Kenobi: What We Know
As you’re no doubt already aware, the much-anticipated Kenobi series for Disney+ has this week been officially postponed.
The news, widely reported by Collider and The Hollywood Reporter, follows hot on the heels of rumours from last week stating that the production was in trouble, with lead actor Ewan McGregor supposedly on the verge of quitting over creative differences.
Now, Green Card Back isn’t a Star Wars news site. However, as a fan of McGregor’s portrayal of Obi-Wan and a keen observer of the franchise in general, the back and forth of this story merits further discussion.
So click through for the facts on Kenobi, what we can speculate from the rumours, and some thoughts on what it all means for Star Wars going forward…
So, what we know.
- At D23 in September 2019, Kathleen Kennedy and Ewan McGregor joined the stage to officially announce the Kenobi streaming series – six one hour episodes.
- Kennedy stated that the scripts had been written.
- Days later Deborah Chow was announced as director for the series. Hossein Amini, the screenwriter of Drive, was announced as the writer.
- Filming was scheduled for July 2020 at Pinewood Studios in London, with a pre-production department already at work there.
So far so good. However, in mid-January rumours surfaced that McGregor was ready to walk from the project due to creative differences over the story. These rumours were debunked fairly swiftly, but it started a period of focus on the series.
In the middle of the week, the YouTube channel Den of Nerds cited unconfirmed reports from Jason Ward (of makingstarwars.net) that Kenobi was instead being redeveloped. The channel put forward the theory that Disney is considering turning the series back into a standalone film to slot into the December 2021 release date.
Then, on Thursday 23rd Collider broke the story that the filming for the series has been pushed back from July 2020 to January 2021.
According to both Collider and the follow-up report in The Hollywood Reporter, this delay is to account for finding a new writer to develop the series from scratch. The series has also been reduced from six episodes to four.
That’s what we know for a fact. Now I want to take a closer look at the two big inconsistencies that have come up with this story…
Your Overconfidence is Your Weakness
So, the first inconsistency – and what it means.
When announcing Kenobi Kennedy stated, on stage, that all of the scripts had been written. Yet according to Collider, only two scripts were finished at the point when Amini was fired this week.
Now in and of itself, this doesn’t mean much – I imagine that when the announcement was made there was a treatment in place for the series, perhaps a synopsis for each episode, and a clear direction in place for the story.
It may have been that rather than say “we have a treatment” when announcing the show, Kennedy instead thought that “scripts” would resonate better with the audience. We don’t know.
However, given everything that’s transpired, it’s yet another needless piece of PR that’s come back to damage Lucasfilm.
It’s the same gamble as prematurely announcing Rian Johnson’s trilogy in a bid to build hype for The Last Jedi – a short term solution to a non-existent problem that has caused long-term embarrassment to the studio.
Yet even without that bit of “mis-speak” the facts still don’t look good.
Kenobi was announced in September and was in active pre-production until this week. Now Lucasfilm has closed pre-production and is looking for a new script.
In short, they’ve gone back to the start.
This indicates yet another problematic production for Lucasfilm. Let’s remind ourselves of the biggest issues to date…
- The Force Awakens: Michael Arndt fired in pre-production
- Rogue One: Gareth Edwards fired in mid-production
- Boba Fett: Josh Trank fired and production canned
- Solo: Phil Lord and Chris Miller fired in late production
- The Rise of Skywalker: Colin Trevorrow fired in pre-production
- Kenobi: Page one script rewrite postpones production
Of eight productions to get off the ground, six have undergone radical overhauls during production. One of the smooth-running productions, The Last Jedi, broke the franchise. The other, The Mandalorian, was produced by Jon Favreau with unspecified involvement from George Lucas.
There’s no other way around it now – these matters speak for themselves. Star Wars is under bad management and now that the Sequel Trilogy is complete, Kathleen Kennedy has to go.
Sorry About the Mess
When asked about the delay McGregor told IGN.com:
“It’s just slid to next year, that’s all. The scripts were really good. I think now that Episode IX came out and everyone at Lucasfilm’s got more time to spend on the writing, they felt like they wanted more time to spend on the writing.”
“I’ve read about eighty, ninety percent of what they’ve written so far, and it’s really, really good. Instead of shooting this August, they just want to start shooting in January, that’s all. Nothing more dramatic than that. It often happens in projects, they just wanted to push it to next year. It will have the same release date, I don’t think it will affect the release date. They’re still shooting towards having the film [show] release when it was going to be originally.”
Taken at face value his comments do little more than highlight that Lucasfilm was premature to announce Kenobi when they did.
Yet there’s rarely smoke without fire, and if you take last weeks’ rumours into account his statement takes on a different complexion. If McGregor was unhappy with the story who do you think Lucasfilm would back – an easily replaceable scriptwriter or the world-famous face of the show?
As stated up top I am a big fan of McGregor, and that includes acknowledging him as a seasoned pro. It’s by no means a baseless assumption to think he might say whatever it takes to smooth the waters of a troubled production. It would also be no benefit to him to let people know he had to throw his weight around on a project.
Until we have any further verification that seems like a logical reading of the situation. And if it is true, it gives me a glimmer of hope for the series.
Ewan McGregor is not only a lifelong Star Wars fan (who wouldn’t be with Wedge Antilles for an uncle?), he is also an actor who worked closely with George Lucas for three films. If anyone other than George knows how to respect his vision for Kenobi, it’s McGregor.
If McGregor was prepared to walk away from Kenobi over the story not being right then more power to him. As it is right now Lucasfilm desperately needs more fans calling the shots.
The Future of the Force
Different rumour mills have dropped various tidbits about changes coming to Lucasfilm. With The Rise of Skywalker failing to meet expectations at the box office and marking the end of the Sequel Trilogy it seems like a good time to clear house.
If change is happening at the top of Lucasfilm I want to see Jon Favreau take over.
The guy is a born storyteller with huge love and respect for the world Lucas created. He did a solid job with The Mandalorian. In Dave Filoni he has a capable, creative number two.
The only person better qualified than Favreau is MCU uber-producer Kevin Fiege, but to be honest I’m too excited to see Fiege take on the X-Men. Anything else – even Star Wars – could have a negative impact on that.
But I’m not saying that makes Favreau the right person by default; far from it. From Iron Man to The Mandalorian he’s shown he has what it takes to handle big franchises. This is the person we need in charge of Star Wars.
Sadly this is all just a wish at this point. This is Star Wars we’re talking about, after all. Who the hell knows what’s going on?