In April of this year, Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy hinted that the third Star Wars anthology film would be announced later this summer. At the time, the smart money was on an Obi-Wan Kenobi solo outing. Lending credence to the rumors was the fact that Ewan McGregor, who had played the part during the prequel trilogy, stated that he’d be willing to reprise the role originated by Sir Alec Guinness in the 1977 classic.
Last Friday, we got the closest thing to a confirmation so far. An unnamed source told Hollywood Reporter that Oscar-nominated Billy Elliott director Stephen Daldry was in talks with Lucasfilm to direct precisely such a film. The report that emerged indicated that there was no script yet, and that no casting decisions had been made, but the delicious possibility that Ewan McGregor might return to the part has struck a chord with fans of the Jedi knight who mentored both Anakin Skywalker, and his son Luke, after the pupil of his turned to evil.
Although it’s nothing more than a rumor, or perhaps a flight of fancy, bringing McGregor back makes sense from a both a financial perspective and a story-telling point of view. Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012 has reaped enormous benefits for the company; Star Wars: The Force Awakens earned $2.05 billion internationally, while Rogue One: A Star Wars Story brought in just over one billion dollars. Even more impressive is Star Wars merchandising -- no doubt fueled by the tremendous popularity of the two films, Disney earned an additional $6 billion on merchandise sales in 2016, which is more than double the sales Lucasfilm earned in 2012.
These numbers are staggering. Let’s face it, Disney didn’t buy Lucasfilm on the strength of the studio’s 1986 Howard the Duck adaptation. However, The Force Awakens, which featured members of the original cast and continued the story of the first Star Wars trilogy, outperformed Rogue One two-to-one, even though the latter was a direct prequel to A New Hope. These numbers are obviously not lost on Disney, and we already know the release schedule for the next four Star Wars films. If the Obi-Wan movie is indeed the third anthology film, it will follow the still unnamed young Han Solo film and Episode IX, the concluding film of the third and final (or so we are told) Star Wars Trilogy. This would put it in the proverbial clean-up slot, making it a crucial film for two reasons.
The first is that audiences may not warm to younger actors playing characters they’ve loved for decades in an anthology film. McGregor’s turn as Kenobi came within the context of the main Star Wars saga. It wasn’t a detour that added to the story, like Rogue One. There is a chance, albeit it slim, that the movie-going public may reject Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover as younger versions of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian in a non-Trilogy film.
Behind-the-scenes drama on the Han Solo movie isn’t helping matters either. Citing creative differences, Lego Movie co-directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, left the project a weeks before principal shooting was set to wrap, and were replaced by veteran helmer Ron Howard. Sources have said that Lucasfilm’s Kennedy was not happy with the pair’s improvisational approach, and brought in Howard to re-align the project with the company’s values.