Is The Acolyte, Greenlit Afterall?The Dark Herald
I had predicted that Lesley Headland’s The Acolyte would never see the light of day. Yet this week there was an announcement of a casting selection for that Disney+ show. Amandla Stenberg who played the ill-fated Rue in the Hunger Games has been signed to be the lead. Indicating that the project is moving forward…
Or maybe not.
Here is the big thing. There has been a major change with the Acolyte that went unremarked upon in trade media.
It is now part of the High Republic.
As you all know, The High Republic was Kathleen Kennedy’s last Star Wars project and is the only thing the Lucasfilm Story Group still has on the table. Even though its book sales have remained abysmal, there has been a big push to move it forward from various corners of Disney in the past week. The Star Wars Galactic Cruiser has been quietly retconned into being built during that era and the just-announced Eclipse game is set during the High Republic as well.
The Acolyte has become part of the effort to save SWTHR.
The big question about The Acolyte now is, have resources been redirected towards it, or is this casting decision another under the table effort to embarrass Disney into moving forward with any High Republic project at all?
Could be either one.
Its producer, Lesley Headland went around everyone’s back to publicly pitch her idea for a feminist martial arts action show, with Star Wars in the name, directly to Kathleen Kennedy. In fairness to Headland, openly and brazenly appealing to “Queen Kathleen” as she called her, was a very smart move.
Kennedy had been looking weak at the time and needed something to assert her power. She publicly green-lit the show without consulting Chapek or Iger. They were furious but Hollywood politics being what they are, they couldn’t humiliate “the most powerful woman at Disney” by countermanding her decree, and The Acolyte was added to the slate of upcoming Star Wars projects.
But while the Bobs couldn’t kill it, they could starve it of resources which is what they did.
It’s possible that either Headland or Kennedy herself made this casting announcement to push things forward on the project. Iger is leaving at the end of the month, this means he’s disengaged. The new COB won’t be installed until the new year, which means she isn’t engaged yet. This is an excellent time to nail Disney’s color to the mast when there is nobody to say, NO.
Let’s take a look at the star. Since you’ve never heard of Amandla Stenberg, I’ll fill you in. She is a swinging for the bleachers activtress. She identifies as LGBT non-binary and claims she faced all kinds of racist backlash over her role in The Hunger Games, (despite the fact that no racist has actually heard of her or remembers her tiny part). You name the flavor of SJWism and she has a taste for it. She is clearly someone who can be counted on to shoot her mouth off on command if that’s what’s needed.
A Disney + Star Wars show is a $150 million proposition even if it’s only for six episodes. Disney would normally like to minimize its risks on something like this and that means a lead with a known name. Pedro Pascal was just coming off Game of Thrones and had been signed for Wonder Woman. Ewan MacGregor was a known and reliable property. While Temuera Morrison isn’t a star, he’s been the face of the Fett family of clones for twenty years.
Nobody has heard of Amandla Stenberg before now.
This casting announcement is likely an “if-come-deal.” Meaning she has been paid nothing upfront and will be paid nothing if the cameras never roll. What an if-come contract does, is allocate a block of her time for an agreed-upon amount, if cameras ever roll on the Acolyte.
Now nobody is saying that is the deal officially, but the casting was announced very strangely. Normally you try to make as big a splash as possible by telling the trades like Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and Deadline. You don’t leak it to some third-tier fan rag with “nerd” in its title and hope the majors pick up the story. Which is how this was first announced.
In theory, this shouldn’t change anything. It could just be Headland trying another trick to get funding. But given the coordinated push, I’m suspecting that Kathleen Kennedy is behind this.
God only knows what was in that contract that Iger signed with George Lucas, but Lucas appears to have slipped as many poison pills into it as he could. Disney would love to release the original versions of the first trilogy, but they are blocked from doing so by Lucas’ contract. Likewise, Kathleen Kennedy appears to have an eternal right of first refusal whenever her contract comes up for renewal. Who knows what other autonomies were granted to her when Iger in his desperation to close that deal, signed a terrible contract for Disney?
We know how Kennedy operates and how Leslie Headland operates. However, we are also getting to know how Chapek operates. If this is another cowboy project by Kennedy and was done without Chapek’s blessing, then they didn’t think it through. Chapek is a very ruthless man.
If this was unauthorized, we can expect to see Doomcock to start making videos about how deeply concerned Disney is about Leslie Headland’s past as Harvey Weinstein’s personal assistant. To be eventually followed by tearful accusations of betrayal by some actress that Headland called in for a private conference with Weinstein.