Star Wars is one of the most world-renowned franchises in history, spanning movies, books, television, comics, board games, and so much more. The characters travel all across the galaxy, visiting countless planets, encountering all kinds of new species, and seeing the universe through an infinite number of different lenses. But unfortunately, the supposed diversity of #StarWars has failed to extend to the storytellers behind the camera. After Episode IX, we will be 11 entries into the franchise, and every film will have been directed by a man. For a universe that prides itself on exploring new worlds and meeting new people, Star Wars has failed at bringing in different points of view to tell these stories.
LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy recently broached the topic of why there haven't been any female directors for Star Wars films yet.
We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do Star Wars, they're set up for success. They're gigantic films, and you can't come into them with essentially no experience.
While it's true that many female directors do lack that experience, it's only because most other studios cite the same reason for not hiring women. There is a systemic issue with getting female directors the experience necessary to appear qualified for these tentpole films, but appearances can be deceiving, and there are many fantastic women out there who could successfully helm a Star Wars film right now.
If we put aside the need for "experience," it becomes easy to find a list of female directors who are worthy of taking on the challenge. Here's just a small segment of that list:
7. Ava DuVernay
Known for: Selma, Queen Sugar, 13TH
Ava DuVernay is one of the most dynamic filmmakers in the industry right now. In the past couple of years, she has focused her energy on three entirely different projects and has come away with a Best Picture nomination, a phenomenal TV show, and one of the most impactful documentaries in recent history. DuVernay has the sort of filmmaking range that allows her to make any movie she's interested in, and that means she can do Star Wars. The only question is whether she wants to do it.
DuVernay recently joined the #Disney family with her upcoming remake of A Wrinkle in Time, but she would also make a killer entry into the episodic Star Wars saga. She's proven more than capable of depicting different tones throughout her career, but she always maintains an exposed humanity that feels integral to the core of so many Star Wars stories. She is a master of capturing intimate familial moments, showcasing powerful emotions, and presenting breathtaking visuals. She's a director who's qualified to take on anything, and she would make a beautiful and passionate Star Wars film.
6. Patty Jenkins
Known for: Wonder Woman, Monster, The Killing
Kennedy's primary reason for the lack of female directors in Star Wars was that LucasFilm didn't see any women with the necessary experience to helm a blockbuster of Star Wars' caliber. Putting aside how misguided that excuse is, we now have a candidate that possesses that experience. Nobody has seen Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman film yet, but between the first trailers and Gal Gadot's performance in Batman v Superman, all signs are pointing towards the first critical success of the DCEU.
Jenkins's previous work on dark dramas has already proven that she's a highly capable filmmaker, but it's Wonder Woman that puts her into the inner circle of potential Star Wars directors. If Wonder Woman can demonstrate an understanding of how to maintain pre-existing lore, produce thrilling action sequences and insert a touch of comedy, she'll show that there's at least one female director who has the big-budget experience that Kennedy is searching for.
5. Kelly Reichardt
Known for: Certain Women, Meek's Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy
Colin Trevorrow's career took off after he had made just a single indie movie: Safety Not Guaranteed; Jordan Vogt-Roberts needed only The Kings of Summer to earn an opportunity on Kong: Skull Island; Kelly Reichardt has generated a constant stream of indie masterpieces since the '90s, but her name is rarely mentioned when discussing potential breakthrough directors. Reichardt might have no interest in transitioning to mainstream blockbusters, but there's no doubt that she has proven her ability to make brilliant films.
Meek's Cutoff, in particular, illustrates the sort of work that could translate beautifully to the realm of Star Wars. The western feel is ever-present in George Lucas's universe, and taking a look at an isolated group within a larger societal event lends itself perfectly to the premise of an anthology film that shows us a side of Star Wars that we've never seen before.
4. Michelle MacLaren
Known for: Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Westworld
When Rian Johnson was hired to direct Episode VIII, he already had experience on a mid-budget sci-fi film, but arguably what made him most qualified was his work on a trio of phenomenal episodes of Breaking Bad. Like Johnson before her Michelle MacLaren earned her place thanks to stunning work in television. MacLaren has worked on some of the best episodes of television's best shows, but most importantly, she has also forayed into the realm of science fiction with Westworld's most recent episode. "The Well-Tempered Clavier" reminded us that MacLaren has the talents to take on a project like Star Wars. She knows how to delve into multi-faceted characters, how to build an eery, mysterious, and tense scene, and she has no problem contrasting and colliding different realms of the same universe.
MacLaren is a TV veteran of the highest esteem, and she's earned every opportunity to move into film if that's where her career takes her. If she can handle taking on some of the most prestigious television shows in the golden age of television, she can certainly take on one of the most popular film franchises of all time.
3. Karyn Kusama
Known for: Æon Flux, The Invitation
Kusama got her big break in 2005 when she directed the science fiction film Æon Flux, but the movie was met with a generally negative reception, and since then Kusama has transitioned into television. Last year she directed the fantastic The Invitation, her first feature film in six years, and her work on TV has brought her back to a heightened level of attention.
Her experience on a sizably budgeted sci-fi movie and her recent track of successful products add up to plenty of qualification for Kusama. If Star Wars is in need of a director for a creepy thriller spin-off film, Kusama is one of the best options available.
2. Lexi Alexander
Known for: Punisher: War Zone, Green Street Hooligans
If you're looking for an action-heavy Star Wars film, #LucasFilm needs to look no further than Lexi Alexander. In the present zeitgeist of MCU and DCEU superhero films, it's easy to forget about some of those movie's predecessors, but Punisher: War Zone has some of the best superhero action sequences ever put on the big screen. Star Wars won't be looking to move into the adult-exclusive violence that Punisher: War Zone boasts, but Alexander has progressed into more family-friendly action in recent years, taking on episodes of Arrow and Supergirl.
Rogue One has been a war movie from the start, and if the Star Wars universe ever wants to revisit a spin-off film that's heavy on gunplay or hand-to-hand combat, Alexander would be a perfect choice. She's a former world champion in karate-point fighting, and she has been constantly vocal about mainstream franchises needing to up their standards of diversity and inclusivity.
1. Debra Granik
Known for: Winter's Bone
Winter's Bone is one of the best films of the 21st century. It follows a young woman who's trying to hold her family together while searching for her drug-dealer father. It fully immerses viewers into an unfamiliar community and slowly reveals the universe that the lead character lives in. Granik's work in developing and presenting such a fully-fleshed out environment and culture can easily be ported over to a Star Wars spin-off film that shows us a new corner of the galaxy. The world presented in Winter's Bone could easily become the subject of a crime-ridden outer rim planet.
Granik didn't direct much before Winter's Bone, and she hasn't directed much since, but the otherworldly potential of Granik as a writer and director is imminently evident in her work here.
The Star Wars universe's lack of female filmmakers is a travesty, but if Kathleen Kennedy sticks to her guns, that problem can be remedied in the near future. These seven women are all worthy directors, and there are countless more women in independent film and television that deserve an opportunity to transition into big budget movies. It's great that Star Wars has put a focus on female characters like Rey and Jyn Erso, but let's hope they can follow suit and start to put women behind the camera now too.
What do you think about Kennedy's comments on the lack of "qualified" female candidates? What do you think of the list I've come up with? Got any more women you'd like to nominate as potential Star Wars directors? Let us know how you feel about the situation down in the comments.