how could he turn down Star Wars?
Zack Snyder: Snyder scored big with 300 in 2006, but he’s struggled since then with his ambitious adaptation of the graphic novel Watchmen, which no one thought could be made anyway, and the flops Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and Sucker Punch. Next up is Man of Steel.
Why he won’t do it: It’s really not a question of if Snyder won’t do it, rather if he’ll have the opportunity. A Man of Steel box-office and critical success will certainly aid his cause, but if Superman flops again, as with Superman Returns, then consider Snyder out of the running.
Bryan Singer: And speaking of Superman Returns…Singer is still smarting over his attempted reboot of the classic superhero in 2006. But his resume is impressive with X-Men and X2: X-Men United, and producing X-Men: First Class. Next up for his directing work are Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).
Why he won’t do it: Singer has a full plate through much of 2014, which wouldn’t give him much time to devote to launching a new Star Wars trilogy. Plus, his biggest successes have been mutant superheroes, which is a different kind of genre film than a space fantasy.
J.J. Abrams: He made his homage to Spielberg with last year’s Super 8. He also successfully rebooted the Star Trek franchise with a younger cast, which is, presumably, what it will take with the new Star Wars trilogy, which again focuses on Luke, Leia, and Han.
Why he won’t do it: Tackling one beloved space franchise should be enough for anyone. And would he want to suffer through a fresh set of fanboy angst and nitpicking for another film series?
Jon Favreau: He changed the fortunes of Marvel films with Iron Man in 2008, a superhero movie that set the template for all the comic book maker’s films to follow. And then there was Cowboys & Aliens in summer 2011, an ambitious adaptation of a comic book series that bombed with critics and audiences.
Why he won’t do it: The failure of Cowboys & Aliens will hurt his chances, though how much of it was his fault versus a story that simply didn’t lend itself well to a two-hour movie. He is also attached to direct the Jersey Boys adaptation, which is in pre-production.
Joss Whedon: Whedon was already a familiar name to some for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but 2012 has put him on a new level of success: first as co-screenwriter of the horror genre-bending Cabin in the Woods, and with The Avengers, the year’s biggest hit (so far), which he wrote and directed. Up next is The Avengers 2 for 2015, which is he again writing and directing.
Why he won’t do it: The Avengers 2. Making a sequel that comes close to duplicating the critical and box-office success of The Avengers is going to take a lot of work, focus, and dedication. So who has time to juggle two major franchises?