Star Wars: the timeline of cancellations, firings and frustration

Star Wars logo
Share this Article:

The Star Wars story under Disney’s stewardship has not been a happy one, at least for those of us who’d like the odd film now and again. Let’s look at the whole story. 


Try three issues of Film Stories magazine – for just £1: right here!

For Star Wars fans, the series’ timeline has always been a tricky beast to wrangle. Even back in the more civilised age of the original trilogy, the canon established by those three films was supplemented and complicated by spin-off movies, not to mention the beloved Expanded Universe line of novels, video games and comics. And yes, even though we don’t like to talk about it, there was the The Holiday Special too.

Fast forward to the 21st century and with the coming of the prequels, Lucasfilm built Star Wars into a world-eating franchise, filling the series’ continuity with endless tales before Disney took the reins in 2012 and did what the Mouse House does best, leveraging the brand into a wider offering of stories and adventures than we’d ever seen before.

Does it get complicated trying to figure out just how far ahead Andor is in relation to the Obi Wan Kenobi series, and how the latter ties chronologically into Kenobi’s appearances in Marvel’s Star Wars comics? Maybe a little, but for this Star Wars fan, there’s one timeline that is beginning to look infinitely more complicated and that’s the assortment of premature announcements, frustrated filmmakers and abandoned projects that litter the relatively short history of Disney’s stewardship of A Galaxy Far, Far Away.

With news emerging this month that yet another noteworthy creator has abandoned Star Wars, this time in the form of Watchmen scribe, Damon Lindelof, we thought it was high time to unpack the rather knotty mess that characterises Disney’s decade in charge of Star Wars, creating a clear timeline that examines when, how and why so many projects have fallen by the wayside.


October 2012 saw Disney purchase Lucasfilm in a $4bn acquisition that would come to redraw the Hollywood landscape for the next decade, intensifying the focus on popular intellectual property and causing many an executive to re-evaluate the value of dormant brands.

The first victim of Disney’s penchant for creator-culling would be none other than the All-Father himself. After selling his company and stories to Disney, George Lucas, the saga’s creator, would hand Disney top brass his notes for the future of Star Wars and sit in as a creative consultant in initial meetings about the franchise’s future. That wouldn’t last though and Lucas’ ideas (which were reportedly focused on the children of the original trilogy’s heroes) were quickly considered surplus to requirements. Whether he was pushed or (hopefully) shown the door in an exceedingly respectful manner is unknown, but he soon found himself outside of the creative process.

November 2012 saw celebrated writer, Michael Arndt bought in to pen the first draft of the next film in the Skywalker Saga with reports stating he might even be doing the whole trilogy. Ardnt was also part of a writer’s room featuring Simon Kinsberg, Kiri Hart and  Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan, that was focused on figuring out the future of the franchise.


February 2013 would bring another major announcement in the form of a standalone Han Solo movie, one that on and off, had been in the works since before Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney. Work on that would continue but by October 2013 it was revealed that Michael Arndt had left The Force Awakens. In the years since, Arndt has hinted that he wanted to hew closer to Lucas’ original vision for the sequel trilogy but has admitted that he was struggling to introduce the Luke Skywalker character without overshadowing newer creations. The Force Awakens’ director, JJ Abrams and Kasdan would assume control over the direction of the project (not for the last time) and would ‘solve’ the Skywalker problem by kicking the can down the road (again, not for the last time) by pretty much omitting the character from the movie completely.


May 2014 would see more Star Wars projects announced in the form of Rogue One and a movie based on the enduringly-popular bounty hunter, Boba Fett. The two projects were announced with directors, those being Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank. Edwards had just wrapped shooting on Godzilla whilst Trank was coming off the back of the red-hot indie superhero flick Chronicle. 

Entering June 2014, Star Wars fans had even more reason to be excited with the announcement that Rian Johnson would be coming in to direct Episode VIII of The Skywalker Saga. Like Abrams before him, Johnson (who was coming of the back of 2012’s sci-fi drama, Looper) was considered an exciting and popular appointment with something of an auteur style, perfect for taking A Galaxy Far, Far Away into uncharted territory.


Before Lucasfilm would get its first Star Wars film out of the gate however, the first real blip in the process happened. In May 2015, Josh Trank would be the first director to leave a Lucasfilm project, in his words ‘quitting before he was fired.’ He wouldn’t be the last.

Trank left the Boba Fett project before his reboot of Fantastic Four for 20th Century Fox was released to a dismal reception. But even before the film’s critical and commercial drubbing, rumours were abound regarding a troubled production. True or not, it seemed to spook Lucasfilm and Trank found himself out of the fold, although that news would be quickly tempered by the popular announcement that Phil Lord and Chris Miller would be directing the already in-development Han Solo film. Skip forward a month to August 2015 and despite still not having released a film yet, it was revealed that Colin Trevorrow would be stepping in to helm the third film in The Skywalker Saga.

