While the 2020s have been a verifiable graveyard for potential Star Wars films that never made it beyond the development stage, directors passing through without seeing their ideas come to fruition isn’t exactly a new phenomenon over at Lucasfilm.
Even before Disney took the reins of the studio, the galaxy far, far away saw a wide variety of potential directors enter its orbit over the years. From Return of the Jedi to the present day, there are quite a few well-known directors who came close to making their mark on this universe but for one reason or other never actually hit lightspeed.
Here are the many directors who almost made Star Wars movies…
David Lynch – Return of the Jedi
George Lucas offered several directors the opportunity to helm the final film of the Original Trilogy before settling on Richard Marquand. One of Lucas’ top choices at the time was David Lynch, who had just proven his talents with his debut feature Eraserhead and the critically acclaimed The Elephant Man. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine how the creator of Twin Peaks would fit into this universe, but back in the early days of Star Wars, Lucas saw a kindred spirit in Lynch’s filmmaking style that felt right at home in his far, far away galaxy. The two directors had a meeting about the film, but despite Lucas’ passionate energy, Lynch didn’t feel like Return of the Jedi was a good fit and passed on the project.
“George, bless his heart, I told him on the phone the next day that he should direct it. It’s his film. He invented everything about it. But he doesn’t really love directing. So someone else did direct that film,” Lynch said years later of rejecting the project. “I called my lawyer and told him I wasn’t going to do it. And he said, ‘You just lost, I don’t know how many millions of dollars.’ But it’s okay.”
David Cronenberg – Return of the Jedi
After Lynch passed on the film, George Lucas approached an even more outside-of-the-box director for Return of the Jedi – David Cronenberg. Even early on in his career, Cronenberg was known for taking a distinctly adult approach to sci-fi and horror, and has since created his own unique brand of body horror. Like Lynch, Cronenberg was apprehensive about taking on a project that he wouldn’t have total creative control over, and ultimately turned down Lucas’ offer.
Steven Spielberg – Return of the Jedi/The Prequel Trilogy
George Lucas’ first choice for Return of the Jedi was his filmmaking pal Steven Spielberg. After working with Lucas on Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg would have been a shoo-in to take on Star Wars, but union rules ultimately prevented Spielberg from directing Return of the Jedi. Because Lucas had recently dropped out of the directors guild, Return of the Jedi was considered a non-union project. As a member of the guild, Spielberg had to step away from the film, and Lucas had to pursue other options.
Close to a decade later, Lucas approached Spielberg again to direct one of the Prequels, but ultimately Spielberg declined and encouraged Lucas to direct the films himself.
Robert Zemeckis – The Prequel Trilogy
Before taking Spielberg’s advice to direct the Prequel Trilogy himself, George Lucas also approached Ron Howard and Robert Zemeckis to helm the next era of Star Wars. Howard would of course eventually go on to direct Solo: A Star Wars Story. But while the fan-favorite Back to the Future director was a logical choice for Lucas, Zemeckis ultimately declined being part of the galaxy far, far away.
David Fincher – The Force Awakens/Episode IX
David Fincher, the director of Mindhunter, Gone Girl, Fight Club, Seven, and so many other psychological thrillers, had two different opportunities to helm a Star Wars movie over the course of the Sequel Trilogy. He was first approached by Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm to direct the film that would become The Force Awakens in the early days of the film’s conception. Fincher declined at the time, apprehensive about helming the first Star Wars film under Disney.
Years later, after Colin Trevorrow was fired from the project, Fincher was again approached by Lucasfilm to direct Episode IX, which was going through a creative overhaul of sorts at the time. Fincher declined once again. The director explained his reservations to Empire magazine (via EW) in 2017: “I can’t imagine the kind of intestinal fortitude one has to have following up the success of [The Force Awakens and Rogue One],” he said. “That’s a whole other level. One is that you have to endure the withering abuse of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, and the other is you have to live up to a billion or a billion-five, and that becomes its own kind of pressure.”
Fincher also wasn’t feeling the time commitment required for such a hefty project: “You’d have to really be sure this is what you wanted to do because either way it’s two years of your life, 14 hours a day, seven days a week.”
With the mixed reactions that Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi received, it’s a little surprising that Lucasfilm would have approached Fincher – another filmmaker known for his distinct voice and vision – as a replacement for Trevorrow on Episode IX. But nevertheless, it’s hard not to wonder what a David Fincher Star Wars film would look like.
Matthew Vaughn – The Force Awakens
Like Fincher, Matthew Vaughn was one of many directors who was in talks to direct the first installment of the Sequel Trilogy. However, the Kick-Ass and Kingsman director made it further than many of the other candidates at the time. Vaughn was on board in the early days of the project, back when Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) was penning the script, but ultimately left due to creative differences between himself and Lucasfilm.
Coincidentally, Vaughn was only available to direct Episode VII because he had stepped away from directing X-Men: Days of Future Past over creative differences between himself and 20th Century Fox.
