Despite rumors and “very reliable reports” that exist only on Reddit, Kathleen Kennedy is not going anywhere. The Hollywood Reporter announced that she has extended her contract with Lucasfilm for another three years, through 2021. Kennedy is responsible for steering the franchise back into the public eye and turning out four new films that catapulted Lucasfilm to mass financial success. Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012; since then, the films have grossed $4.5 billion worldwide, and as the franchise is just getting started, it is only up from here.
The article makes mention of the rough spots that the company has hit along the way: Rogue One‘s reshoots, the firings of Lord and Miller as well as Colin Trevorrow, and the social media divide over The Last Jedi. It’s important to note that despite Solo underperforming at the box office (by the standards set by the previous films), the other three films saw huge box office returns and critical acclaim. The Force Awakens literally gave birth to a new wave of affection for a franchise that most people had moved away from in the ten years since Revenge of the Sith. Rey is a pop culture icon thanks to Kennedy’s new films. It’s hardly cause for the constant remarks about the sometimes troubled waters that Kennedy has navigated.
As I’ve written about before, there are legitimate reasons to critique Kennedy’s tenure at Lucasfilm, mostly involving her commitment to diversity on and off screen. But with her contract extended, there is time for her to course correct some of those mistakes, especially the lack of women behind the camera on her films and television shows. However, the tendency to blame her for all of Lucasfilm’s missteps is a little much, and something we don’t see with male studio heads.
Marvel has had several high profile directors turn down or walk off of projects for them, as well as several critical and commercial misfires, yet Kevin Feige isn’t facing calls to retire. Running a studio is a hell of a stressful position. Rogue One was a success, and it might have been Kennedy’s decision to authorize reshoots that saved it from being a failure. The Force Awakens went through script rewrites during production, and rang in high box office returns. Yes, The Last Jedi has some pretty big detractors. It also made a great deal of money. And firing Colin Treveorrow? That was a smart move before they let him write a scene in which Rey runs away from the Knights of Ren in high heels.
The only “misfire” is Solo, and that might be due in part to Bob Iger’s decision to roll out multiple Star Wars films in as quick a succession as possible, as well as the choice to center it on a story that really did not need to be told. The production of Solo would have been disastrous for any major studio, and while Kennedy is partially to blame, but that does not mean that she needs to be fired or to retire.
Kennedy is a co-founder of Amblin Entertainment along with Steven Spielberg. Her producing credits include E.T., Jurassic Park, and Schindler’s List, among others. This November, she’ll be receiving an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Irving G. Thalberg Award for her consistently high quality body of work over the years, along with her husband and fellow producer Frank Marshall. This is not someone who has no idea what she’s doing. Kennedy is one of Hollywood’s most respected producers, and the fact that many articles trot out any turbulence every time she is brought up is a bit disheartening. She helped bring one of our most beloved stories back to life; she deserves more than angry YouTubers screaming for her head.
And as I said above, there is room for growth. Hire more actresses of color (and then don’t kill off their characters). Hire more writers and directors of different backgrounds. Continue to fight for representation in front of and behind the camera. As one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, she can kickstart the careers of so many talented artist who might not get that chance. If, three years from now, the films are still dominated by white men behind the camera and most of the heroines are still white women, we can talk about finding a replacement. Until then, let’s stop using Solo as a way to undermine her every time we talk about her, okay?
(via The Hollywood Reporter; Image: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
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