Who Should Direct Star Wars Episode IX?

With Colin Trevorrow out as director, the CineNation crew made a list of who they think should take over Episode IX.

Sep 8, 2017 · 12 min read

News broke this past week that director Colin Trevorrow has parted with ways with the Star Wars franchise. With the release of Trevorrow’s critical and financial failure of The Book of Henry, and the waning love of Jurassic World, Trevorrow’s position as the director of Episode IX has been in doubt for quite some time now.

Lucasfilm is becoming more and more protective of their Star Wars franchise over the past year or two. This will be the third time they have replaced a director in some fashion. With Rogue One, they brought on Tony Gilroy to replace Gareth Edwards to rewrite and reshoot a portion of the film. With the Han Solo film, they made headlines when they fired Phil Lord and Chris Miller and replaced them with Ron Howard in the midst of production. This time they fired a director before the cameras even rolled.

Since there is an empty director’s chair to fill, we at CineNation wanted to throw out some of our picks on who should take over the position for Star Wars: Episode IX.

Ridley Scott

By Brett Seegmiller

My first thought, of course, was to go with the obvious choice and pick one of my favorite directors, Christopher Nolan. Of course it would be fun to see someone like Nolan doing crazy things in the Star Wars universe, but on reflection I realized that I would much rather see Nolan jump into the James Bond series than Star Wars.

Besides, there is a much better pick for director of Star Wars: Episode IX than Nolan.

It didn’t take me long to pick who I would really like to see jump into “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” That person is most definitely Ridley Scott.

First and foremost, as a visualist, Scott has no equal. J.J. Abrams brought a serious sense of visual flair to The Force Awakens, and one of the few people who would be able to match or exceed him is Scott. Ridley has an extremely unique vision that makes almost every scene he directs — especially scenes in his more fantastical movies — almost pop off the screen. His directing style is visceral and his vistas are always sweeping and epic. If you gave the reigns of Star Wars over to someone like Ridley, you can bet that it would be more than just visually stunning, it would be a living painting.

It also goes without saying that Ridley is no stranger to science fiction which would make him right at home in Star Wars. Having directed such classic sci-fi movies as Alien and The Martian, he would be perfect for the unique universe created by George Lucas. There’s another bonus here as well: Ridley’s super familiar with epic drama. Gladiator has very much become a modern classic and for good reason. It didn’t become the classic it is because of its awesome and brutal action scenes, but in part because of its human stories and high personal stakes. Star Wars has always been overly dramatic, but someone like Scott could take it to the next level and provide a real sense of gravitas to the cheesefest that is Star Wars.

Just imagine Alien and Gladiator had a child and you’ll have some idea as to what a Star Wars film directed by Scott could look like. (On second thought, that’s kind of a creepy image…)

Not to mention that it would be good for Ridley to do something like Star Wars for a change of pace. He’s been beating his Alien origin story to death with films such as Prometheus and the more recent Alien: Covenant, both of which weren’t very well received by critics or film goers, which proves to me that he needs something fresh to sink his teeth into. Star Wars would be the perfect opportunity to move onto that’s not just a retread of something he’s done before.

I know that Disney has been leaning more towards indie directors with their recent blockbusters in Marvel and Star Wars, but with their unexpected decision to bring in an established director like Ron Howard to finish up the Han Solo standalone film, the powers that be might be more open to letting a pro like Ridley come in to finish up, and maybe that’s just what the ending episode of the new Star Wars trilogy needs: a pro.

Ava DuVernay

By Sean Randall

According to IMDb, Ava DuVernay has only 17 credits as a director of finished works, with only three theatrical feature films: I Will Follow (only open in 21 theaters), Middle of Nowhere (only open in 25 theaters), and Selma, which brought DuVernay immediately into the spotlight with her first wide-release feature film that earned more than $66 million worldwide. The movie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, controversially as part of the #OscarsSoWhite year skipping over both actor David Oyelowo and DuVernay for nominations. Still, DuVernay has had an incredible response to her first major work, which made more than three times its budget, and rightly so. Somehow, across the decade of more than 90 credits in publicity and promotion, DuVernay developed the skills to become one of the smartest directors in the business.

