Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard has been brought in to complete the hotly-anticipated "Star Wars" Han Solo spinoff after directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller were sacked, Lucasfilm said Thursday.
Lord and Miller, the pair behind the acclaimed "The LEGO Movie" and "21 Jump Street," were dropped after clashing with the studio's chief Kathleen Kennedy and writer Lawrence Kasdan, according to reports in the Hollywood trade press.
"At Lucasfilm, we believe the highest goal of each film is to delight, carrying forward the spirit of the saga that George Lucas began 40 years ago," Kennedy said in a statement.
"With that in mind, we're thrilled to announce that Ron Howard will step in to direct the untitled Han Solo film. We have a wonderful script, an incredible cast and crew, and the absolute commitment to make a great movie. Filming will resume on July 10."
Lord and Miller, who were just weeks away from wrapping principal photography at London's Pinewood Studios, annoyed Kasdan -- a "Star Wars" legend who co-wrote "The Empire Strikes Back," "Return of the Jedi" and "The Force Awakens" -- by insisting on more humor and encouraging improvisation, according to Variety magazine.
"Nothing happens in the Lucasfilm universe without major consideration and bringing in Ron Howard to take over the reins of the 'Han Solo Project' must've come after intense deliberation," Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for comScore, told AFP.
"Considering the incredibly high-profile nature of the film and its importance to the 'Star Wars' brand and legacy, this move -- while causing a huge stir now -- will be vindicated once the marketing machine sets in motion and if the first footage and resultant buzz for the film is strong."
- 'Creative differences' -
Howard worked with Lucasfilm on "Willow" in 1988 but is better known for hits such as "Parenthood," "Apollo 13," and "A Beautiful Mind," a 2001 biopic about Nobel prize-winning paranoid schizophrenic mathematician John Nash, which won him a best director Oscar.
But his reputation has suffered with a number of turkeys, including "Inferno," "In the Heart of the Sea," "Made in America" and "The Dilemma," and he will be looking to get back on track with his first big box office hit since "Angels and Demons" in 2009.
In a statement, Lord and Miller blamed "creative differences" for the split with Lucasfilm and said their "vision and process weren't aligned with our partners on this project."
The untitled Han Solo film is slated for a May 25, 2018 release.
Alden Ehrenreich stars as galactic smuggler Solo, a role that made Harrison Ford a superstar in the original 1977 movie and its sequels.
The spin-off also stars Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Emilia Clarke and Donald Glover as Solo's pal Lando Calrissian.
It is set in the period before the original 1977 movie, which was released as "Star Wars" but later retitled "Episode IV: A New Hope."
This is the second in a series of standalone films that began with "Rogue One," released in December, which earned $1 billion worldwide.