The Doctor Strange sequel has, today, been thrown into a different sort of madness: director drama. On Friday, Scott Derrickson, who also directed the first Doctor Strange, announced that he had stepped down from directing next year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, citing “creative differences.” Ah, that old chestnut.
It’s hardly the first time that a major Disney-owned franchise has had director troubles. Three out of the five Star Wars movies Disney made since purchasing the IP were marred by director troubles (Rogue One was ultimately still directed by Gareth Edwards, technically). The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a better track record, but there have still been a couple of films that switched directors—a behind-the-camera version of swapping Edward Norton for Mark Ruffalo, essentially. To help clear things up, here’s a brief refresher on all the previous times a Marvel or Star Wars movie has switched directors, for one reason or another.
Kenneth Branagh and Patty Jenkins, Thor 2: The Dark World
One of the most forgettable Marvel movies also had a bit of director drama that most people tend to forget about. First, in July of 2011, a couple of months after The Dark World started development, Kenneth Branagh stepped away from the project. Branagh, who directed the first Thor, told Moviefone at the time that he left due to timing issues, and that he’d otherwise “love to do another Marvel movie.”
Brian Kirk and eventual Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins were in consideration for the directing role, and Jenkins’s pitch for a “Romeo-and-Juliet-esque space opera” certainly sounds better than what The Dark World ended up being. However, she parted ways with Marvel after two months, citing “creative differences.” Alan Taylor, who it must be said has directed several incredible, award-winning episodes of television, eventually directed The Dark World.
Edgar Wright, Ant-Man
The controversy surrounding Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant-Man was one of the MCU’s first real scandals, which is remarkable given how big and complicated the cinematic universe is. Wright, who is beloved for his genre comedies like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, seemed a great fit for Ant-Man, which was going to adopt an especially comedic tone compared to the rest of the MCU. He was hired in April of 2006 alongside the initial co-writer, Joe Cornish, although development would take some time. Production didn’t begin until 2013, in part because Wright needed time to complete The World’s End, which Marvel granted him. Wright initially seemed very excited about the project; he’d even created a “sizzle reel” of test footage. However, in May of 2014, Wright cited—you guessed it—”creative differences” and left the film, though he’s still credited as an executive producer. Peyton Reed would eventually direct Ant-Man and the 2018 sequel.
“I wanted to make a Marvel movie, but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie,” the director explained on Variety’s podcast in June 2017. He went on to explain that he really lost faith when Marvel ordered a re-write on the film without consulting him. “Having written all my other movies, that’s a tough thing to move forward. Suddenly becoming a director for hire on it, you’re sort of less emotionally invested and you start to wonder why you’re there, really.”
At the time, lots of directors in Hollywood showed solidarity with Wright, including Joss Whedon, which is notable because he was still working for Marvel, with Avengers: Age of Ultron releasing the following year. (Whedon, for what it’s worth, seems like he nearly earned his own entry on this list, because by all accounts Age of Ultron really burned him out.)
Gareth Edwards (basically), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Technically, Gareth Edwards is still listed as the official director for the first standalone Star Wars movie, but the widely accepted rumor is that Lucasfilm essentially took the film out of his hands at the end. In June 2016, supposedly dissatisfied with how Rogue One was shaping up, Lucasfilm hired Tony Gilroy, who earned an Oscar nomination for Michael Clayton, to rework parts of the movie. By the end of the summer, Gilroy was reportedly overseeing post-production largely on his own, making some pretty substantial changes. Exactly what went down is a mystery, but Gilroy has indicated that the movie would not have been the same—or, frankly, good—without him.
"I've never been interested in Star Wars, ever,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in April 2018. “So I had no reverence for it whatsoever. I was unafraid about that. And they were in such a swamp … they were in so much terrible, terrible trouble that all you could do was improve their position."
Again, Edwards is still technically listed as Rogue One’s sole director, but it seems you could easily argue a case that Gilroy’s contributions were at least deserving of a co-director title, for better or worse.
