It’s arguably the biggest story of the week and this afternoon, almost simultaneously, the two major trade publications released feature articles about the exit of “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss from their proposed “Star Wars” trilogy. Both articles indicate fandom backlash seems to have played a part.
As we know on Monday night, the pair left their “Star Wars” projects in development citing a commitment to a lucrative $250 million Netflix deal as occupying too much of their time. We also know that the news came a few days after a Q&A at the Austin Film Festival about the much-debated final season of “Game of Thrones” resulted in some serious raised eyebrows when the pair got candid about the mistakes made during the show’s production.
Heat Vision got the ball rolling today saying the pair’s exit has been brewing since August when Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy was very unhappy with the Netflix deal the duo just signed. She reportedly was not convinced the pair could juggle a sci-fi trilogy while also overseeing film and TV projects at Netflix, and admittedly the pair have never really tackled anything other than ‘Thrones’.
Around the same time, Benioff and Weiss were working on a treatment for Disney and Lucasfilm with the pair committed to penning at least one of the films, even though the original deal was to write all three. Their ambitious plan was to explore a period in which the Jedi came to exist.
Kennedy was also said to be nervous about the duo becoming the latest high profile filmmaking talent to exit a “Star Wars” project since she took the helm of Lucasfilm (following Josh Trank for the scrapped “Boba Fett” film, Colin Trevorrow for “Rise of Skywalker,” Miller & Lord for “Solo,” and the whole “Rogue One” Edwards/Gilroy troubles).
Benioff and Weiss were also reportedly feeling the heat of what one source dubbed “toxic fandom” and began having second thoughts about “Star Wars”. The pair had been genre fan gods and critical darlings who drove ‘Thrones’ to great success and strong reviews throughout most of its run.
When the six-episode final season was met with such backlash, and with having seen how “Star Wars” fans have bullied actors off social media and taken aim at filmmakers like Rian Johnson, a source tells the trade: “Who wants to go through that again? Not them… this was in the ‘Life’s Too Short’ category.”
Not helping was a corporate culture that Variety says invites little creative independence and is willing to replace new fresh helmers that don’t conform to the company line with old standbys who do as they’re told. The high rate of turnover and the lack of a real direction for the franchise overall post-Skywalker is also inspiring questions and concerns, though sources say Kennedy’s job is secure.
Even if you make it all the way through doing a film like Johnson did with ‘The Last Jedi,’ you still then have to face the whims of a rabid fan base. So far J.J. Abrams seems to be the only one who has managed to survive relatively unscathed and his new deal with WarnerMedia means he likely won’t be making any more.
In any case, Benioff and Weiss wanted out and “it was a hard quit” says a source. Netflix reportedly learned of Benioff and Weiss’ “Star Wars” departure mere days before news broke Monday. Lucasfilm is now actively looking to enlist new filmmakers and reportedly it’s unlikely that Kevin Feige’s proposed “Star Wars” feature will be moved into that December 2022 slot carved out for Benioff and Weiss.