The Female Director Working On ‘Star Wars: Episode 9’ Is Making History & Opening Doors Along The Way
A galaxy far, far away is making some progress toward inclusion and diversity. On Tuesday, Variety reported that Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams has hired Victoria Mahoney as Star Wars: Episode IX's second unit director, making her the first woman to serve in any directing role in the blockbuster franchise's history. Mahoney will work with Abrams, who is returning to finish the Skywalker Saga as the upcoming film's director.
Ava DuVernay, the director of A Wrinkle In Time, appeared to be the first to break the news with a post on social media. She tweeted,
"Happy to share this historic news. A black woman directing stories in a galaxy far, far away. First unit director #JJAbrams. Second unit director @VictoriaMahoney. #StarWarsE9 #StarWars"
The title is a big deal, and will most likely open doors for Mahoney, as well as others in the future. Though the Super 8 filmmaker might be in charge of the first unit and catching many of the film's bigger moments, Mahoney will still have chance to have her vision play a part in the movie alongside Abrams. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a second unit director leads another crew to capture additional footage, like the establishing shots or special stunts — an important role in a movie universe that is well known for its amazing worlds and epic action moments.
Mahoney previously worked as an actor, making appearances in various TV shows and movies before she made her filmmaking debut with Yelling To The Sky, a semi-auto biographical indie movie she wrote, produced and directed. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2011. Since then she has directed episodes of television for Grey's Anatomy, Power, Claws, and others. According to Variety, she also directed the pilot for Red Line, a drama executive produced by DuVernay and mega TV producer Greg Berlanti (Supergirl, The Flash).
"Catt's outta the bag. Thank you @ava for putting my name in the #StarWars #LucasFilm hat. Thank you #JJAbrams for inviting me on your ferocious ride. *This one's for the outliers, dreaming big--in small corners of the Earth. #MaytheForceBeWithYou"
Mahoney's announcement comes at a time when Star Wars is being scrutinized for its lack of diversity behind the camera. According to a February article from Variety, 96-percent of the franchise's directors and writers have been white men. The only woman to hold a key creative position in the movie universe is Leigh Brackett, a white screenwriter who shares a credit for the script on 1980's The Empire Strikes Back.
Meanwhile, Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed The Last Jedi, has been pegged to create a new trilogy for the expanding Star Wars canon. Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss also have their own separate Star Wars series planned. Though it is hard to doubt the talent of these men (who all happen to be white), the announcements seemingly leave little room for more women or people of color to take over future Star Wars projects, which have been coming out at a pace of one film a year since 2015's The Force Awakens (though, according to Screen Rant, that could change as the universe continues to expand).
Though Mahoney's inclusion in the franchise is a good step in the right direction, there are more talented women and people of color who could be writing and directing the films, too. Hopefully Mahoney's experience on Star Wars will open the doors to her taking other leadership spots in the franchise's creative team or allow her to helm another big-budget movie with her creative vision.