Game of Thrones showrunners left Star Wars in part due to Netflix-Disney drama, “toxic fandom”


On Monday, it was announced that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, who had earlier signed up with Disney to make a new trilogy of Star Wars films, would not be working in that galaxy far, far away. They cited their $250 million deal with Netflix, signed earlier this year, as the reason. “There are only so many hours in the day, and we felt we could not do justice to both Star Wars and our Netflix projects,” they said in a statement. “So we are regretfully stepping away.”

Since then, outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety have talked to their sources and brought us a clearer picture of what exactly happened. As it ends up, Benioff and Weiss’ statement is basically true — they weren’t going to be able to keep both of their new bosses happy — but there’s a bit more to it than that.

Benioff and Weiss signed the Netflix deal in August, not long before they were scheduled to start work in earnest on Star Wars — they were never really going to start on anything new until Game of Thrones was well and truly wrapped; it ended in May. Their plan was to work on a Star Wars trilogy at the same time as their Netflix projects, but Kathleen Kennedy — the Lucasfilm executive charged with managing all things Star Wars — was wary that they could do both. And to be fair, the only thing they’re known for is Game of Thrones, on which they worked straight through for 10 years without taking on other projects. “They’re deep-dive guys,” one source in their orbit told The Hollywood Reporter.

This is in contrast to other big-name producers Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy and J.J. Abrams, all of whom have multiple irons in the fire. Maybe Benioff and Weiss could become that kind of producer — that seems to be their intention — but Kennedy wasn’t convinced.

CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 12: Producer Kathleen Kennedy onstage during “The Rise of Skywalker” panel at the Star Wars Celebration at McCormick Place Convention Center on April 12, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Disney )

According to Variety, she also had some issues with the direction Benioff and Weiss wanted to take the series. They reportedly wanted to set their trilogy in the distant past of the Star Wars universe — known as the Old Republic era — and tell the story of how the Jedi order came to be. Kennedy is known for running a very tight ship at Lucasfilm; if you don’t tow the company line, you’re out. Just ask any of the many directors who have been brought into the fold but had to leave for one reason or another: Josh Trank was canned from a Star Wars stand-alone movie in 2015; Chris Miller and Phil Lord were fired from Solo: A Star Wars Story mid-production in 2017; and Colin Trevorrow was let go as the director of Episode IX that same year. Creative churn is a definite problem in Star Wars land, with Benioff and Weiss as the latest examples.

Although granted, it’s hard to tell if the Netflix deal exacerbated creative problems that were already there or if Kennedy and company only started to worry about Benioff and Weiss’ vision after they signed with the streaming giant.

Netflix, for its part, knew about Benioff and Weiss’ Star Wars commitments when it signed a deal with them, and seemed to be more comfortable with the idea of them working on multiple projects than Kennedy. The fact that Benioff and Weiss signed with Netflix in particular may have rubbed Disney the wrong way, since there’s been some friction between the two companies since Disney severed ties with the streamer a few years back, pulling off the Marvel properties and slowly killing shows like DaredevilJessica Jones and Luke Cage.

In any case, Netflix found out about Benioff and Weiss’ Disney departure mere days before it broke in the news.

Image: Game of Thrones/HBO

One Hollywood Reporter source points to another issue: “toxic fandom.” It’s no secret that Benioff and Weiss have taken a drubbing from Game of Thrones fans after the eighth and final season disappointed many. I had big problems with season 8 myself, but talk in some corners of the fandom has long since crossed the line from reasoned critique to unthinking bashing. Their comments at the recent Austin Film Festival are a good example. They said little they hadn’t said before, and the new stuff was mostly innocuous, but chatter on social media was full of bad faith readings and baseless anger.

The Star Wars fandom, too, is known for baselessly lambasting actors and directors on social media, particularly anyone involved with The Last Jedi. “Who wants to go through that again?” said one source. “Not them. This was in the ‘Life’s Too Short’ category.”


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So there was probably no one reason Benioff and Weiss left the Star Wars universe, but left it they have. Although Kennedy did leave the door open to return in the future. “David Benioff and Dan Weiss are incredible storytellers,” she said. “We hope to include them in the journey forward when they are able to step away from their busy schedule to focus on Star Wars.”

We have no idea what kind of Netflix projects the pair may work on, but the Star Wars universe is left in an uncertain place. This December will see the debut of The Rise of Skywalker, the final film in the Skywalker saga. After that, things are murky. Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is working on a new trilogy of films, but we haven’t heard much about it. Marvel bigwig Kevin Feige has been brought on to collaborate with Kennedy on a new Star Wars feature, but that will be a ways off.

Then again, a break might do the Star Wars movies some good. It’s something the company itself seems to be thinking about. After Solo underperformed at the box office, Kennedy and company has pulled back a bit, acknowledging that they may have oversaturated the Star Wars movie market. That’s yet another reason it may have been easy to let Benioff and Weiss loose. They were brought in before Solo sobered everyone’s expectations, when the Star Wars cinematic universe was still going full steam ahead. If the idea is to stagger the films out a bit more, maybe multiple movie trilogies running concurrent with each other isn’t the best idea.

That said, Star Wars isn’t going anywhere. The Mandalorian, the first-ever live-action Star Wars TV show, is about to debut on Disney+ and is getting all the hype. The movies are in a strange spot, but Star Wars TV is about to blow up.

Next. George R.R. Martin interested in writing for House of the Dragon…after he finishes his book. dark

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