Ron Howard turned George Lucas down for directing Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Though Ron Howard’s filmography bounces from one genre and story type to the next, the In the Heart of the Sea director rarely dips his toe into sci-fi waters. But in a recent interview, Howard revealed he had the opportunity to helm one of the biggest franchises in this or any other galaxy.
Appearing on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Howard revealed to host Josh Horowitz that George Lucas, with whom he worked on American Graffiti and Willow, asked him to direct Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
“He did, he did,” Howard said in response to whether Lucas approached him about the film. “He didn’t necessarily want to direct them, and he told me that he had talked to [Robert] Zemeckis, he talked to me, he talked to Steven Spielberg. I was the third one he spoke to. They had all said the same thing, ‘George, you should just do it!'”
“Nobody wanted to follow that act, I don’t think, at that point. That was an honor, but it would’ve been just too daunting.”
Lucas helmed all three Star Wars prequel films after having stepped out of the director’s chair for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. And of course, Lucas has now relinquished control of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars universe to Disney, though he recently spoke about having come up with story treatments for sequels that were not used.
“They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were gonna go do their own thing,” Lucas said in the recent interview. “They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway. But at the same time, I said if I get in there I’m just going to cause trouble.”
Howard also spoke about why, though he’s had the chance to direct superhero films, the genre isn’t one he’s interested in pursuing.
“I’ve had opportunities over the years, and I really feel like that you shouldn’t make a movie as a kind of an [intellectual] exercise,” he said. “And I was never a comic-book guy. I like the movies when I see them for the most part, especially the origin stories. But I never felt I could be on the set at 3 o’clock in the morning, tired, with 10 important decisions to make, and that I intuitively on a gut level know what the story needs. It’s a little bit different tone. … For me, I’d be copycatting, and not inventing. So I’ve just never said yes to one.”
Listen to the full Happy Sad Confused podcast below to hear Howard speak at length about his relationship with Lucas, his view of the movie and TV industries, and more. And for more from Howard, read EW’s recent interview with the director about In the Heart of the Sea, which opens on Dec. 11.