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Spoilers below for the fourth episode of Disney+'s The Mandalorian, so be sure to check it out before reading through.
Despite those who thought The Mandalorian would just be a retread of Star Wars' big screen adventures, the Disney+ action-drama has defied many expectations across the board, thanks in part to the emotionally viable relationship between the masked protagonist and the innocence-oozing Baby Yoda. Created by Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian has employed several high-profile directors to bring its mystery-filled episodes to life, and Gina Carano's big Episode 4 introduction was helmed the Jurassic World franchise Bryce Dallas Howard.
As the daughter of Hollywood icon Ron Howard, who brought his directing chops to the Star Wars universe to pick up the reins on Solo last year, Bryce Dallas Howard has shown interest and promise in the world of directing, with The Mandalorian's battle-ready installment serving as her most prominent project to date. (And not only because of the Baby Yoda soup meme.) CinemaBlend's Mike Reyes spoke with Howard ahead of the episode's airing, while she was promoting her work in the Elton John biopic Rocketman, and here's the advice she told us she got from her father upon entering the Star Wars universe.
The thing that my dad would say was, ‘This sandbox is really fun. It’s really, really fun; and everybody who is involved with these projects, they are involved because they adore Star Wars.’ There’s something holy about it, make no mistake. There is talk of the Force on set, like absolutely. We are believers, and I think that’s just a different vibe than something else. That’s just a different vibe than if you’re shooting a commercial or something else that’s just kind of making a living. This is your childhood dreams and fantasies coming to fruition every single second, and everyone feels that way. So that energy is absolutely exhilarating and intoxicating, and very healthy and constructive.
Ron Howard's point there is basically that there isn't anyone on a Star Wars set who is there out of spite, or because they're only in it for the money, and that's not the mindset that directors should enter the projects with. Not that a big-budget Star Wars project would ever pull in a random filmmaker off the street to tackle a movie or a TV episode, but the notion still holds strong. To work in this universe, you have to live and breathe this universe. (And probably shouldn't listen to trolls.)
What a joy that must be to experience on a daily basis. How many of us can say that we work in a place where all of our coworkers have dreamed about their occupation since children? Positive motivation like that goes a long way, and when you're working on a project that's in a galaxy far, far away, experience can be more valuable than money (or quarter-portions). Would Apollo 13 have been as good if Ron Howard, Tom Hanks and the rest had only a passing interest in NASA and space exploration?
Here, Bryce Dallas Howard continued talking about the pleasures of working on a project where everyone involved is part of the same creative hivemind that only seems interested in putting out a quality project. In her words:
It’s an ideal way to work, it really is; because I didn’t see egos. You really just don’t. Where sometimes on a set there’s a core group of people who have a deeper understanding of the story, and maybe everyone else doesn’t, that’s when you get into a situation where it’s just like, ‘We don’t know why, but just do it.’ And it gets complicated and it can become a little bit of a constructive environment. But when it’s something like Star Wars, where it’s like the person who’s in charge of crafting is just as much an expert as anyone else on set, that is the joy of working on a Star Wars project. We all feel a sense of ownership, truly, and Jon and Dave really facilitated that.
A lot of credit has gone to both creator Jon Favreau and showrunner Dave Filoni (of Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels fame) for creating a work environment where everyone could freely get giddy about bringing The Mandalorian to life for Disney+ subscribers. This was a project that was important enough for even the merchandizing masterminds at Disney to balk at spoiling the Baby Yoda reveal, so you know it was important to the producers that everything on the set work out in the the most positive favor possible.
Bryce Dallas Howard is only the second female director to get behind the camera for a Star Wars project, with pioneer Deborah Chow having helmed Episode 3 (as well as the impending seventh installment). Chow will be the lone director putting together the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series for Disney+, and her Mandalorian episode was a great sign that big things are coming for Ewan McGregor's doomed Jedi. Perhaps we'll next soon hear about Howard taking on another role behind the scenes in a new Star Wars project.
It sounds like she would be into it, especially if Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni were some of the people in charge. In talking about the ways that The Mandalorian differed from other Star Wars projects, Bryce Dallas Howard credited their willingness to listen to everyone else on the creative team, and the fact that all of the directors worked together to bring forth a more unified vision, as opposed to each episode feeling completely different. In her words:
I kind of assumed, ‘It’s a series, I’m gonna go in there, and I’m gonna just absorb what Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau’s vision for this show is, and I’m gonna be their soldier.’ And I was shocked, because so early on it was Dave and Jon who were saying, ‘What do you think? What are you envisioning? What notes do you have for me? We’re your writers, what do you want us to do?’ It was so, so, so remarkably collaborative. It was wild, absolutely wild, how much it was Jon and Dave allowing us to really actually make every single episode feel very personal to us. And all the directors, we shared an office, so we were like a squad. Because it was so intimate, because these sets are really locked down. If you’re on set, it’s because you have a job to do. There’s not a lot of access, so it actually ends up feeling like a very tight group of almost indie filmmakers doing this together. And to see the strides and advancements of technology, what Jon was really pushing for in those terms, there’s just so much discovery and so much creativity.
So long as that whole boom mic mistake gets blown over without too much social media chatter, everything should go smoothly.