David Cronenberg Explains Why He Didn't Direct Return of the Jedi

Such a happy, happy movie family.
Such a happy, happy movie family.
Image: Lucasfilm

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was famously shopped around to some well-respected directors before landing in Richard Marquand’s hands. One of those was David Cronenberg, and recently he shed some more light on why, precisely, he didn’t get the job.

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Talking with Entertainment Weekly, Cronenberg reminisced on the circumstances that led him to not getting the gig.

“I still recall getting a phone call,” Cronenberg said. “Somebody said that they were from, I guess it was Lucasfilm, and asked me if I was interested in—at that point it was called Revenge of the Jedi, actually, until somebody pointed out that it was against Jedi philosophy to think in terms of revenge. But, anyway, I was asked if I would be interested in considering that, and meeting with everybody, and I said, with the arrogance of youth—relative youth, anyway—I said, ‘Well, I’m not used to doing other people’s material.’ And there was like a stunned silence and then ‘Click’—hang up. Basically, that was as close as I came to that.”

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Cronenberg has talked about this before, echoing thoughts he offers Entertainment Weekly about not being particularly interested in directing someone else’s material. But this is the first time we’ve heard just how badly that job interview went. To be fair, Cronenberg doesn’t have any regrets. But, oof. That’s a rough phone call.

io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

lightninglouie
lightninglouie

IIRC the main reason Lucas went with Marquand was because he was non-union, a British guy who’d worked mostly in UK television. At the time Lucas was in the middle of a dispute with the Director’s Guild, which he’d quit after they’d fined him for not using opening credits with the directors’ names in Star Wars or Empire. This is probably also why you didn’t see any big-name directors like Spielberg working on the OT. (It also gives you an idea of how much things have changed, because nowadays you almost never see full credit sequences before big event movies.)

In the early ‘80s, Cronenberg was still working entirely within the Canadian movie industry, so he probably wasn’t a Guild member either. I imagine that was also the case with Lynch, who Lucas also asked to direct RotJ. Before Elephant Man, he was just that weird dude out in L.A. who’d made Eraserhead on a shoestring budget.