First female Star Wars director Victoria Mahoney reveals how Ava DuVernay helped her get the job
History is being made with the upcoming Star Wars film in more than one regard. The Rise of Skywalker is not only the conclusion to the nine-movie epic saga that began back in 1977, but it also finally shatters the glass ceiling with the franchise’s first female director.
Victoria Mahoney is the second unit director for the production, and in a recent guest column for The Hollywood Reporter she revealed she has legendary filmmaker Ava DuVernay to thank for landing the job in the first place.
“It’s no secret to my peer group I’d been trying to break into the studio-franchise realm for 10 years. Begging to simply get a meeting. Nada. Zilch. Nunca,” Mahoney writes. “As for [The Rise of Skywalker‘s first unit director] J.J. [Abrams], after numerous, widely circulated, almost identical lists of directors had landed on his desk, he decided to do outreach calls of his own. When he phoned Ava DuVernay for her list, she said, ‘I happen to have a great list, J.J., but I’m not giving it to you. I’m giving you one name and one name only: Victoria Mahoney.'”
From there, Mahoney goes on to detail how all it took was an email, a phone call, and a three-hour in-person meeting for her to land her history-making dream job.
“Five months later, J.J. is leading us, his key crew, through soundstages at Pinewood in London. My entire being is knocked back by the magnitude, labor, and precision of a ship being erected from scratch,” Mahoney says. “My jaw hits the floor, and I hear myself say, ‘Holy shit!’ I start telling myself, ‘Pull it together. Don’t be an amateur. Keep your geekdom close to the chest. Hide your awe, Mahoney.’ But then I see J.J. in my periphery, smiling as big and full as me. I’m delighted — and relieved not to have to hide that I’ve been dreaming of this moment and the higher stakes of day-to-day directing on a massive franchise.”
Back when it was first announced that Mahoney would be the second unit director for The Rise of Skywalker, DuVernay spoke out on social media to celebrate the historic moment.
“Happy to share this historic news. A black woman directing stories in a galaxy far, far away,” DuVernay wrote on Instagram. “First unit director J.J. Abrams. Second unit director Victoria Mahoney.”
Now it’s clear that not only has DuVernay been cheering on Mahoney in public, but she’s also been championing her behind-the-scenes as well.
Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters Dec. 20.