Adam B. Vary
Tue, 7 March 2023 at 8:30 pm GMT
When Jon Favreau stepped onto the red carpet for the Season 3 premiere of “The Mandalorian” on Feb. 28, the Disney+ show’s creator and executive producer was feeling nostalgic.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been all together here like this,” Favreau told Variety, evoking the November 2019 premiere for the launch of the show — and of Disney+ itself. “It was before the first episode aired!”
At that time, “The Mandalorian” was a scrappy landspeeder in the vast “Star Wars” galaxy, nipping at the heels of “The Rise of Skywalker,” the culminating feature film from director J.J. Abrams that was expected just a month later to obliterate the box office like a cinematic Death Star. Instead, “The Mandalorian” became a global sensation thanks to the incandescent cuteness of Baby Yoda, blasting Disney+ into light-speed with 26.5 million subscribers in its first six weeks.
“The Rise of Skywalker,” on the other hand, imploded in spectacular fashion. The film earned just half the grosses of 2015’s “The Force Awakens” and the widespread scorn of fans, and “Star Wars” movie development has been stuck in the bogs of Dagobah ever since. Whereas Disney+ boasts a robust fleet of live-action “Star Wars” series — three streamed in 2022 alone — not a single “Star Wars” movie has received a greenlight, let alone gone into production. The earliest a film is scheduled to debut in theaters is December 2025, six years after “The Rise of Skywalker.”
It’s not for want of trying. In December 2020, Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy announced that “Wonder Woman” helmer Patty Jenkins would direct the next “Star Wars” movie, the one-off adventure “Rogue Squadron.” But in September 2022, Disney pulled the title from its scheduled December 2023 release, and sources with knowledge of the production say it is no longer in active development at the studio. (A rep for Lucasfilm did not respond to a request for comment. In December, Jenkins said in a statement that she was still developing “Rogue Squadron,” but “I don’t know if it will happen or not.”)
Meanwhile, Variety has learned that a possible “Star Wars” feature produced by Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige is also no longer in active development at Lucasfilm.
When news of Feige’s involvement with a “Star Wars” film broke in September 2019, it churned up fan speculation, since widely debunked, that he was in line to replace Kennedy as the leader of Lucasfilm. The movie remained alive as recently as May 2022, when screenwriter Michael Waldron (“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”) told Variety that he’d started working on a “Star Wars” screenplay for Feige. “I’m enjoying having the freedom on that to do something that’s not necessarily a sequel or anything,” Waldron said.
Five months later, Feige hired Waldron to write the script for 2026’s “Avengers: Secret Wars,” the “Endgame”-style culmination of Marvel Studios’ Multiverse Saga. Between that project and the 19 other titles (and counting) that Marvel’s announced for theaters and streaming in the next four years, Feige’s responsibilities to the MCU are keeping him far, far away from “Star Wars” for much of the decade.
As for Rian Johnson, the in-demand filmmaker has made no secret that he still wants to make the “Star Wars” movies he first announced in 2017 before the release of his film “The Last Jedi,” and Kennedy has been clear that Lucasfilm still wants him, too. But Johnson’s immediate priorities — continuing his Benoit Blanc movies with Daniel Craig for Netflix and Season 2 of hit Peacock series “Poker Face” with Natasha Lyonne — will keep him occupied for the foreseeable future.
So what “Star Wars” movie could slot into that open December 2025 release date? Sources say “Thor: Love and Thunder” filmmaker Taika Waititi continues to work on his possible “Star Wars” feature, and he would most likely have a part in it as well, similar in prominence to his standout role as an imaginary Adolf Hitler in his Oscar-winning 2019 feature “Jojo Rabbit.” And although Lucasfilm has yet to officially confirm it, sources say the studio is committed to a “Star Wars” movie from director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a two-time Oscar-winning documentarian (“Saving Face,” “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”), who made her live-action narrative debut with two episodes of 2022’s “Ms. Marvel” for Disney+. Damon Lindelof (“Watchmen”) and Justin Britt-Gibson (“Counterpart”) were attached in October to write the script for that movie.
Whether one of those films, or some as-yet-unannounced project, lands at the front of the line has been a fiercely guarded secret at Lucasfilm, but sources say the studio will begin to unveil its plans for the future of “Star Wars” cinema at the Star Wars Celebration convention in London the weekend of April 7. That announcement, however, will compete with expected updates for at least four Disney+ series, including the final season of the critically acclaimed “Andor”; new shows from Leslye Headland (“The Acolyte”) and Jon Watts (“Skeleton Crew”); and the first major push for “Ahsoka,” a spinoff of “The Mandalorian” and the animated series “The Clone Wars” starring Rosario Dawson that aims to debut in late summer.
So, for now, Lucasfilm’s message to “Star Wars” movie fans: Patience, you must have.
Marc Malkin contributed to this story.