While he’s yet to direct a Star Wars movie, Vaughn recently told Den of Geek he’d do it if he were “allowed to reboot Star Wars, and go back, put [Luke] Skywalker and Vader in it, and to start again. Everyone would think [I’m] crazy, but I’ve been arguing we’ve all done it with Spider-Man pretty well. Bond. I think Star Wars is the Skywalker family. So if I was allowed to do the Skywalker story, then I’d love to do Star Wars.”
In other words, this collab probably ain’t happening.
Brad Bird – The Force Awakens
Another director who was considered for The Force Awakens was Brad Bird, who is known for The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Unfortunately, Bird was unable to sign on to the project due to Lucasfilm’s projected filming schedule. Bird was already set to direct Disney’s Tomorrowland, and would have had to drop that film in order to make The Force Awakens.
This wasn’t an easy decision for Bird, who felt like he would have to “shut down one dream to participate in another.” According to Bird, there was a brief moment where he thought he could do both films back to back, but he ultimately realized that “there was no way to make that schedule and give [Tomorrowland] the attention it deserved.” You decide whether he picked the right project or not…
Colin Trevorrow – Episode IX
Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow was tapped to write and direct Episode IX way back in Aug. 2015, before The Force Awakens was even released. Trevorrow was attached for two years until it was announced mere months before filming was scheduled to begin that he and Lucasfilm had parted ways due to creative differences.
Based on a leaked version of Trevorrow’s script, his version of Episode IX, titled Duel of the Fates, was a lot darker than the film that was ultimately released. In this version of the film, the entire galaxy has been crushed by the fascist regime of the First Order, and the vibes are apocalyptic on planets like Coruscant, which this version of the movie would have returned to. Rey isn’t a Palpatine either, and the former Sith Lord appears only as a hologram. Of course, this script was written before Carrie Fisher passed away, so changes would have had to be made to this Leia-heavy script anyway, but it still seems like there were some interesting things going on in this script that would have made for a slightly more original finale than the overly nostalgic The Rise of Skywalker.
Trevorrow broke his silence in 2020 about his breakup with Lucasfilm, saying, “The path that I wanted to follow and the path that everyone involved wanted to follow was the same. It’s totally possible for people to see two totally different paths through the woods. [Star Wars] was just an experience that obviously, you can imagine, as all of these things, it can get to the point of being traumatic when there’s something that you care about that much and you’ve invested that much in it. But that’s one of the things that you accept when you take on any role in film, especially when you become a storyteller — that there are going to be heartbreaks. There’s going to be crushing disappointments, and then there’s going to be victories. Hopefully, they’ll balance out in the end.”
Phil Lord and Chris Miller – Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo: A Star Wars Story‘s tepid performance at the box office in 2018 can at least be partially blamed on its very public behind-the-scenes issues, including the firing of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller 90 days into production. Lord and Miller had previously directed The Lego Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, as well as 21 Jump Street and its sequel, which seemed to position them as a great pair of filmmakers to give a movie galaxy’s favorite scoundrel its own unique tone and story.
Unfortunately, Lucasfilm disagreed with the duo’s approach as filming began. According to an anonymous crew member, Lord and Miller drew the ire of the higher ups because they would allow time for experimentation within scenes that would then often require overtime requests for crew members. Co-writer Jonathan Kasdan, however, gave Lord and Miller the benefit of the doubt saying, “The issues we were having were much more in the bones and practical. Chris and Phil did everything they could to make it work, as did we. The questions only became about how to make the movie most efficiently in the time we had to do it.”
Lord and Miller have since gone on to produce Sony’s hit series of animated Spider-Verse movies – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Across the Spider-Verse, and Beyond the Spider-Verse – so this kind of feels like a loss for Lucasfilm. Not that Ron Howard did a horrible job in the short time he had to rework the movie into something closer to Lucasfilm’s original vision, which reportedly involved reshooting much of what had already been filmed, but still – it’s hard not to feel like we were robbed of a chance to see what Lord and Miller could do with the franchise.
Before Rebel Moon was picked up by Netflix and Zack Snyder’s space opera became a world of its own, the filmmaker pitched the idea, or at least something similar to it, to Lucasfilm as a potential Star Wars project. Snyder wanted to make something a more adult sci-fi movie inspired by the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa, which George Lucas himself drew on to create this universe. But conversations never got very far, especially after Disney purchased Lucasfilm and took the franchise in a new direction.
Years later, Snyder sounds relieved that Lucasfilm passed so he could make his “Seven Samurai movie in space” in his own way and without the restrictions of Lucas’ world. He told Den of Geek during a set visit in 2022: “I do understand the love of Star Wars, how canonized it is… and actually how immobile it is. That’s why I’m here now doing Rebel Moon the way I’m doing it, because we really have no rules except for the ones we make.”
Josh Trank – Boba Fett Movie
After the success of his film Chronicle in 2014, Josh Trank was hired by Lucasfilm to write and direct a Boba Fett solo movie. This plan fell apart, however, after reports of Trank’s turbulent relationship with 20th Century Fox and the chaos on the set of their Fantastic Four reboot came to light. Trank was scheduled to appear at 2015’s Star Wars Celebration event to officially unveil the project, but dropped out at the last minute. The director announced his official departure from the Boba Fett film days later, and in 2020, he revealed to Polygon that he “knew he was going to be fired if he didn’t quit.”