The Force Awakens would release in December to acclaim, despite well-founded criticisms about it being entirely derivative of 1977’s A New Hope.  That probably marks the high point for Star Wars in terms the Lucasfilm Machine running smoothly (or at least appearing to). Plans for the continuation of a clear trilogy seemed in place with a quality duo of directors signed up, not to mention two intriguing spin-offs with exciting and unique filmmakers at the helm. What would not be apparent at the time was that behind closed doors, the next two instalments of The Skywalker Saga had no unifying sense of direction, whilst none of the spin-off directors truly had the trust of the studio.


These issues first became public in June 2016 when it began to look like Gareth Edwards was no longer behind the wheel of Rogue One and that Tony Gilroy had been bought in to take control of story revision and extensive five-week reshoots. We’ll never know what Edwards’ original take on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was, but members of the film’s cast have remarked that it was substantially altered. The film would release in December 2016 to further acclaim and Lucasfilm’s gamble to replace Edwards had seemingly paid off. However, this created a dangerous precedent for the company where playing Filmmaker Bingo seemingly became an acceptable studio practice to fix problematic productions.

Rogue One

Rogue One


We next saw evidence of this practice in June 2017 when it was revealed that despite being in production on Solo: A Star Wars Story for a whopping 90 days, Phil Lord and Chris Miller had been fired, to be replaced by Ron Howard, widely considered to be ‘a safe pair of hands’. The influence of Lawrence Kasdan (him again) was said to be key in the removal of Lord and Miller and production would continue on the film.

This would mark a key moment in the Star Wars production timeline where bold creativity would be jettisoned in favour of risk-averse fan service. A month later in  August 2017 it was announced that an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie featuring Ewan McGregor was in the works with Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry helming.

Again, an exciting announcement that a month later in September 2017 would be undermined by the news that Colin Trevorrow had walked away (or been fired) from Episode IX, rumoured to possess the killer title, Duel Of The Fates. Reportedly, Trevorrow had been bumped off the project due to Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy being dissatisfied with every draft screenplay he turned in. At least one version of that screenplay has leaked in the years since and whilst admittedly comparing apples and oranges, it’s far more interesting than the film we eventually got.

November 2017 would mark the announcement that now Rian Johnson would be helming his own Star Wars trilogy after he finished up work on Episode VII: The Last Jedi which released just a month later. The film would meet a divided response, being both adored and maligned for taking the saga in new directions. For Lucasfilm though, the film’s failure to meet its predecessor’s box office and the fractured fanbase response were a major concern for ‘the future health of the brand.’. In Johnson, they’d unleashed a creative filmmaker on the saga and seemed somehow taken aback when he delivered a film that some said lacked that ‘Star Wars’ tone. Even now, some six years later the studio seemingly still suffers from a crippling paralysis brought on from no longer trusting its storytelling instincts following the fallout from The Last Jedi.


Enter 2018 and the Lucasfilm Churn is in full effect. May 2018 reportedly sees James Mangold bought in to pick up the reins on the long-gestating Boba Fett movie but in the same month, Solo: A Star Wars Story is released to a tepid reception and things look increasingly wobbly for Lucasfilm. The film’s feels hollow and full of by-the-numbers fan service, lacking the spark of life that Lord and Miller would no doubt have brought to it. By that point, the duo were likely laughing from afar as they oversaw production on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, an Oscar-winning superhero film and the best Spider-Man movie ever made.

Lucasfilm was probably too busy with crisis management to kick itself, deciding that the Solo idea was flawed from the start (spoiler: it wasn’t.) Even Disney CEO Bob Iger popped up to talk about fans not wanting to see legacy characters redone, perhaps again missing the point. Still Iger’s perspective would shape Lucasfilm’s thinking and May would see the planned Obi-Wan movie (which was now supposedly expanding into a trilogy) being iced, along with the Boba Fett film (again).

Alden Ehrenreich in Solo

Alden Ehrenreich in Solo


Exhausted yet? Try writing this. No wonder some sites turn to that AI software to do this stuff.

May 2019 would see the Games Of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss drafted in to oversee a new Star Wars trilogy due to arrive in 2022. Rumours were that the duo were supposed to map out the future of Star Wars post-Skywalker Saga but then the final season of Game Of Thrones aired and well, the shit hit the fan once more. The closing season of Thrones was pretty reviled and unfairly or not, the bulk of audience ire was levelled at Benioff and Weiss who had found themselves having to craft more and more of the series’ story since the show had now moved beyond the scope of author George RR Martin’s novels. Once again, Lucasfilm found itself staring down the barrel of fan reception and blinked.

