While his recent comments about Star Wars traditionally being ‘a boy's thing’ were a tad off the mark, J.J. Abrams is certainly looking to make the saga a more inclusive thing, and he’s not alone. A recent industry summit held behind closed doors played host to 44 key Hollywood decision makers, as they tried to figure out new ways to combat gender inequality both in front of and behind the camera, and one of the quiet results happens to be tied to the future of Star Wars.
The meeting was organized by Women In Film and the Sundance Institute, and among the attendees were executives from HBO, Lionsgate, Warner Brothers, Marvel and Dreamworks, so it’s safe to say that the people who matter are starting to pay attention. Also among those in attendance was talent agent and WME partner Adriana Alberghetti, which is where the Star Wars part of the story comes in. Following the summit, Alberghetti set up meetings for four female directors and three female writers for future Star Wars films. That certainly isn’t a guarantee, but considering just how many men are involved with the future of the franchise – all five announced films have white men in the director’s chair – it bodes well for diversifying the voices behind the camera.
While the franchise rightly has no dearth of female fans, perspective matters. Unsubstantiated rumors about Disney internally banning merchandise depicting ‘Slave Leia’ (Carrie Fisher’s iconic metal bikini look from Return of the Jedi) led to debates about everything from the term itself to its place in modern culture, but the most important input on the controversy seemed to come from the Princess herself. While we had men arguing both for and against it, Fisher responded to one father’s question about how he should explain something like that to his daughters:
Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage.
Women have always been a part of Star Wars fandom, and with Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones leading The Force Awakens and Rogue One, they’re become more integral to the saga’s narrative. When directors like Colin Trevorrow, Josh Trank, Marc Webb, Gareth Edwards and Jordan Vogt-Roberts are handed the keys to studio franchises after just one independent success, it should stand to reason that directors who aren’t men (or white) with as much or perhaps more under their belt should be afforded the same opportunities. While Alberghetti didn’t name names, she’s known to represent directors like Sarah Gavron (Suffragette) and S.J. Clarkson (Dexter, Jessica Jones), as well as writers like Buffy scribe Marti Noxon, Avatar executive producer Laeta Kalogridis, and The Lion King co-writer Linda Woolverton, who also wrote for the animated Star Wars: Ewoks series back in the '80s.
What films could they potentially write or direct? Rogue One is already well into production, with Episodes VIII & IX looking to maintain continuity behind the scenes. While Phil Lord & Chris Miller are likely to write the spin-off they’re directing, a young Han Solo movie written by a woman is at the very least an interesting idea, but there are also plenty of other potential character stories supposedly in the works. We’ve heard about solo films for Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett at one point or another, but what I’d be most interested in is the once rumored Seven Samurai-based Jedi spin-off, or something like it. Imagine an ensemble film like that that written & directed by women, and starring a more than a couple of ladies in leading roles – how cool would that be?
What these meetings lead to, if anything, remains to be seen, but the best possible outcome in the long run is that industry leaders seem to have walked away from the summit with the right message. Here’s hoping Kathleen Kennedy gets to deliver on her promise of making Star Wars evenmore inclusive.