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J.J Abrams Tapped To Direct 'Star Wars 7' - A Few Black Directors Disney Could've Considered...

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 24, 2013 6:08 PM
10 Comments
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With news this afternoon that, after a roughly 3-month search, Disney has officially tapped J.J. Abrams to direct Star Wars: Episode VII, I thought I'd revisit this post from October, in which I took a look at what black directors Disney could've considered for the job.

Not that any of these names were (although I'd like to see the list of directors who Disney did talk to), but, it's all in good fun, so play along...

With news that we'll be treated to another trilogy (at least) of Star Wars movies, conversation has, as you'd expect, begun on what directors will be chosen to helm all or each of the 3.

I've seen a few lists on high profile industry sites like The Hollywood Reporter, who gave their top 15 choices for potential Episode 7, 8 and 9 directors, and, not-so surprisingly, there isn't a single mention of a black director on any of these lists - those that I've seen anyway (I certainly haven't seen evey single one). 

As I noted, whomever is chosen to direct all, or each of the 3 upcoming films, will likely influence just how excited fans are for them, so I'd expect that Disney/Lucas will probably aim for a high profile director, who's displayed an ability to handle big-budgeted, sci-fi, fantasy, action movie fare. For example THR's list of 15 includes names like J. J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan, Guillermo del Toro, Zack Snyder, Brad Bird, and others.

And when you consider the criteria that others are suggesting will be taken under consideration, when picking directors (again, high profile, who've displayed an ability to handle big-budget, sci-fi, fantasy, action movie fare), the list of black directors is a terribly short one; and I'd say that the likelihood of a black director being chosen to direct any of the 3 new movies is slim to absolutely none.

The fact that there aren't many who would immediately qualify, and that most lists don't include a single mention of even one name, obviously speaks to a much larger issue that we've addressed ad naseam on this site, so I won't even bother revisiting (instead I'll refer you to my Pondering The Seemingly Dismal Outlook For Black Filmmakers Working Within The Hollywood Studio System post which you can read HERE).

But humor me for a minute, and give it some thought, and share your short list of black directors who might be considered for the jobs.

Other than Tim Story, who helmed both recent Fantastic Four movies (although neither was exactly what you'd call a homerun; but I wouldn't blame him entirely for them; the scripts were weak), what other black director (male of female) has directed a Hollywood studio film of that scope - your typical big-budget, full-of-spectacle summer movie?

The next 2 obvious choices would be Antoine Fuqua, who's helmed films like King Arthur (a $120 million action/adventure movie, although it flopped), and Tears Of The Sun (a $75 million action/adventure movie, which also flopped at the box office); and F. Gary Gray, the man behind action movies like The Italian Job (his most successful movie), Law Abiding Citizen and The Negotiator.

The problem both gentlemen will face is that, neither has directed what you'd call a pure spectacle, special-effects-laden, sci-fi adventure film. Their resumes comprise primarily of solid adult action dramas; neither has really done spectacle, or anything that's set beyond planet earth. 

Does that mean they can't handle that kind of material? Of course not; maybe they just haven't been given the opportunity; or maybe neither is all-that interested in that kind of filmmaking. Although Gray was, at one point, said to be on the short list of directors to helm the Captain America sequel, but he reportedly dropped out of contention, to take the NWA biopic job, which he's shooting right now.

Who else is there?

Of course the Hughes Brothers; consider past works like The Book Of Eli and From Hell. And they were once attached to direct a live-action, big screen adaptation of the complex, sci-fi adventure drama Akira, so there is/was obviously some faith in them with this kind of material, from the studios.

John Singleton maybe; he did direct 2 Fast 2 Furious, which was expensive (although nothing like many of this summer's very pricey projects), and was a box office hit; and most recently, Abduction, which was a box office flop - domestically anyway.

Maybe Peter Ramsey, a director Sergio profiled in a post late last year (read it HERE); although the film he directed, Rise Of The Guardians, is an animated feature. However, that might actually work in his favor, since computer generated effects are something he's had a lot of experience with, given that Guardians is a 3D movie, created entirely with computer-generated effects. Prior to that film, he directed another computer-animated movie (except for TV) titled, Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space.

How about Ernest Dickerson, especially given that he's turned a few heads with the Walking Dead episodes he's directed. And he has professed his love for science fiction/fantasy/action adventure character-driven films and TV series.