In a move that suggested Lucasfilm boss, Kathleen Kennedy’s grip on the studio might be faltering, it was announced that Marvel Studios impresario Kevin Feige would be tackling a Star Wars film. Then, in October 2019, the inevitable happened and Benioff and Weiss left Star Wars behind. The pair claimed to have walked away to fulfil an obligation to Netflix but this was seemingly another case of Lucasfilm trying to give its audience what it thought it wanted, instead of trusting its instincts.

Of course, December 2019 marked the last entry of a Star Wars film into cinemas with the release of the trilogy-capping The Rise Of Skywalker. The film, it is fair to say, would not be loved and as our own John Moore predicted months before the film’s release, would come to represent the epitome of Lucasfilm’s strategising – that being to take as few creative risks as possible, including the reinsertion of JJ Abrams as director and the reintroduction of original trilogy baddie, Palpatine in a baffling plot twist. A couple of early cinematic successes had now been succeeded by a trio of films arriving to a decidedly mixed reception.


With The Skywalker Saga now out of the way, the series was at long last ready to be unburdened by legacy characters and storylines. January 2020 saw another MCU stalwart announced as a future Star Wars director, with the news Taika Waititi would be making a film for Lucasfilm.

Meanwhile, February 2020 saw the announcement of a new project to be helmed by JD Dillard. Dillard had been Abrams’ assistant on The Force Awakens and whilst he’s never talked about the nature of his Star Wars project, he did drop some hints about loving the TIE Fighter computer game when he was a kid (and rightly so too). Jumping ahead a little, Dillard would go on to make the WWII-era aviator movie, Devotion instead when his time with Lucasfilm didn’t work out.

December 2020 would also see the aviator-focused Rogue Squadron film announced, due to be helmed by Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins, an exciting combination that I vividly recall getting excited about here. With the Rebel Alliance’s premier dogfighting hotshots and their TIE Fighter counterparts being natural enemies, we wonder if Dillard and Jenkins’ films were ever meant to be interlinked?  Either way, we’ll never know now.


We’ve avoided mentioning the TV shows because frankly, this piece is long enough already but it’s worth mentioning that in February 2021, Lucasfilm announced the cancellation of the planned Rangers Of The New Republic. That was the first announced TV show to be scrapped but as we enter a period of streaming platforms tightening their belts, it probably won’t be the last. Star Wars film news thins out here, thanks in part to Disney’s focus on creating shows to fill Disney+ and the effects of the global pandemic but if the state of the world wasn’t depressing enough, November 2021 bought rumours that Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron had been delayed due to ‘creative differences.’


The churn certainly resumed in 2022 however, with March 2022 seeing reports that Damon Lindelof was working on a Star Wars film project. The back end of 2022 was a now-familiar pattern of announcements and cancellations though, with September 2022 seeing Jenkins’ troubled Rogue Squadron project pulled from Disney’s production schedule. November 2022 would bring the news that Free Guy director Shawn Levy would also be working on a movie once he’d finished work on Deadpool 3 but as we’ve come to expect, this announcement was counterbalanced by the news that JD Dillard’s project had been scrapped.


Which brings us to 2023 where the news thus far is not promising.

In March 2023, we learned that Kevin Feige’s Star Wars film has been scrapped, as has Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron. And we now know that Damon Lindeloff and Justin Britt-Gibson have exited the Star Wars project set to be directed by Ms. Marvel’s Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. Peaky Blinders’ Steven Knight is now installed to work on that production.

As it stands then, of the many, many filmmakers listed above, only the above Obaid-Chinoy project, the Waititi film and Shawn Levy’s project remain. That and Rian Johnson’s long-gestating trilogy that nobody believes will happen at this point.

May 2023’s Star Wars Celebration fan event will surely offer some new insight into the cinematic future of the saga with rumours suggesting that Disney’s Bob Iger has pulled development on the Indiana Jones TV series and ordered Lucasfilm to focus solely on Star Wars. The rumour mill also suggests we’ll be getting three Star Wars movies announced at Celebration next month but given how many botched announcements and cancellations we’ve seen over the last few years, does anybody seriously believe that these films will happen?

At this point, the Galaxy Far, Far Away has never seemed well… further away, at least on cinema screens. Please, freeze me in carbonite until the next one is actually in cinemas. As somebody in their fourth decade on this earth, artificially expanding my own lifespan feels like the only way I’ll actually get to see another Star Wars film on a cinema screen in my lifetime so wake me up then. (Unless of course, it’s another Rise Of Skywalker in which case, don’t bother and just leave me on ice permanently.)

Time will tell if Lucasfilm can finally get it together and turn into a functioning production company, but they’ll need more than an old Jedi mind trick to make us forget about the last decade of problems, failures and missed opportunities.

Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:

Follow Film Stories on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

Buy our Film Stories and Film Junior print magazines here.

Become a Patron here.

Share this Article:

Related Stories

More like this