As hard as it is to imagine, there was a time when many people were very excited about Star Wars. This was after George Lucas’ divisive prequel trilogy, before Disney’s divisive sequel trilogy, and an on-again-off-again relationship with the Disney+ bounty hunter shows. Fine. Maybe all anyone ever does is argue about Star Wars, but it was a relief when Phil Lord and Chris Miller signed on to direct Solo: A Star Wars Story. After all, no one in Hollywood was better at turning a bad idea (like a movie based on Lego or recasting Han Solo) into an entertaining and funny film than those two.
Things didn’t go so well. After some “creative differences,” Disney fired the directors, hired Ron Howard to replace them, and released one of the most forgettable Star Wars movies to date—though Rise Of Skywalker certainly gives it a Kessel run for its money. Every Star Wars movie and TV show has its fans, but those two probably inspire the least amount of passion.
While we all watched and forgot Solo, despite it being a reasonably fun, harmless movie with some good performances and sequences, we’ve never heard much from Lord and Miller on the subject. Instead, they produced Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, won an Oscar, and continued their reign as Hollywood golden boys. Living well is the best revenge.
That changed when the pair recently stopped by The Business podcast in support of their star-studded AppleTV+ series, The Afterparty. During the conversation, the directors discussed Solo in vague terms, offering an overview of how they saw the experience.
“Well, there are two sides to every story,” said Chris Miller. “And every success that is public, there are many things that don’t come to light and many disappointments. At the end of the day, you’re always in film school. You’re always learning and trying to become a better filmmaker.”
Miller’s optimism is striking, considering their firing was one of the biggest stories of the year, solidifying many fans’ concerns about the future of Star Wars.
“So, as negative as the ending was, and as deeply misunderstood as we felt, the lasting memory is of the great collaboration we had,” he continued. “We shot, 90 days on that movie, you can’t take the experience away from us, you can’t take away the pencil miles from us—a term we use in animation—and we had a very fruitful, creative time with all the departments and with one another and we became better filmmakers for it. At the end of the day, in a funny way, it isn’t a debacle. It’s actually just on the continuum of learning and becoming a great filmmaker.”
“And we met such amazing, talented crew that we still work with, and love and are in touch with to this day,” Lord added. “So, ultimately, it was a positive experience that had a hard-to-get-through chapter, but luckily we had many other things to jump into and funnel all of that creativity and things that we had learned into those things.”
The conversation isn’t all positive, though. Lord and Miller make some very direct jabs at the movie, which they seem to accuse of leaning into empty fan service—perhaps remembering the scene where Han Solo gets his name and another where Chewbacca gets his name. A lot of naming in that movie.
“If you’re giving the audience exactly what they expect and a bunch of ‘fan service,’ they’re going to end up disappointed. They’re gonna be like, ‘Yeah, this is stuff I already knew,’” Lord said. “The trick is to figure out what it is they don’t quite yet realize that they want and every idea that you add into the stew is something that you’re like, ‘Oh, that would be a cool thing to see that I haven’t seen before and isn’t the thing that’s expected because I think people are really savvy now and so you have to stay two steps ahead of them and I feel like that’s our job.”
“You can’t play scared,” Miller added. “So, I don’t really relate to some fear of a fanbase. We don’t think about it that way. There are people out there, I suppose, that are trying to game the marketplace and follow a formula. They’re trying to serve the quarterly earnings of a big company, but a company doesn’t make a movie or write a song, these things are made by human beings, and we’re always trying to serve the human beings making the movie and the human beings witnessing the movie, always remembering, what you’re putting out there, that’s only half of it. The other half is, there’s a person in a movie theater and you’re beaming sound and light into their face and they make the movie in their brain. So you have to understand that as a relationship and a conversation, put yourselves into the shoes of that person.”
It all ended pretty well for Lord and Miller, who won an Oscar just after getting fired and were nominated for another Oscar today. Not bad for two guys who lost one of the most coveted directing gigs in Hollywood.