But why am I picking someone still somewhat untested? Many reasons. First, the Star Wars franchise (and the Marvel universe) has been trying to do that anyway, which I applaud. While it hasn’t always worked out (Trevorrow is not a good director, and I have strong doubts about Trank), I still think it’s important to give younger, less credited directors a shot at big budgets, to encourage more independent and thoughtful filmmaking by rewarding them with big projects and the money to go back and do their passion projects later, like Jon Favreau jumping from Iron Man to Chef.

Second, DuVernay is a competent writer, and the Star Wars franchise desperately needs one of those involved. While not credited, the story of DuVernay basically writing Selma is fairly well-known. And when Star Wars doesn’t have a strong writing hand, at best we get the fun but somewhat forgettable Rogue One, and at worst we get… The Prequels™.

Finally, I want to see a woman in charge of this story. Not only would this be the first female AND first non-white director for Star Wars, and the fifth time a female director was given a budget of $100 million or more (DuVernay is already on that list with the totally-looks-awesome A Wrinkle in Time that is being released next year), but we would also see a woman telling a woman’s (Rey’s) story, which is important, particularly in the presumed final emotional act for her tale. The people behind the camera are important to make something that can connect to a diverse audience. And DuVernay is also, I am wagering, competent enough to know how to handle the loss of General Leia Organa, who was intended to be a major focus of Episode IX.

Basically, DuVernay is a smart, competent, female director I would love to see more from.

Duncan Jones

By Dan LeVine

Duncan Jones (right) directing a scene for “Warcraft”

The IMDb page of Duncan Jones is not long. The 46-year-old Brit has only three features out and one more in post-production.

But looking at what he’s done, I think he’s the guy for the job. Let’s take a look:

1. Moon (2009). The critically-acclaimed film is a sci-fi thriller that takes place in…oh, space! It features a strong performance by Sam Rockwell and the film was made for a mere $5 million. Imagine what he could do with, say, $250 million.

2. Source Code (2011). The Jake Gyllenhaal-led science fiction flick is one of my Top 10 favorite films of all time. Jones’ Groundhog-Day-meets-ticking-clock-thriller captivates its audience and challenges them to figure out the ending before it is revealed. The ending is unexpectedly emotional; we realize too late that while we were having fun with the mystery, Jones was making us fall in love with his characters.

3. Warcraft (2016). But Warcraft was a bomb, wasn’t it? In the US, yes, it earned only $47 million of its $160 million budget back. But it was a massive success overseas, earning an additional $386 million. Warcraft earned a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes, but let’s be honest — Warcraft was never going to be Blade Runner or Lord of the Rings. But I believe his involvement in Warcraft bolsters Jones’ appeal even more. With a higher budget, Jones gained valuable experience with CGI, fantastic visuals and extensive worldbuilding, all of which he can bring to Star Wars.

Jones is a fan of the classic sci-fi films such as Blade Runner and Alien and pays homage to them in his films. I am sure he grew up on Star Wars and would be thrilled to be the one to help usher in a new chapter that does its predecessors justice.



Ti West

By Alex Bauer

This is a tough pick — for all the bad reasons.

Personally, I’ve been “out” on Star Wars. I never saw Rogue One and Episode VII was only a nice epilogue to the “original” films. When I heard there was going to be new Star Wars every year, I knew the Star Wars excitement would endure a quick death.

With that said, Star Wars needs us. The producers of Episode IX have fired Colin Trevorrow as the film’s director. Putting “why?” aside, they need input on who to have to helm the latest Star Wars being filmed. I have an idea on who would pique my interest: Ti West.

The dark, evil side of the newest Star Wars flick, I found, the most interesting. There needs to be a balance between action and story — Star Wars can not be either or. West has directed The House of the Devil and In the Valley of Violence, a horror film and a western. Both are recommends from myself and do a great job at providing an engaging story and action. He describes his films as “slow burns”, and it would be interesting to see a Star Wars film as such: to really get into the world and following the crazy characters that make it up.

I’m looking for something fresh — a new way of looking at the Star Wars universe and tellings its plethora of stories. I think Ti West is a really intriguing choice. He brings the filmmaking knowledge of filming exciting action, yet bringing in a great sense of character and world building.

Ana Lily Amirpour

By David Raygoza

Off the jump, I know Ana Lily Amirpour doesn’t fit in with this franchise, and I doubt she’s interested, for the same reasons Edgar Wright and Lord & Miller had to leave. There’s a creative mode of cinema that’s antithetical to the play-it-safe commercial endeavors that the Disney-monopoly saga seeks. Ana Lily Amirpour is the opposite of playing it safe.

