New details shed light on why, and when, Lucasfilm parted ways with Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
The last few days have been a weird time to be both a Star Wars fan and a Game of Thrones fan.
With the recent (and oddly timed) announcement that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss would no longer be working on a new trilogy of Star Wars films, citing their commitments to their Netflix deal, fans and journalists were left scratching their heads at the highly questionable validity of that statement. It also doesn't make sense that these two creatives -- and very huge Star Wars fans -- would suddenly walk away from their dream project without some sense of behind the scenes turmoil. In fact, Star Wars is what helped kill in part any plans HBO may have had for Game of Thrones to wrap up with more than just one season of limited episodes. (More on that later.) There is no way Netflix and the writers' reps would have negotiated that deal without factoring Benioff and Weiss' commitment/development carve out to Star Wars. Unless, of course, the two exited Star Wars before the deal was signed.
According to our Disney source (who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter) and Vanity Fair reporter and Game of Thrones expert Joanna Robinson, that's exactly what happened.
On a Patreon-only episode of The Storm podcast (AKA Storm of Spoilers) Robinson, who also covers Star Wars and Marvel news, revealed that the decision to part ways with Benioff and Weiss was made in May 2019 -- before the Netflix deal. Robinson, according to her Disney sources, said that it was a “soft” removal and it was not announced in order to allow Benioff and Weiss to shop their services elsewhere. (Hence why they were able to secure the Netflix deal. Had the news come out before or while they were reaching out to potential suitors, their chances for success would have dropped.) It also didn't help that their work on the final season of Game of Thrones was met with divisive criticism at best.
Robinson also suggested that the duo's recent comments about GoT at the Austin Film Festival may have sped up the announcement. Meaning Disney and/or Kathleen Kennedy heard the blowback to their "we didn't know what we were doing"-esque remarks -- on top of their less-than-successful answer to the lack of diversity question that plagued the series both in front of and behind the camera -- and wanted to avoid news cycles similar to those that followed the other high-profile Star Wars firings of the last three years.
Another gut punch to all this? The allure of working on Star Wars is what lead to the showrunners to stop working on Game of Thrones.
Our sources told us earlier this year that Benioff and Weiss had a bit of a falling out of sorts some point during or after the second-to-last season of GoT. They were burned out on the show, and were not really talking to each other/working as closely as they once were. HBO wanted at least two more seasons, and our sources say the cable network was willing to give them as much budget and as many episodes as they wanted to help achieve that, while being mindful of the writers' creative needs, too.
Weiss and Benioff insisted on one last season, and one only, according to our source. They were already approached for Star Wars work before cameras rolled and the goal, according to those with insights on the deal, was to wrap up the series and get to work fully on Star Wars to meet that December 2022 release date Disney had penciled in.
Also, Robinson's sources have told her that Kevin Feige will be reporting directly to Bob Iger on his Star Wars project, not to Kathleen Kennedy. (THR's follow-up piece surrounding this dismissal corroborates that -- even though Robinson took down her podcast episode.) This further fuels the rumors that Disney has hopes that Feige will help steady the franchise. Robinson stressed on the podcast, however, that that does not necessarily mean that Kathleen Kennedy is heading out the door -- and Feige’s role may ultimately be in a consulting capacity. (Given Feige's role in Marvel films and on the Sony/Spidey output, on top of his love for Star Wars surpassing that of Marvel Comics, that last bit about only "consulting" feels unlikely).
The future of Star Wars is less than solid, at least from our perspective. And we totally sympathize with Kennedy's unenviable task of doing whatever she has to do behind the scenes on top of the pressure of doing it with the forward-facing feeling to fans and press being that the franchise is shaky now under her tenure.
Kennedy is next-level on the producer and creative side. She is an essential and necessary component to the success achieved so far, and with getting the caliber of filmmakers on board.
While Rian Johnson's trilogy remains in limbo, despite the positive spin Disney and Lucasfilm put on it, we hope the Force once again gets strong with this venerable franchise.
What do you want to see for the future of Star Wars? Which female director or writer or producer would you like to make the first Star Wars movie trilogy? Sound off below!