Last June, Lucasfilm made a stunning announcement: directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had been fired from the production of Solo: A Star Wars Story, several months into filming, and were replaced by director Ron Howard. This video from Andrew Saladino’s YouTube film essay series The Royal Ocean Film Society helps outline why it’s Howard, rather than Lord and Miller, who gets credit as director for the film.
Lucasfilm brought Lord and Miller onboard in 2015 to direct the film, and the pair were present throughout the pre-production and well into filming before they were fired and summarily replaced. Since then, it’s emerged that Lord and Miller will be listed as Executive Producers on Solo, rather than getting any sort of director credit.
The reason, Saladino explains in his video, comes down to the guidelines from the Director’s Guild of America, which are designed to protect directors from studios meddling with their work after it’s done. In this instance, once a director completes shooting and produces their cut, the studio can’t make changes without them, and directors must be kept in the loop during post-production. But, DGA rules say that if a director is fired after completing anywhere from 90 to 100 percent of the film, they must be given credit as a director, giving them say in what happens during post production.
Saladino points out that this isn’t the only Star Wars film to run into production trouble: Rogue One famously went through a bunch of extensive reshoots when Lucasfilm wasn’t happy with what Gareth Edwards had produced. But Edwards had already completed production when Tony Gilroy handled the reshoots, so it’s Edwards that gets the credit as director for this film, and would have had a say in the final cut of the film. There are other films that have run into the same problem: Joss Whedon took over DC’s Justice League from Zack Snyder after initial filming, but he only gets credit as a screenwriter for the project, despite the fact that he directed some scenes.
Lord and Miller, however, were fired midway through production, with Howard brought on. While The Wall Street Journal notes that Howard reshot upward of 70 percent of the film, the DGA’s rules say that a substituting director only needs to shoot 10 percent of a film to be considered for director’s credit. In a similar instance, the upcoming Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody also saw its director fired midway through production: Bryan Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher, who will likely be listed as the film’s director.
Saladino notes that there were tensions early on between Lucasfilm studio chief Kathleen Kennedy and the two directors, and that by firing them midway through production, they were able to bring on Howard without having to keep Lord and Miller around for the post-production consultation required if they had stayed on longer. Given the issues that they ran into during production, it seems as though they were trying to avoid further problems that might have dragged the film’s post-production out even longer.