Trank has never said very much about what his Boba Fett film would have looked like, but according to the filmmaker, his movie would have been heavily inspired by old-fashioned Spaghetti Westerns and Clint Eastwood’s filmography specifically.
Stephen Daldry – Obi-Wan Kenobi Movie
In the early days of the project, Obi-Wan Kenobi was actually conceived as a film. Director Stephen Daldry (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Hours) was brought on to helm Ewan McGregor’s return to the character, and worked alongside the actor and writer Hossein Amini (Drive) to bring Obi-Wan back to the big screen. This version of Obi-Wan’s story took place entirely on Tatooine and focused on the former Jedi attempting to hide his identity while settling a dispute between moisture farmers and Tusken Raiders. Stuart Beattie, another screenwriter who worked on the movie project, also revealed that Lucasfilm had considered making a whole trilogy of Obi-Wan movies at one point.
But after Solo’s lackluster box office numbers, Lucasfilm decided to cancel Obi-Wan on the big screen. In 2019, the studio reworked the project as a miniseries for Disney+. Daldry wasn’t involved in this version of Obi-Wan Kenobi, though Amini received a story credit.
J.D. Dillard – Untitled Film
J.D. Dillard (Sweetheart, Devotion) was first brought on to develop an untitled Star Wars film alongside Luke Cage writer Matt Owens in Feb. 2020. However, after a couple years of workshopping ideas, Dillard revealed in Nov. 2022 that his project was no longer in development with Lucasfilm. Because the film was in such early stages, we don’t know much about what Dillard’s film would have been like. The filmmaker has teased that he was heavily inspired by the early Star Wars computer game TIE Fighter. Meanwhile, Deadline once reported that the movie was rumored to “take place on the hidden Sith planet of Exegol.” Sounds intriguing, but we’ll never know for sure.
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss – Untitled Trilogy
With the overwhelming success of Game of Thrones, it’s no surprise that Lucasfilm wanted series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to take the journey from Westeros to a galaxy far, far away. The duo was supposed to usher in a post-Skywalker era of Star Wars movies with their own trilogy, but ultimately stepped away in 2019 due to scheduling conflicts that arose from their historic $250 million overall deal with Netflix. Their contracts with both entities would have allowed Benioff and Weiss to work on these projects simultaneously, but according to the writers, “There are only so many hours in the day, and we felt we could not do justice to both Star Wars and our Netflix projects.” Other sources claim “creative differences” between the filmmakers and the studio as the main reason Benioff and Weiss jumped ship.
Guillermo Del Toro – Jabba the Hutt Spinoff
Near the end of 2023, renowned horror and creature filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro confirmed that he was once briefly attached to a solo Jabba the Hutt movie alongside writer David S. Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins). According to Del Toro, the film would have depicted the rise and fall of Jabba the Hutt in his early days as a criminal warlord, something that has yet to be shown on screen. This film was never officially on Lucasfilm’s slate and unfortunately didn’t make it past early development and negotiation stages.
A Godfather-esque take on Jabba the Hutt helmed by Del Toro is the kind of wild idea that comes once in a lifetime, and it’s a shame we’ll never get to see it. Del Toro is known for bringing fantastical and slightly horrifying creatures to life on screen, and if there was anyone who could make a Jabba origin story compelling, it’s him.
Patty Jenkins – Rogue Squadron
After the box office success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, it’s no surprise that Lucasfilm wanted to bring her on to direct a Star Wars movie. Late 2020 saw Disney announced a variety of Star Wars projects, several of which have since been canceled or “shelved,” including Jenkins’ X-wing-centric Rogue Squadron movie.
The film was first taken off of Lucasfilm’s production schedule in 2021 due to Jenkins’ commitments to Wonder Woman 3, another film that has since been canceled. The movie was taken off of the release schedule entirely a year later, and is considered to be shelved indefinitely. While there is still a miniscule chance that this movie could be made, it’s not likely given Lucasfilm’s current track record of scrapped projects.
The Russo Brothers – Untitled Kevin Feige Project
With the success of Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame and the culmination of the Infinity Saga, it makes sense that Disney would want to double-dip with some of their creatives and bring them over to the Star Wars franchise. News broke of Kevin Feige developing a Star Wars movie for Lucasfilm in Sept. 2019 and speculation of what that would entail ran wild in the years that followed.
Even though Kathleen Kennedy has since denied that Feige was ever working on a Star Wars project, Loki writer Michael Waldron and Avengers directing duo The Russo Brothers have spoken about working on something Star Wars for their former Marvel boss, or at least having early conversations about joining the project. Waldron even told Den of Geek in 2022 that we was actively penning the script for Feige.
Of course, a lot has changed in the last few years. Marvel Studios is no longer the sure-fire hit machine it once was for Disney and Feige’s undoubtedly very busy trying to right the ship. We doubt he’ll have time to devote to Star Wars any time soon.