Star Wars Day is over (but happy “Revenge of the 5th” and Cinco de Mayo!) and fans were treated to some exciting news yesterday regarding the next era of Star Wars films. May 4th is always a fun time for Star Wars fans, but it seemed to carry more weight this year given the current state of events and the mass cancellations of various summer conventions. Fortunately Lucasfilm did not let us down, kicking off the Force-filled day with the official announcement that superstar director Taika Waititi will be directing and co-writing a Star Wars feature film.
Back in mid-January, when we could safely interact with other humans, rumors broke out that Lucasfilm had approached Waititi to direct a film. No surprise, Waititi denied those reports and it seemed that Lucasfilm was successfully able to squash whatever the source of that leak was, since we heard nothing more about it.
Today, Lucasfilm confirmed via StarWars.com that Waititi would in fact be directing an upcoming Star Wars film, as well as co-writing the script along with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film 1917.
With this news confirmed, Waititi, who refers to himself as a “Polynesian Jew,” is set to become the first person of color to direct and write a Star Wars film. Wilson-Cairns would be the first woman to write the screenplay for a Star Wars film. Both are significant milestones that should be recognized and celebrated, even if 2020 is far too late for us to be celebrating these “firsts”.
This news also seems to validate the speculation that Lucasfilm is shrewdly using its smash hit Disney+ show, The Mandalorian, as a bit of a talent development pool. We already know that another one of the directors from The Mandalorian, Deborah Chow, was tapped to spearhead Lucasfilm’s next major Disney+ show based on Obi-wan Kenobi. Not that Waititi, who directed Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok prior to directing the finale of The Mandalorian, needed to prove his abilities. However, as we all know, it’s not always just about talent. Especially when it comes to a massive franchise like Star Wars, there’s a certain comfort, trust and familiarity that is necessary or at least desired by studio executives. That desire for familiarity hasn’t always served the Star Wars franchise well, but if the Disney+ shows can provide a bridge to allow Lucasfilm and various creators, especially diverse creators, to build some rapport, then that’s a win for everyone involved.
Waititi, fresh off the daringly brilliant Jojo Rabbit, is one of the hottest directors around right now. He will soon be returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to direct Thor: Love and Thunder, which is slated for a February 11, 2022 release date. As such, we shouldn’t expect to see Waititi’s Star Wars film earlier than 2023 at the very earliest. 2024 or beyond is more likely given that Waititi would have to go immediately from Thor to Star Wars in order for the film to release in 2023.
Fans might recall that in addition to this announcement, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is supposed to be developing a trilogy of new Star Wars films, and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige is also reportedly producing a Star Wars film of his own. It’s not out of the question that Feige’s film could be the same one that Waiti is directing, especially given their existing MCU relationship, but one would think that if that was the case, Feige would have been named as part of yesterday’s announcement.
In addition to the Waititi and Wilson-Cairns announcement, Lucasfilm also announced that Leslye Headland, who was nominated for an Emmy for Russian Doll, is developing a new untitled Star Wars series for Disney+. Headland will write, executive produce, and serve as showrunner for the series,
We’re at a fascinating crossroads for the Star Wars saga and while the potential of the unknown is exciting, I have various concerns as well. Fortunately, the announcement of Taika Waititi directing a Star Wars film is one of the most confidence inspiring directing announcements I’ve read in a while.
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.