How long does it take an acclaimed director to fall from grace? Possibly not long — at least not when it comes to the world of big budget blockbusters. After reports to the contrary, it’s been revealed that Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao is not currently attached to any upcoming Star Wars projects. In the wake of what seems to be a rather lukewarm reception to Zhao’s Eternals, some are wondering if she’s been fired from the franchise George Lucas started.
In an e-mail newsletter from The Hollywood Reporter from the end of last week, it was reported that Chloé Zhao is not directing any Star Wars movies, in spite of widespread rumors. This has left some folks, like those at Cosmic Book News, speculating that Zhao was, in fact, attached to direct a film from the Star Wars franchise, but that she was fired from the project because of the failure of Eternals.
The debut weekend ticket sales for Eternals were the lowest for any Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film since 2015’s Ant-Man. It didn’t fare any better critically than it did financially, proving to be the worst-reviewed MCU film so far with a 47% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. After the bad news for Eternals began, we exclusively reported that Zhao’s chances at a Star Wars future were in danger.
The reports about Chloé Zhao possibly helming her own Star Wars film began in the beginning of October when the director expressed some pretty intense interest in joining the franchise. The speculation that Zhao might already be attached to such a project began almost immediately. In particular, there were those who believed Zhao might be attached to Marvel Studio president Kevin Feige’s upcoming Star Wars movie.
After Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings proved to be a runaway hit, Disney announced the rest of its 2021 film slate would be released exclusively in theaters. While the studio was no doubt hoping Eternals would find the same or similar success, sadly that isn’t what happened. The general consensus of the most balanced reviews is that Eternals was ambitious, but deeply flawed. For example, John Wenzel of The Denver Post calls the film “gorgeous and vacant,” and goes on to suggest Zhao’s sensibility is at odds with Marvel’s “corporate demands.”
Of course, it could always be the case that Zhao never was attached to any Star Wars projects to begin with, and the fact that she isn’t attached to one now is nothing more than a reflection of that. The director does have other upcoming projects to work on. In 2018, she signed on to write and direct a biopic about Bass Reeves — the first Black US Deputy Marshal. Sometime after that, per Variety, she’ll be working on what sounds like an interesting new version of Dracula which is being described as a sci-fi Western.
If Zhao was, in fact, signed on to a Star Wars project before Eternals‘ underperformance, then whatever film she was attached to won’t be the only one to hit a snag. Earlier this month it was reported Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, initially expected to hit theaters in 2022, has been delayed. Reports suggest director Patty Jenkins’ other commitments — including possibly Wonder Woman 3 — are to blame for the longer wait.