Now that Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) has been confirmed as the screenwriter on Star Wars: Episode VII, all eyes have turned toward the as-yet-announced director. As of today a number of big, nerdy names have been mentioned, but nothing concrete has emerged... yet. Folks like Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams and Zack Snyder have already taken themselves out of the running, with Jon Favreau expressing excitement (and potential interest in directing). Meanwhile, newcomer Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) was rumored to have met with George Lucas regarding the gig, and hasn't denied it. Yet, with all these names being thrown around, one man surprisingly hasn't been mentioned yet: Joe Johnston.
Yup, that Joe Johnston -- the one who successfully launched Captain America last year, but who also began his career working for George Lucas on the original Star Wars trilogy. Johnston, a storyboard and conceptual artist at the time, is credited with developing the look of Boba Fett for The Empire Strikes Back. As Lucas paid for him to go to film school in the early '80s, Johnston remained a part of Lucasfilm, spending much of his time alongside Lucas in the editing room as he pieced together the first three Star Wars movies.
In the second installment of that roundtable discussion between George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy on the Star Wars sequels, they talk a little bit about what they're looking for in a director. Kennedy says they're meeting with directors they've worked with in the past, and they obviously want a lover of the franchise; someone who holds the movies and characters close to their heart. Well Johnston is both close to Lucas and the franchise (specifically the original trilogy), and he's worked with Kennedy before on Jurassic Park III.
Not only that but Johnston brings the sort of diversity needed for the next Star Wars movie. He's been successful with the big blockbusters (Captain America), and he also knows how to deliver family movies with fantastical elements (Jumanji; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids). Sure, the guy has had a few missteps (Hidalgo, The Wolfman), but who hasn't? And in terms of selling a director to the fan base, you can't really go wrong with the guy who designed Boba Fett.
I mean, out of all these big names (Jon Favreau, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird), none of them worked directly with Lucas on the original trilogy. None of them learned how to make movies while sitting in the editing bay watching Lucas cut those first three Star Wars movies. If you're looking for a director who can handle the pressures of a modern blockbuster and has direct, nerdy ties to the original trilogy, Joe Johnston is it. He's the guy who makes the most sense. He's the guy who best knows how to deliver a Star Wars sequel that's infused with the charm and excitement of those original movies because he worked on them. He was there.
He's the guy no one is talking about right now, and I wouldn't be surprised if that changes real soon.
Update: Since this piece has gone live, The Huffington Post reached out to Johnston to ask him if he'd be interested. Like others he didn't give a straight answer, but he didn't turn it down either. "A lot would depend on what ‘it’ is. I am very glad to see Lucasfilm cranking up to get productive again, regardless of who ends up doing it."
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