‘Jojo Rabbit’ Director Waititi to Lead New Star Wars Film

Walt Disney Co. tapped Taika Waititi to write and direct a new Star Wars movie, betting that the offbeat New Zealand filmmaker can enliven the four-decade-old franchise.

Waititi, who got his start in art-house films in his home country, directed the 2017 blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok” for Disney and earlier this year won a best adapted screenplay Oscar for his Hitler comedy “Jojo Rabbit.” He also directed the season finale of “The Mandalorian,” the hit live-action Star Wars series on Disney’s new streaming service.

The director will write the film along with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who co-wrote last year’s celebrated World War I picture “1917.” No release date was given.

The company also said Monday that it was working on a new Star Wars TV series for Disney+, to be led by writer Leslye Headland. That will be the fourth new Star Wars series commissioned for the service, which will feature programs based on Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and rebel fighter Cassian Andor.

The Star Wars film franchise, one of the most lucrative in Hollywood, was put on a hiatus last year after its box-office performance suffered. The main so-called saga movies have been drawing smaller audiences, and the spinoff “Solo: A Star Wars Story” was a bomb. That picture was part of a series of stand-alone films that are no longer going forward — for now, at least.

Disney Chairman Bob Iger, who was chief executive officer at the time, said the company may have pushed too much content too quickly after acquiring the brand from creator George Lucas in 2012.

The next theatrical Star Wars film is slated for 2022, and it’s not clear what form it will take. Rian Johnson, who directed “The Last Jedi,” is also working on new Star Wars material.

The announcements were made as Disney promotes what’s known as Star Wars Day (“May the 4th be with you”), with a series of product launches and the debut of the most recent film, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” on Disney+.

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