Or another name that most likely aren't familiar with, so not a high-profile name, is Olatunde Osunsanmi - the 35-year-old director behind genre fare like The Cavern, The Fourth Kind, and Evidence

Who else?

Of course, Disney could decide to go with a trio of *no-name* but capable directors, expecting the films to sell themselves, since we ARE talking about Star Wars here. Ask the average audience member who directed the first 3, or even the most recent 3, and they probably wouldn't know; or they'd just assume George Lucas directed them all. He didn't; but most of them have his name on them. 

If the name of the director IS important, then any other name I mention from here wouldn't even be on the long list of those being considered; for example, someone completely out of left field like say, Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu, the first woman I've mentioned here (I haven't seen a single list that had a woman director on it). Like I said, the odds of her name even coming up in conversation are probably none, but ya never know. She has proven that she can do sci-fi, with her first film, the acclaimed short, Pumzi, which we've written about more than a few times.

Or Angela Robinson, who's directed action/adventure movies like her first film, D.E.B.S. and Herbie Fully Loaded. I know, I'm reaching here, but I'm just trying to come up with some names no one would expect.

If anything, what this tells us is that black directors should invest more in making sci-fi/fantasy movies, or black directors should be given the opportunity to direct sci-fi/fantasy/adventure movies. Easier said than done, I know.

But who else am I forgetting?

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10 Comments

  • Donella | January 27, 2013 3:17 PMReply

    Also, Star Wars fanboys are a sensitive lot and likely would place any new director under hyper-vigilance, but particularly an African-American director.

  • Akimbo | January 25, 2013 1:55 PMReply

    Sorry but none of the listed people could have been reconsidered within any stretch of the imagination. Abrams is coming off of a string of successful projects that blend action, mythology/sci-fi, and special effects (Star Trek, Super 8, Mission Impossible, Lost, Alias). The only other person of color that comes to mind outside of Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron is M. Night Shyamalan, who'll need to seriously redeem himself before getting a shot like that again. If John Woo had kept a higher profile, maybe he could have been in the mix. I'm certain that there are black directors who could do a great job, but we really don't know who they are because they haven't proven/haven't had the chance to prove themselves capable of yelling such a project. Star Wars one of the hottest properties ever; you have to have already slayed or created other huge projects to even be halfway considered. Unfortunately, we don't have that person yet.

  • Akimbo | January 25, 2013 1:53 PMReply

    Sorry but none of the listed people could have been reconsidered within any stretch of the imagination. Abrams is coming off of a string of successful projects that blend action, mythology/sci-fi, and special effects (Star Trek, Super 8, Mission Impossible, Lost, Alias). The only other person of color that comes to mind outside of Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron is M. Night Shyamalan, who'll need to seriously redeem himself before getting a shot like that again. If John Woo had kept a higher profile, maybe he could have been in the mix. I'm certain that there are black directors who could do a great job, but we really don't know who they are because they haven't proven/haven't had the chance to prove themselves capable of yelling such a project. Star Wars one of the hottest properties ever; you have to have already slayed or created other huge projects to even be halfway considered. Unfortunately, we don't have that person yet.

  • Siah Bangai | January 25, 2013 12:54 PMReply

    What about Kasi Lemmons?

  • Curtis | January 25, 2013 1:23 PM

    No disrespect to her, but seriously, tell me what exactly has Kasi Lemmons done that will suggest in any way shape or form that she would be considered to direct a Star Wars movie? SMH.

  • Nikki | January 25, 2013 12:04 PMReply

    I definitely agree, in general Black cinema should be more involved in Sci-fi, fantasy and horror. That's why I loved Attack the Block (though I know , it wasn't directed by a Black person)

  • DJP | January 25, 2013 2:36 AMReply

    Tyler Perry and Spike Lee should be on the list.

  • Carl | January 25, 2013 10:32 AM

    Ok...back away from the crack pipe very slowly.

  • sergio | January 25, 2013 8:21 AM

    HAHAHAHAHAHA! NOW THAT'S FUNNY!

  • Brandon | January 24, 2013 7:24 PMReply

    There's a lot of Black folks creating sci-fi novels, graphic novels and web-series. I hope we can do the article on Black comic book creators someday soon!

    B.

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