Taika Waititi Will Officially Be the First Person of Color to Direct a ‘Star Wars’ Movie

After Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, fans were left wondering about the big-screen future of the saga. The Skywalker saga had ended, leaving fans to speculate which director would take the franchise forward. Now Disney and Lucasfilm have made their next move official.

Taika Waititi — recent Oscar winner for Jojo Rabbit — will direct a new entry in the Star Wars saga. Considering Waititi’s connection to Disney-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe, the director’s involvement isn’t a total shock. More than likely, this news will further divide the quarrel-happy fans.

But Waititi’s hiring does show a great sign of much-needed progress behind the scenes on the Star Wars saga.

Taika Waititi at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Taika Waititi at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party | Toni Anne Barson/WireImage

The ‘Thor’ director will team with an Oscar-nominated writer

Appropriately enough, Lucasfilm dropped the announcement on May the Fourth aka “Star Wars Day” via StarWars.com. The announcement didn’t offer too many details, though it confirms Waititi’s film for a theatrical release. Since the untitled movie does not yet have a release date, it’s unclear if this project will take the announced 2022 Star Wars slot.

Of course, plot details are non-existent right now. But we do know Waititi will co-write the movie with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Most recently, she worked on Best Picture contender 1917 with co-writer/director Sam Mendes. And Wilson-Cairns co-wrote the upcoming horror film Last Night in Soho with director Edgar Wright.

With its screenwriting duo, the untitled Star Wars film gives a female writer a hand in crafting a big-screen addition to the saga for the first time since The Empire Strikes Back. But Waititi’s hiring in particular is a big deal. After all, he will be the first non-white male to helm a Star Wars film. Especially if the movie’s a hit, this could be a huge step forward.

‘Star Wars’ has been lacking representation behind the scenes

For more than 40 years, white male directors have not only dominated but almost exclusively shaped Star Wars. When the series launched in the 1970s, fans weren’t as vocal about diversity and representation as they are now. So it’s not really the fault of the franchise itself but rather indicative of Hollywood’s and audiences’ values and priorities at the time.

But things have changed a ton in that regard. Audiences have proven their interest in seeing movies made by and starring women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community. And in recent years, Disney itself has taken steps to infuse more diverse creative voices both in front of and behind the camera. Star Wars has just moved much more slowly.

True, Lucasfilm has yet to hire a woman to direct a Star Wars film. But The Mandalorian featured a variety of writers and directors working to expand the saga, including Deborah Chow, Rick Famuyiwa, and Bryce Dallas Howard. Then, of course, the Waititi news further proves The Mandalorian is a testing ground for fresh Star Wars talent.

Taika Waititi made his saga debut with ‘The Mandalorian’

In the series premiere of The Mandalorian, Waititi voiced bounty hunter droid IG-11. While the character is seemingly killed in that episode, he returns toward the end of Season 1. Moreover, Waititi hopped behind the camera to direct the critically acclaimed season finale, titled “Chapter 8: Redemption.”

This is almost certainly what landed him the gig directing a theatrical feature. Since the Disney acquisition, Lucasfilm has had a hard time with directors. So first testing out how well they fit within the Star Wars universe on a smaller project like a TV episode is a wise move. And we’re confident Waititi will bring the same thrilling sensibility to his own movie.