I always enjoy talking about “what if” scenarios regarding movies and TV. Whether it is alternate casting choices or director choices. George Lucas and now Lucasfilm has asked several directors to take on a film set in the Star Wars galaxy, but not all of them accepted. For as popular as the property is some directors are reluctant to get involved because of the endless pressure from fans. The list of people who passed on Star Wars is actually a lot longer than the directors who ultimately accepted. Here is a list of some of the more notable names. I’m sure there are some other directors that received offers too, but this is the list of names that I’ve seen.
David Lynch was a up and coming talent back in the early 80s when George Lucas approached him to direct Return of the Jedi. Lynch was coming off an Oscar Nomination for The Elephant Man in 1980. Lynch said years later that he declined the movie because he simply didn’t care for Science Fiction movies unless they blended with other genres. Ironically, Lynch’s next project was a sci-fi film. Lynch has kept a cult following through most of his career.
Passed on Star Wars to direct: Dune (1983)
George Lucas also may have looked into Verhoeven, who would later go on to direct Robocop and Total Recall, for Return of the Jedi at the suggestion of long time friend Steven Spielberg. Verhoeven had yet to direct a film in English at the time. When Spielberg saw Verhoeven’s film Spetters, which was a disappointment he told George that he had changed his mind. It isn’t said whether George actually made contact with Verhoeven or not.
Passed on Star Wars to direct: The 4th Man
Croenenberg was coming off The Brood and Scanners when he was offered the chance to direct Return of the Jedi. Croenenberg said that he got a call and basically turned it down instantly. Croenenberg wrote the script for most of the movies that he directed and wasn’t interested in directing someone else’s story.
Passed on Star Wars to direct: Videodrome, The Dead Zone
Obviously we all know that Kirshner did direct one Star Wars film, that being Empire Strikes Back, but George Lucas apparently was interested in possibly bringing Kirshner back for Return of the Jedi. Kirshner told reporters that he felt he had spent enough time in the Star Wars galaxy after spending nearly 3 years working on Empire. He chose to simply move on.
Passed on Star Wars to direct: Never Say Never Again
Having worked under Lucas as an actor American Graffiti and then directing Willow in 1987 George supposedly approached Ron Howard to direct the Star Wars prequels in the early 90s. Howard turned the films down suggesting that Lucas direct the movies himself. Howard obviously got another chance to direct a Star Wars film recently as he replaced Phil Lord and Chris Miller on the Han Solo movie.
Passed on Star Wars to direct: EdTV, How The Grinch Stole Christmas
According to comments from Ron Howard in 2015 Lucas also offered the prequels to Robert Zemeckis who is most known for Forrest Gump and the Back to the Future trilogy. Howard claims that he was the third person who was offered the films after Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg. All 3 directors recommended that George direct the movies himself.
Passed on Star Wars to direct: What Lies Beneath, Cast Away
When the new trilogy was announced after the Disney purchase in 2012 Lucasfilm approached many directors including Disney poster child Brad Bird, who had directed two Pixar films and Mission Impossible 4 at the time. Bird declined the film in order to direct Tomorrowland which he was already working on at the time. Bird’s comments made it sound like he may have taken the project if he wasn’t already busy. Tomorrowland was ambitious but didn’t have success at the box office. Bird is currently working on Incredibles 2.
Passed on Star Wars to direct: Tomorrowland
Vaughn has a reputation now as the ultimate comic book director. He has directed Kick-Ass, X-Men First Class and two Kingsman movies, all originally based on comics. Some sites claim that Vaughn was so close to directing Episode VII that he actually left X-Men Days of Future Past in order to direct the film but Lucasfilm wasn’t able to agree on terms and Vaughn supposedly departed because the film wasn’t taking a direction that he was interested in.
Passed on Star Wars to direct: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Affleck has ditched his pretty boy reputation over the past decade when he began directing. I’m sure some people would argue that he’s a better director than actor. Affleck was rumored to be in the mix for Episode VII, and Affleck has been asked about it in the years since, but never truly confirmed or denied that he got an offer. Considering the Disney deal went down in 2012 and Affleck’s Argo won Best Picture that year I wouldn’t be shocked if he was at least offered.
Passed on Star Wars for: The Accountant, Gone Girl, Live By Night????
Guillermo Del Toro
Del Toro is one of the more respected directors in the world right now and he has a solid following that few directors have. Del Toro admits that he was offered The Force Awakens, but was simply involved in too many projects to accept.
Passed on Star Wars to direct: Crimson Peak
David Fincher has been approached by Lucasfilm on more than one occasion to direct a Star Wars film. Fincher was originally offered Episode VII and then later Episode IX and turned down both. Fincher is a Star Wars fan but never seemed to be sure that fans would support the decisions that he would be making for the franchise.
Passed on Star Wars to direct: Gone Girl, World War Z 2
Josh Trank was officially announced as the director of a third Star Wars anthology film in 2014. The young director showed promise with his film Chronicle. The anthology film was the often rumored Boba Fett film, but Trank has become known as a bit of a diva since some comments that he made about the his failed Fantastic Four movie came out in 2015. Trank announced that he was leaving the project in 2015 but reports have claimed that the Lucasfilm wanted him out anyway. Trank currently has a film in development for 2018 but hasn’t directed a project since he left this Boba Fett film.
Star Wars fans have been begging to see Steven Spielberg directing a Star Wars movie for decades. Spielberg and George Lucas have been friends since they were young filmmakers. Spielberg was Lucas’ first choice to direct Return of the Jedi but he was unable to sign on because Lucas had a falling with the Director’s Guild, an organization that Spielberg was a part of. Over the years Spielberg seemed to be less interested as he declined the prequels and also declined the chance to direct Episode VII and recommended his friend JJ Abrams for the project instead.
Here is my list of directors who were once offered Star Wars films. Do any of these names stand out as the ultimate Star Wars director?