UPDATED – Who Will Direct Star Wars – Episode VII?

All the way back on October 31st, I wrote a post very shortly after it was announced that Disney had acquired the right to LucasFilm and would be producing Episodes VII, VIII, and IX of Star Wars.

The announcement was a shock to the industry… more Star Wars movies!!! The deal led to immediate speculation on the director that would be chosen for the monumental task of restarting the franchise. In my late October blog post, I listed 20 potential directors that I felt were most likely to be offered the gig. That post can be found here:


Well, much has changed since then. Three of the directors I listed in my Top Ten have since announced that they will not be the director. They are:

My #9 pick – Sam Mendes, who most recently directed Skyfall, the 007 flick that just passed a billion dollars at the box office worldwide. He made it clear in a recent interview that he didn’t expect to be offered the job and likely wouldn’t direct it anyway. You never know, but Mendes seems out of the race.

My #5 pick – Guillermo Del Toro, the great visionary director of the Hellboy movies, Pan’s Labyrinth, and this summer’s Pacific Rim. Just yesterday, Del Toro confirmed that he received a call from Disney gauging his interest, but that his plate was too full for Star Wars.

And last, but certainly not least…

My #1 pick – Brad Bird, who earned two Animated Feature Oscars through his work with Pixar (also owned by Disney) for The Incredibles and Ratatouille. In 2011, Bird made his live-action debut with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol where he reinvigorated that franchise. With his Disney ties and great results with Mission, Bird seemed like an obvious choice and my preferred choice. However, he has announced that he will not be the director and is focusing on other projects.

So… where does that leave us? I thought the director announcement might come before the close of 2012. With that not occurring, we’re left to wonder whether we’ll know by month’s end. It’s certainly possible.

With all the recent movement, I’ve decided to pare down my list of 20 Likely Directors to 10 Likely Directors. If you think I’d just move everyone up a slot with Bird, Del Toro, and Mendes out, you would be exactly wrong. There are actually two new names in my now Top 10 that weren’t in my Top 20 over two months ago. Others that were in the October Top 10 have dropped out and some who were between 10-20 have moved up in the Star Wars world. Without further adieu, my Top 10 Most Likely Directors for Star Wars: Episode VII:

10. Neil Blomkamp (Previous Ranking: #3)

Blomkamp made a huge splash with his directorial debut, the original and inventive District 9. He gets a much bigger budget with this year’s Elysium with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Blomkamp has shown immense talent with sci-fi, but I have a sneaking suspicion he may not be as highly rated as I once thought and he’s had several move ahead in my view. Also, Blomkamp writes all his own stuff and we don’t even know if he’d want to work off someone else’s screenplay.

9. Lee Unkrich (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

Unkrich simply wasn’t on my radar screen when I posted in October. He has co-directed a number of Pixar features and made his solo directing debut with 2010’s rapturously received Toy Story 3. With fellow Pixar alum Brad Bird out, might Disney turn to another one for this franchise? It seems feasible, even though having Star Wars as your first live-action movie is a pretty tall order.

8. Drew Goddard (Previous Ranking: #4)

Goddard has slipped a bit as well. His first feature, last year’s Cabin in the Woods, was a lot of fun and very well-directed. As I wrote about in October, it helps that he’s Joss Whedon’s right-hand man. Whedon, as you may know, happened to direct a little movie called The Avengers for Disney last year and that turned out about as well as humanly possible. His association with Whedon is a huge plus, but again I think there’s others that have moved ahead. Whedon, it should be noted, is all but out because he’ll be working on The Avengers sequel.

7. Joe Kosinki (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

Our second newbie to the list, Kasinki directed Disney’s 2010 film Tron: Legacy and it grossed over $400 million worldwide. His follow-up feature is this April’s sci-fi thriller Oblivion with Tom Cruise. If the word on Oblivion turns out positive, that combination coupled with Disney’s earlier success with him could make Kosinski a major contender.

6. David Yates (Previous Ranking: #12)

Yates seems like a natural choice: he directed the last four Harry Potter pictures to great acclaim and enormous box office results. He’s already proven he can successfully take a beloved franchise and keep it running with very positive results. Yates would probably rank higher here, but Warner Bros. is likely to offer him any project he desires to keep him with the company, included the eagerly-awaited Justice League movie.

5. Joe Johnston (Previous Ranking: #14)

This selection is beginning to make a lot more sense to me than in October. A veteran director, Johnston actually did the visual effects on the original Star Wars trilogy. He then moved on to direct high-profile features like Jumanji and Jurassic Park III. His connection with Disney is now strong after directing 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. 

4. Rupert Wyatt (Previous Ranking: #11)

Wyatt earned a lot of props with his directorial debut, 2011’s terrific Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Like Mr. Yates, Mr. Wyatt proved he could take over a well-known franchise and infuse it with energy. Wyatt was scheduled to direct the Apes sequel, but dropped out so he’s open for business right now.

3. Jon Favreau (Previous Ranking: #15)

Here’s another one who’s jumped way up. Favreau is the man responsible for starting the whole Avengers franchise after directing both Iron Man flicks to critical acclaim and huge box office. Disney reportedly loves working with him and his success with the Marvel franchise (which Disney owns) might get him the offer for this franchise.

2. Alfonso Cuaron (Previous Ranking: #2)

Cuaron is the only director to keep his previous ranking and for good reason. He’d be an inspired choice after directing the greatest Harry Potter film (Prisoner of Azkaban) and the amazingly directed Children of Men. This year, audiences will see Gravity, his sci-fi epic with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Cuaron has stayed conspicuously quiet and he certainly hasn’t ruled himself out, which makes this a real possibility.

But, at the end of the day, there’s got to be a number one pick and with my previous selection, Brad Bird, out of the running, the new #1 is….

1. Matthew Vaughn (Previous Ranking: #7)

Vaughn has jumped to #1 mostly because there’s a lot of rumors that he’s been offered the film. That news broke weeks ago and I wrote about it here:


The best news: if these rumors turn out true, Vaughn is a fine choice. Like some of my other top ten picks, he’s already proven he can restart a franchise to great results, after 2011’s X-Men: First Class. I still find it noteworthy that he dropped out of directing the sequel to X-Men. His name has been swirling around for some time now and he’s said nothing, which tells me he’s probably interested.

And that’s where we are today, my friends. We shall find out soon if any of these predictions have any merit. Stay tuned!

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