George Lucas had just turned 33 when Stars Wars was released in 1977. Lucas’ space western revolutionized Hollywood. It also propelled the Californian towards legendary status and a $5 billion personal fortune at 70.
Josh Trank, who calls himself a child of Lucas’ Star Wars universe, is only 29. Yet, on June 4, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy named the young American to direct a future Star Wars project. Coincidentally, Trank’s still-untitled, spinoff movie is tentatively scheduled for release in May of 2018, when the baby-faced Californian will be 33, just like his hero was.
“The magic of the Star Wars Universe defined my entire childhood,” Trank said in the Lucasfilm release. “The opportunity to expand on that experience for future generations is the most incredible dream of all time.”
This movie will be a standalone story with characters from the Star Wars universe. It is not to be confused with Star Wars: Episode VII, the sequel to the original trilogy. That one is now being prepared by veteran director J.J. Abrams for release on Dec. 18, 2015. A strong hand was needed to take charge of the Star Wars franchise, and Abrams had already proven himself with Star Trek.
But the selection of Trank to join the Star Wars team shows how Hollywood is now willing to take incredible risks in selecting young talent to helm costly blockbusters. Trank’s track record is meagre. But he did take Chronicle, a sci-fi thriller he helped dream up, to $127 million in worldwide box office in 2012. The original budget was only $12 million. Trank was soon named director of the reboot of The Fantastic Four, which will be released in June of 2015. The writer-director is obviously hot property.
So is Scott Derrickson, another young American will limited credits as writer-director. Just one day before Trank was named by Lucasfilm, Derrickson tweeted that he won the job as director of Doctor Strange for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Derrickson is 37, but still a newbie director with only three credits: The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) and most recently Sinister (2012), a horror shocker that cost only $3 million but still racked up $77 million in worldwide box office.
Doctor Strange is another creation from Stan Lee, first appearing in the Marvel comic book Strange Tales in July of 1963. The character, a former neurosurgeon who becomes the Sorcerer Supreme, was known for the hallucinogenic nature of his surreal adventures. But it is too early to know how weird Derrickson’s movie will be (the character is expected to be part of Marvel’s Phase Three slate of films after being referenced in Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
Another Hollywood risk story is Scott Cooper, who took over directorial duties of Black Mass from veteran Barry Levinson. Black Mass, which will co-star Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch, is a true-life crime drama focused on J. Edgar Hoover’s witness protection plan. Cooper, a frustrated former actor, is 44. But has only two other titles on his directorial resume: the Oscar-nominated Crazy Heart (2009) and the gritty drama Out of the Furnace (2013).
Meanwhile, another newcomer who has shown he can rack up major money is scoring his own Star Wars standalone picture. Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla has banked a respectable $440 million in worldwide box office this summer. Prior to getting this gig, the late-30s Englishman had only been known for directing the tiny picture Monsters (2012) with its $4.2 million box office. So the risk has paid off for Warner Bros. – and fans of The Force. The good name of Godzilla has been restored, after his reputation suffered in Hollywood hands with the dismal 1998 version.
Edwards’ Star Wars film will bow Dec. 16, 2016.
Hollywood boasts new talent and a fresh perspective — even if these inexperienced filmmakers are tackling the same old ideas.