Directors Were Once The Kings Of Hollywood, But In The Age Of The Franchise, They're Increasingly Interchangeable

Film has long been considered a director’s medium, with cinematic auteurs presiding over movie sets like gods. But as high-profile filmmakers are being replaced on big-budget projects with increasing regularity, some say film is fast becoming more of a board-of-directors’ medium, especially in the critical realm of the franchise.

This new reality was underscored last week when Colin Trevorrow was suddenly dropped from “Star Wars: Episode IX” because of creative differences; on Tuesday, Lucasfilm announced that J.J. Abrams, who directed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” would take the helm.

There was a time when the replacement of someone like Trevorrow – handpicked by Steven Spielberg to direct 2015’s “Jurassic World,” a $1.67-billion-grossing hit – would have been earth-shattering news. But Lucasfilm currently has one of the highest divorce rates in the industry. In the past two years, co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were ejected from an upcoming film about Han Solo already deep into production; Tony Gilroy was reportedly brought in to assist with extensive reshoots on Gareth Edwards’ “Rogue One” and Josh Trank fell out of his planned “Star Wars” spinoff.

>You just don’t know from day to day what’s going to happen to you. — Armando Iannucci

As Armando Iannucci wryly observed while introducing his dark comedy “The Death of Stalin” at the Toronto Film Festival, being a director on a “Star Wars” movie evokes the unnerving uncertainty that followed the Soviet dictator’s death: “You just don’t know from day to day what’s going to happen to you.”

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