Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy will remain Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy for another another three years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Star Wars uber-producer has signed a contract to extend her presence at the studio through 2021. All going well, Kathleen Kennedy will be president longer than Donald Trump.
Kennedy’s films in the franchise - The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, and Solo - have grossed nearly $4.5 billion worldwide, not counting merch, home video, TV, and so on, making the $4 billion Disney spent to acquire the property back in 2012 seem positively paltry. She will continue to oversee a vast array of projects, including but not limited to what’s been announced:
- Star Wars: Episode IX, the final chapter in the Skywalker saga, directed by JJ Abrams and set for a December 2019 release;
- Animated TV show Star Wars: Resistance, premiering next month;
- A new season of fan favourite animated show The Clone Wars;
- Indiana Jones 5, to be directed by Kennedy’s longtime collaborator Steven Spielberg, and currently set for a 2021 release;
- Rian Johnson’s new, non-Skywalker trilogy of Star Wars films, of which Johnson will direct the first;
- A live-action Star Wars TV show developed by Jon Favreau, set after Return of the Jedi;
- Probably more Star Wars TV shows, for Disney's upcoming streaming service;
- Another series of films, unconnected to the rest, developed by Game of Thrones’ David Benioff and DB Weiss;
- Forces of Destiny, a series of three-minute shorts focusing on female Star Wars characters, a third season of which is unconfirmed;
- Numerous Star Wars video games, in development (or not) at various EA-affiliated studios;
- Potential additional Star Wars Story films focusing on Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lando Calrissian, or Han Solo, although those projects' status has been under question as of late.
Though her films have been successful with both critics and audiences, Kennedy has been a controversial figure - at least to those watching the goings-on at Lucasfilm from the outside. She’s gained some notoriety for repeatedly replacing directors, like Solo’s Chris Lord and Phil Miller for Ron Howard, Rogue One’s Gareth Edwards for Tony Gilroy (in reshoots), Josh Trank for nobody, or Episode IX’s Colin Trevorrow for JJ Abrams.* Further notoriety has stemmed from her practice of thus far hiring only white male directors, despite repeatedly stating she wants more women on board (and reportedly meeting with them occasionally).
Despite the recent success of the franchise overall, Kennedy also presided over the only live-action Star Wars movie considered a box-office disappointment: Solo: A Star Wars Story, which didn’t even reach $400 million worldwide and will likely end up running at a loss for the studio. In that film’s wake, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated the studio would slow down its pace of output, and several outlets spread unsubstantiated rumours that Kennedy was to be ousted by Disney. It now seems those rumours were profoundly untrue.
Kennedy was also controversial (read: hated with a burning passion) amongst the small portion of Star Wars fandom made up of entitled baby-men. Said baby-men saw Kennedy as pushing politics (read: politics that weren’t theirs) into the Star Wars films, largely by - shocker - developing characters who weren’t musclebound paragons of white masculinity. That group of fans have attempted to boycott, discredit, harass the cast of, and even remake Lucasfilm’s output under Kennedy, but that didn’t stop every Kennedy-produced Star Wars film other than the one starring a man from grossing over a billion dollars worldwide. I tried to look at /r/incel on Reddit to see what they were saying, but it’s been banned. Ha ha.
It’d be foolhardy to doubt Kennedy’s ability to get hits made. She’s credited on E.T., Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and indeed nearly every Spielberg film since 1982, and along with husband Frank Marshall will receive the Irving G. Thalberg Award from the AMPAS this November. It seems more or less a given that Star Wars: Episode IX will be added to her list of smashes, but outside that project, who knows? Lucasfilm will be headed into relatively uncharted waters with the majority of its upcoming films. As president - and as a hands-on producer - Kennedy has considerable work ahead of her.
But Disney, it seems, is confident she can handle it.
* It’s worth noting that while filmmaking is an art form, and directors are artists, filmmaking is also a business and directors are also contractors. It's a different story on smaller productions, but on major franchise films with billions at stake, the producer is in charge. It’s just the reality at that scale - a scale basically only occupied by Star Wars and Marvel, both of which have seen several changes in key personnel. Point is: while a change of director is dramatic, it’s not as disastrous as the press and public make it out to be.