Women represent just 4% of the writing and directing personnel on the Star Wars sagas - but it looks like this is about to change
None of the Star Wars films have ever been directed by a woman. That’s pretty crap, isn’t it? Mind you, nor have any of the James Bond films or the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (yet - 2019’s Captain Marvel is being co-directed by a man and a woman). In fact, looking at writing as well, all three franchises are tied with a total of one credited female screenwriter ever - Leigh Brackett on The Empire Strikes Back, Johanna Harwood on Dr No and From Russia With Love, and Nicole Perlman on Guardians Of The Galaxy.
It’s fairly rubbish. The Star Wars saga has the fewest amount of films of the three, and women represent just 4% of the writing and directing personnel on the films (one woman out of 24 credited writers and directors), even though the last three have had female leads onscreen. James Bond is worse, with women representing closer to 3% (one woman out of 30 credited writers and directors), and Marvel manages a truly awful 2% (one woman out of an astonishing 47 credited writers and directors).
Star Wars is looking to change, though.
Lynwen Brennan is the General Manager of Lucasfilm as well as President of Industrial Light & Magic, the effects company that looks after everything Star Wars. In an interview with WalesOnline, she said she thinks a woman-helmed Star Wars film is a certainty:
“I think it’s certainly something we’re keen on and there are some fantastic directors out there. It’s going to happen!… [Kathleen Kennedy’s] leadership team has always been 50 percent women because they happen to be the best at their job. [We at Industrial Light & Magic] haven’t had a quota at that leadership stage. However, we are getting a lot more pragmatic and specific about not accepting the level we have regarding women in visual effects and technology.”
The only Star Wars film in production that doesn’t have an assigned writer and director is the third Star Wars Story (after Rogue One and Solo), thought to be about Boba Fett. Solo features another overdue first - Star Wars’ first prominent woman of colour, in the form of Thandie Newton’s character Val.
“There have been others with one line and Lupita Nyong’o was a computer-generated character [in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi], but you didn’t get to see the colour of her skin” she told the Radio Times. “I’m the first.”
Progress might not be happening incredibly fast, but it’s happening, which is something, right? It’s all vaguely promising, from two of the super-franchises at least. James Bond’ll carry on being dudes dudes dudes from the looks of things (Danny Boyle is working on the next instalment with frequent collaborator John Hodge as well as frequent Bond-ers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade). The Bond one is particularly frustrating, because if they’d thought about for a few minutes when doing Skyfall they could easily have set up a concurrently-running action franchise for Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny, and it would have been really good, and everyone would have been happy, but no. They painted themselves into a corner with it by making her shoot Bond in the beginning and retire from the field. Stuuuuupid.
Why are there so few female writers and directors involved in these enormous franchises? A huge element of it is likely to be self-perpetuating - as with all issues of representation, if you’re not a white dude and see only white dudes doing a job, obviously you’re going to be less likely to go for it.
Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy said in 2015 that the reason more female directors didn’t do well was that they, er, didn’t ask:
“I had not had one single phone call from a woman telling me that she really, really wants to direct a Star Wars movie. They need to be the ones picking up the phone and saying, ‘Hey, let me tell you what Star Wars means to me and how much I could do with it.’”
If only telephones worked both ways.
(Pic: Lucasfilm Ltd)