‘Star Wars’ boss Katherine Kennedy’s career rise, George Lucas hand-picked to take over mega-franchise

Kennedy.Gustavo Caballero/Getty

  • Kathleen Kennedy made some of the most popular movies of all time, from “ET” to “Jurassic Park.”

  • She’s now the head of Lucasfilm, the Disney-owned studio responsible for “Star Wars.”

  • Here’s how she got her start in film and how she navigates the “Star Wars” franchise.

Kathleen Kennedy, 69, decided to enter the film industry after seeing Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 1977, according to Vanity Fair.

The third kind of intimacy

Columbia Pictures

resource: Vanity Fair

Kennedy landed her first filmmaking job as an assistant to producer John Milius on Spielberg’s “1941.”

John Milius

Milius.Photo by Michael Kovacs/Getty Images for myCinema

resource: Vanity Fair

She impressed Spielberg so much that he hired her as his assistant when he directed Raiders of the Lost Ark. “Star Wars” creator George Lucas is a producer on the film.

Spielberg, Kennedy, Lucas

Spielberg, Kennedy and Lucas at the 2022 Producers Guild Awards.Kevin Winter/Getty Images

resource: Vanity Fair

Kennedy met Frank Marshall on the set of “The Raiders” he was working on. They later married in 1987, six years after the film was released.

Kathleen Kennedy

Kennedy and Marshall.Getty Images

resource: Vanity Fair

Kennedy, Marshall and Spielberg founded Amblin Entertainment in 1981. It supports some of the most popular movies of all time, including ET, The Goonies and Back to the Future. Today, it’s the filmmaking banner of the larger Amblin Partners, founded in 2015.

spielberg and kennedy

Spielberg and Kennedy at the UK premiere of War Horse.Tim Whitby/Getty Images

resource: Amblin About page

In 1991, Kennedy and Marshall founded Kennedy/Marshall Productions, which has been working on Spielberg’s War Horse and Lincoln, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense and David Fincher’s The production button behind movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin. “

Marshall and Kennedy

Marshall and Kennedy at the 2019 premiere of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”.Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

resource: The company’s “About Us” page

As a producer, Kennedy was nominated for eight Best Picture Oscars for “ET,” “The Purple,” “The Sixth Sense,” “Seabiscuit,” “Munich,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and “War.” Horse” and “Lincoln”.

Kathleen Kennedy

Kennedy at the 2011 Oscar Nominations Luncheon.Steve Granitz/WireImage

resource: database

While she has yet to win a competitive Oscar, Kennedy shared Marshall’s 2018 Irving G. Talberg Memorial Award, voted by the Academy Board for “the work that consistently reflects High-quality creative producers” film production. “

Kathleen Kennedy Oscar

Kennedy accepted the award in 2018.Kevin Winter/Getty Images

resource: Oscars.org

She is credited as the producer of five of the 40 highest-grossing films of all time at the global box office, not adjusted for inflation, including four Star Wars films and Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park

“Jurassic Park”common

resource: Box Office Magic

In June 2012, Kennedy stepped down from Kennedy/Marshall to join Lucas as co-chairman of George Lucas production company Lucasfilm. He handpicked her as his successor.

Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas

Kennedy and Lucas.Disney’s Gerald Domora/Getty Images

resource: deadline

Later that year, in October 2012, Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4 billion, and Kennedy was named president.

Kathleen Kennedy and Bob Iger

Former Disney CEO Bob Iger and Kennedy at the premiere of Rogue One in 2016.Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

resource: The Walt Disney Company

Under Kennedy (and Disney), the “Star Wars” franchise has spawned five films, four of which have grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, and produced several TV shows for the Disney+ streaming service.

jj Abrams Kathleen Kennedy

Star Wars: The Force Awakens directors JJ Abrams and Kennedy.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

However, her tenure has not been smooth sailing. Behind-the-scenes production issues have reportedly plagued some “Star Wars” films.

Kathleen Kennedy and Ron Howard

Kennedy and “Solo” director Ron Howard at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

  • Tony Gilroy was brought in for a massive remake of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He later said the production was “in such terrible, terrible trouble that all you can do is improve their status”.

  • Chris Miller and Phil Lord were reportedly fired in post-production on “A Star Wars Story,” and Ron Howard was brought in to finish the film and was eventually credited as the film’s director.Lord later said that their “method was [Lucasfilm’s] …the gap is too big. “

  • “The Force Awakens” director JJ Abrams has been brought in to replace “The Rise of Skywalker” original director Colin Trevorrow.

Kennedy told Rolling Stone in 2019 that the Star Wars movies were “hard to crack” when asked about Colin Trevorrow’s exit.

jj abrams katherine kennedy star wars concert

Abrams and Kennedy.Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

“There is no source material,” Kennedy said. “We don’t have comic books. We don’t have 800-page novels. We don’t have anything but passionate storytellers who get together to discuss what the next iteration might be.

Another “Star Wars” theatrical release seems a long way off, as Disney has gone all-in with Disney+ TV shows like the upcoming Rogue One spinoff “Andorra,” which premieres in August.

Kathleen Kennedy Andorra


Kennedy confirmed to Vanity Fair in May that a number of “Star Wars” film projects had been put on hold, including a film from Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and a new trio from “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson song.

Disney’s original plan when it relaunched the franchise was to release one movie a year. But after the disappointing box office results of “Solo” and the launch of Disney+, the “Star Wars” movies slowed down.

Kennedy also hinted that future films will move away from the trilogy format, saying the series is “more about ongoing storytelling.”

Kennedy told Vanity Fair in May that the biggest lesson she learned from “Solo”‘s lackluster box-office performance was not to recast beloved characters.


“Solo: A Star Wars Story.”disney

“There should be moments in the learning process,” she said. “It does seem very clear now that we can’t do that.”

Lucasfilm is next with a fifth Indiana Jones film set for release next year, as well as more “Star Wars” franchises including “Andor,” “Asoka,” and “The Mandalorian.” Three seasons.

Katherine Kennedy, George Lucas, Harrison Ford

Indiana Jones stars Harrison Ford, George Lucas and Kennedy.Junko Kimura/Getty Images

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