From the moment Game of Thrones creators and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss announced that they were dropping out of their upcoming Star Wars trilogy, everyone has been asking why they stepped away from what appeared to be a dream gig. The pair’s official explanation was that after signing a near-$300 million deal with Netflix in August 2019, they realized that they couldn’t give proper attention to both the streaming site and to Lucasfilm, and thus decided to depart from the Star Wars universe. They even thanked Star Wars creator George Lucas, describing the chance to meet him and the current Star Wars team “the thrill of a lifetime.” Things appeared to be amicable on the other side, too: Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, said she hoped that the pair would one day be able to return to the Star Wars galaxy, calling them “incredible storytellers.”
However, things may not be as clear-cut and clean as these friendly statements suggest.
New reports claim that Benioff and Weiss’ Star Wars deal was actually scuppered by battles between Netflix and Lucasfilm’s parent company Disney — and between the duo and their would-be fans. It seems that not only were Benioff and Weiss impacted by Disney-Netflix disagreements, but they also got cold feet when thinking about how “toxic fandom” would affect them.
A Netflix-versus-Disney battle was partially to blame
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney executives were apparently wary of Benioff and Weiss’ deal with Netflix from the start. The two companies have been engaged in a streaming war since Disney declined to renew its contract with Netflix in 2017, announcing plans to create its own streaming service. Since then, the House of Mouse has been gradually pulling its content from Netflix — and things are about to heat up with the launch of Disney+ on November 12. Benioff and Weiss working with the streaming competition evidently left a sour taste in the mouths of Disney brass.
The Hollywood Reporter added that the specifics of Benioff and Weiss’ Netflix agreement was also a source of conflict. With their trilogy of films scheduled for release in 2022, 2024, and 2026, the pair were going to be tied to Star Wars in some capacity for the next seven years. Given that the only significant project Benioff and Weiss have worked on is Game of Thrones — which, by their own admission, they didn’t have the experience to handle at the start – Lucasfilm executives were reportedly concerned about the duo’s ability to juggle multiple large-scale commitments. This was made especially tricky by Netflix’s stipulation that when the pair were working on their Netflix projects, they wouldn’t be allowed to go back and forth to the Star Wars set.
Benioff and Weiss may have backed away due to “toxic fandom”
You would think that leading one of the most successful TV shows of all time would make you feel invincible. But it’s rumored that Benioff and Weiss’ experience with Game of Thrones fans actually made them less enthusiastic about taking on another beloved universe.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, the two were reportedly second-guessing committing to their planned Star Wars trilogy due to “toxic fandom” — which could be in reference to both Star Wars loyals and Game of Thrones enthusiasts.
The pair started Game of Thrones as an adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novel series, but when it became clear that Martin wasn’t close to finishing the final two books in the collection, Benioff and Weiss were forced to create their own (tragically flawed) ending. The final season was so poorly received that fans launched a petition to request a complete Game of Thrones season 8 remake, written by someone else — someone more “competent” than Benioff and Weiss.
After facing such brutal comments from fans of a series they’d led for eight years, it’s easy to see why Benioff and Weiss might have been reluctant to enter into another franchise known for devoted fans who don’t hold back on their criticism. If there’s any fandom more quick to speak up when they feel let down or betrayed than the Game of Thrones fandom, it’s the people devoted to Star Wars, who have recently become infamous for bullying franchise actors off social media and posting vitriolic messages on Twitter after they were displeased with the events of The Last Jedi.
Even if Benioff and Weiss themselves were ready to stand by their abilities and craft a Star Wars trilogy the best way they knew how, sources close to THR have noted that the backlash against the Game of Thrones finale may have caused Lucasfilm and Disney concern over their involvement with Star Wars at all.
As for who will fill the space in the world’s most famous space saga left behind by Benioff and Weiss, that remains to be seen.