Chris Miller and Phil Lord, Solo: A Star Wars Story
The Rogue One drama was nothing compared to what came next. In June of 2017, Lucasfilm fired directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller from Solo. Lord and Miller, who had earned a reputation for clever comedies with 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, had been directing Solo for four and a half months — and had completed about 75 percent of principal photography. You don’t need to be a Hollywood insider to know that needing to abruptly change directors when you’re three-quarters done shooting a movie is, uh, not great! With three weeks or shooting to go, plus five weeks of scheduled reshoots, Lucasfilm hired Ron Howard to finish the movie.
“I think these guys are hilarious, but they come from a background of animation and sketch comedy,” Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy explained in a February 2018 issue of Entertainment Weekly. “And when you are making these movies you can do that and there’s plenty of room for improvisation, we do that all the time, but it has to be inside of a highly structured process or you can’t get the work done and you can’t move the armies of people to anticipate and have things ready. So, it literally came down to process. Just getting it done.”
“Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project,” Lord and Miller said in a statement when they first left Solo. “We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew.”
Luckily, this would be the last director drama to plague the Star Wars franchise—LOL, just kidding!
Colin Trevorrow, Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker
In September 2017, just a couple months after Lucasfilm canned Lord and Miller, Episode IX’s director changed too. Colin Trevorrow, who directed Jurassic World, had been tapped to direct the final film in the Skywalker Saga in 2015, completing the trilogy that J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson had started. That changed when Lucasfilm announced that the studio and the director had “mutually chosen to part ways on Star Wars: Episode IX."
“Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ,” the initial statement continued. “We wish Colin the best and will be sharing more information about the film soon.”
Late last year, Kennedy cited Trevorrow’s lack of involvement in Episode VII as “a disadvantage,” and reporting at the time indicated that Lucasfilm was not happy with the drafts he was submitting. Trevorrow was taken off the project early enough for Lucasfilm to bring back J.J. Abrams to direct what became The Rise of Skywalker, and well, here’s how that went.
James Gunn (temporarily), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
This director drama is different from the others because it wasn’t about “creative differences” and instead was about a targeted campaign by the alt-right, and a studio that caved to their demands before eventually reversing course.
In July of 2018, members of the alt-right launched a coordinated campaign in which they brought up several old, offensive tweets from Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. The tweets were mostly tasteless jokes, and while they were offensive, that’s not why the alt-right was trying to get Disney to fire him. They were mad that Gunn was vocal in his objection to Donald Trump on Twitter, and they were probably looking for a liberal scalp as retaliation for Disney-owned ABC’s recent firing of Roseanne Barr due to a racist tweet she had just posted.
Disney knew about Gunn’s past as a more provocative filmmaker, and there’s evidence the company knew about the offensive tweets too, so it’s not like this should have been news to anyone. Still, they balked under pressure and fired Gunn. Then, in March of 2019, someone at Disney apparently realized that firing the steward of one of their more beloved franchises because some online racists got mad was a bad idea, and Gunn was rehired. In the interim, though, Gunn signed on to direct DC’s The Suicide Squad, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was delayed.
Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
That brings us to today, when Scott Derrickson announced he was dipping out of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The news only recently broke, so we don’t have the benefit of a years-later interview in which the offended parties can really explain what went down, but it seems likely that Marvel probably didn’t want to push Doctor Strange as far in the horror direction as Derrickson, who is primarily a horror director, wanted to.
“Marvel and I have mutually agreed to part ways on Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness due to creative differences,” he tweeted. “I am thankful for our collaboration and will remain on as EP.”
“Marvel Studios and Scott Derrickson have amicably parted ways on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness due to creative differences,” the studio said in a statement of its own, according to Variety. “We remain grateful to Scott for his contributions to the MCU.”
“You have joined a secret club of punk rockers my friend. Godspeed and love,” fired Solo director Phil Lord tweeted at Derrickson, which really brings this whole thing full circle.
Originally Appeared on GQ