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We’re Still Not Buying Kathleen Kennedy’s Clarified Excuses About Star Wars and Female Directors

Kathleen Kennedy

Last week, Variety did an interview with Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm. While she gave some great insight into the upcoming Han Solo anthology film, as well as Rogue One, she also made some interesting comments about what it would take for a woman to finally get to direct a Star Wars film—comments that were a bit disheartening. This week, in a different interview, Kennedy attempted to clarify those disheartening statements. The result isn’t much more heartening.

This weekend, Screen Crush’s Erin Whitney interviewed Kennedy at the Rogue One press conference held at Lucasfilm. The question she asked was:

The Star Wars films have done a lot for female characters and female heroes, but the movies have yet to have a female director. You recently said that a woman who has no experience with blockbusters wasn’t suitable to direct a Star Wars movie, however multiple male directors have had that opportunity. So why is it different for women and —

To which Kennedy replied:

That’s not true. This gentleman [points to Gareth Edwards] did Godzilla before we hired him to direct the movie. And that quote was taken out of context. And I, as you can imagine, have every intention of giving somebody an opportunity. So, if somebody actually moves through the process of making movies and wants to make a Star Wars movie, and shows that they have actually stepped into the role on that level, of course we’re going to consider a woman. That goes without saying.

Well, we’re glad that considering a woman goes without saying. Will hiring women ever get to that level of certainty? I mean, no one says, “Of course w’re gong to hire a man. That goes without saying …” but that’s basically what happens.

Whitney also asked Kennedy to name some female directors that she thinks “have potential to direct a Star Wars movie?”

Kennedy replied, “There are many. And I’ve talked to most of them. There are many out there.”

Except that wasn’t even the question. It wasn’t, “What directors are you talking to?” It was, “Can you name any female directors that you think have potential to direct a Star Wars movie?” Now, I know that in entertainment you can’t get into too many specifics tying anyone to your film for many reasons, including legal ones. However, this is the type of question that gives you the opportunity to shout-out talents you respect. It’s hypothetical, about potential. It’s a chance to let people know you’re serious by showing that you’re actually taking in the work and careers of these directors and, yes, “considering” them.

All this goes back to one of the major points I made in my previous piece about Kennedy’s comments: Rather than waiting for someone else to take the chance on a female director by giving her a blockbuster, Lucasfilm and Star Wars should be leading the charge! She mentions that Gareth Edwards directed Godzilla, while ignoring that a Star Wars movie could easily play a similar role as a female director’s big break into “blockbusters.”

In that previous piece, I talked about the fact that Star Wars, Lucasfilm, and Disney are all entities that are fine. If it’s “risk” they’re worried about, they can handle a flop if a flop happens. Star Wars isn’t going to fall apart because of one gamble on any one director, no matter how untested. As we saw with The Phantom Menace, it made serious money even after word of mouth got around that the film wasn’t quite living up to snuff. Star Wars/Lucasfilm/Disney will be okay.

However, there’s something else that her vague statements in support of female directors fail to acknowledge. That, if the criteria for a woman to direct a Star Wars film is that she has to have directed a blockbuster, but the industry as it stands now doesn’t generally hand women blockbusters the way it hands men blockbusters, that’s tantamount to saying a woman will never direct a Star Wars film.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Right now, there are four whole female directors who’ve directed blockbusters that had budgets over $100M: Kathryn Bigelow (K-19: The Widowmaker), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2), and Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time), who joined this teensy group recently. So, I guess we’ll just have to wait for one of these four women to have the time to direct a Star Wars film? And that’s if they even still want to, as Hollywood’s systemic sexism often sours female directors on the experience, contributing to a vicious cycle.

That’s the thing, though. It shouldn’t be dependent on any one woman. Or even any four. Hollywood should be helping to create female blockbuster directors, and it should be the duty of the biggest studios to each take gambles on new or mid-career female filmmakers.

All of this, of course, assumes that having more female directors and leveling the playing field is actually a priority. There is also totally the possibility that Lucasfilm doesn’t … actually … care all that much. But that can’t be true, can it? A Hollywood production company paying lip service to a problem it has no real intention of working to change? That couldn’t happen, could it?


(via IndieWire, image via Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

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