But these franchises will become faint shadows of the original trilogy’s sense of adventure if they don’t spike the storytelling back into bold, immediately iconic romanticism. My hopes for Rian Johnson soar high, so while we’re waxing hypothetical let’s go all out.

If you’ve seen either A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night or The Bad Batch then you understand the sensual, multi-faceted power of Amirpour’s cinema. For long stretches of time, Amirpour lets the imagery do the talking, forming new correlations between old tropes. Placing fantasy as a consequence of our reality, she writes and directs genre-blended films that play like sweet, stylish nightmares. Here is a director that understands the sensuality of crisis. I’ve no doubt that Amirpour’s Star Wars would be both grotesque and intimate, which is exactly what the franchise needs if they’re ever to usurp Lucas’ groundwork. You thought sleeping inside a Wampa to survive Hoth was gross? One can only imagine the scarred metaphors of sacrifice and duty Amirpour could conjure in our grandest contemporary fairy tale.

Give us a psychologically pertinent portrayal of The First Order’s hate, give us the double-edged truth of passion and war as societal constants, give us the shorthand of star crossed lovers, shoot it all fearlessly, as if its essence matters. Unlike Jedi, Disney refuses to learn in the dark.

Thankfully, Ana Lily Amirpour will continue fighting for The Resistance, without mammon constraints, as a force-wielding bastion of visceral, diverse independent cinema.

Rick Famuyiwa

By Brandon Sparks

Rick Famuyiwa (left) directing “Dope”

This choice is a long shot for the conclusion of the sequel Star Wars trilogy, but I think it is one to consider for at least a Star Wars anthology story. In almost twenty years, Rick Famuyiwa has very few directing credits to his name, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t ready for big-budget filmmaking. Famuyiwa’s breakthrough was his first film, The Wood, a charming coming-of-age film about three old friends who come back to their hometown of Inglewood, California for the wedding of one of the friends.

All of Famuyiwa’s films have heart, but Dope is by far his best. The film is a complete mix of genre. It’s a coming-of-age dramedy with a little bit of a heist film thrown in…and a little bit of a musical too. Famuyiwa masterfully balances the multiple genres of Dope into an entertaining and captivating story. Dope shows that he can build suspense, direct action pieces, and that he can handle an ensemble cast of diverse characters. All things a Star Wars film has.

Rick Famuyiwa came close to getting his big-budget chance with The Flash, but like the director before him, Famuyiwa dropped out of the project due to “creative differences”. Famuyiwa said that he “pitched a version of [The Flash] in line with [his] voice, humor, and heart”. I would have been excited to see that, but after four months of developing the project he was gone. I think Famuyiwa needs a chance of big-budget filmmaking and I think the Star Wars franchise could benefit from having him onboard in some caliber.

Alex Garland

By Thomas Horton

If Star Wars is looking for yet another indie director with very few credits to their name, Garland probably has the most impressive credits list of that group, even with only one turn in the director’s chair. As the author of the novel The Beach, Garland launched a successful partnership as a screenwriter for Danny Boyle through most of the 2000s. From fan-favorite 28 Days Later… to Boyle’s misunderstood space odyssey Sunshine, Garland has shown a knack for telling undeniably human stories mixed with heavy science fiction influences. In his screenwriting career, this combination was best put on display with his adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, a drama so heartbreakingly human that it’s easy to forget it’s about clones.

Garland’s breakout as a director solidified him as my choice for a Star Wars film. With Ex Machina (easily my favorite movie of 2015), Garland showed that you don’t need a huge budget to make incredible science fiction. Dealing with questions of artificial intelligence and what it might mean for humanity, Garland traps Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac in a secluded home/tech compound with Ava, an artificially intelligent android played by Alicia Vikander. As Gleeson’s Caleb spends the weekend torn between his suspicions of Isaac and his growing sympathy for Ava, Garland fills the confined space with layers of suspense.

With his predilection for the science fiction drama, not to mention his history with Star Wars cast members Gleeson and Isaac, Garland is someone who could really bring an interesting vision to the galaxy. He’s already proven to be an incredible storyteller, and the visuals in Ex Machina, while restrained, are often stunning. We’ll see how Garland proves himself directing big budget sci-fi with his upcoming Annihilation, but I’m ready to see what he could do with the keys to the Star Wars galaxy.

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CineNation is a multi-media conversation connecting lovers of television and film from around the world