With their increasingly divisive and painfully fumbling work on Game of Thrones, showrunner duo David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have had a fall from grace so rapid that they probably broke the sound barrier on the way down. Not that you would have been able to hear that proverbial sonic boom over the loud collective sigh that went up on Tuesday morning when it was revealed that Benioff and Weiss would no longer be developing a planned new Star Wars trilogy.
At the time Benioff and Weiss indicated that their departure was due to a nine-figure development deal with Netflix leaving spread too thin. Variety has dug deep into what actually took place during the pair’s unceremonious exit, which we’ll get to in a minute, but during the investigation they uncovered something else: just what that trilogy would have been about. Given that this is the uber-secretive Star Wars franchise, there’s not much to go on, but reportedly Benioff and Weiss’ films would not have been set in the Old Republic era as has been rumoured, but much earlier. Much, MUCH earlier.
Benioff and Weiss had ambitious plans to take the “Star Wars” universe in a new direction, one that would exist apart from the Skywalker family saga that comprised the franchise’s centerpiece nine-film series. The “Star Wars” period the pair was interested in exploring was how the Jedi came to exist.
Ooh. That’s actually a rather intriguing take. The now-defunct Expanded Universe stories (or Legends as they’re officially known now) has actually explored this story significantly, revealing that it was a collection of the galaxy’s best philosophers, priests, scientists, and warriors – all Force-sensitive – who were brought together mysteriously on the planet Tython over thirty-six thousand years before the events of the Original Trilogy, who first formed the Je’daii Order. This order was all about maintaining the balance between the two aspects of the Force: Ashla (aka the Light Side) and Bogan (aka the Dark Side).
Internal schism led to the Je’daii splitting into two factions though after a decade long conflict that became known as the Force Wars. The victors, who believed that Ashla was the strongest and most correct side, abandoned the balanced teachings of the Je’daii and renamed themselves as Jedi, dedicated solely to the Light and the eradication of the Dark which they considered evil. The losers of the Force Wars, the followers of Bogan, were attacked by these Jedi until they eventually scattered leaderless. They would eventually go on to become the Sith, as the Jedi abandoned the planet Tython – which had been ravaged beyond repair by the Force Wars – to eventually settle on and establish a Jedi Academy on the planet Ossus.
Of course, none of this is mentioned in what is now official canon in the Star Wars universe, which means Benioff and Weiss could have taken any number of different approaches at this story. But whatever their approach was, it appears it was the wrong one as Variety reports that it was actually that old chestnut of creative differences that led to the duo’s exit.
The Disney era of Star Wars has been marked by this occurrence often, as Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy and her appointed Star Wars brain trust seemingly are not standing for drastic deviations from the blueprint they’ve laid out for the franchise. We saw it happen with Phil Lord and Chris Miller on Solo: A Star Wars Story, with veteran Ron Howard replacing the duo after they reportedly went for a far more improvisational filmmaking style than Kennedy and co were comfortable with. Similarly, while he retained his sole directing credit, it’s widely known that Rogue One’s Gareth Edwards was forced to hand over the reins to Tony Gilroy for extensive reshoots on the film. Poor Josh Trank got fired before he even began based just on what he was like to work with on a totally different film. The clear message here is stay in line, or get out.
And according to the report, Benioff and Weiss had stopped staying in line long before the Netflix deal had actually become a factor.
Lucasfilm executives and the creators begin to see their visions for the films diverge during meetings last summer.
As relations with Benioff and Weiss curdled, the studio had begun taking general meetings with other writers on possible “Star Wars” pitches — it’s unclear if these were just sit-downs exploring other related productions in the franchise’s cinematic and streaming universe.
Variety does say that Netflix was fully aware of Benioff and Weiss’ Star Wars commitments when they signed their deal and according to insiders the streaming giant was unwilling to wait the four or more years that the pair would have been tied up in a galaxy far, far away. Especially with Disney’s own Disney+ and the recently announced HBO Max muscling in on their territory fast.
As for the previously mentioned writers who Lucasfilm were supposedly meeting with, just who they were and what their pitches were is completely unclear at this moment. Would they be replacing Benioff and Weiss and just pick up Kennedy’s plans for the trilogy, or would they be doing something else entirely to replace that trilogy? We just don’t know and nobody is talking. We don’t even know how far along in development the other planned trilogy from The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson is, but I would assume nowhere close enough to make the 2020 release date that was set for the first entry in Benioff and Weiss’ trilogy.
Last Updated: October 31, 2019