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INTERVIEW: JON FAVREAU ON 'THE MANDALORIAN'
AND THE LAUNCH OF DISNEY+

Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
October 19, 2019

Slated to debut with the launch of the highly anticipated Disney+ streaming service, The Mandalorian is the first live-action Star Wars television series in the 42-year history of the storied franchise. Set in the potentially fertile creative ground between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the show details the adventures of an eponymous bounty hunter working his way through a lawless frontier that has developed after the fall of the Galactic Empire.

Multi-hyphenate filmmaker Jon Favreau serves as creator, showrunner, head writer, and co-executive producer on the ambitious endeavor, continuing the tradition of his massive, and sometimes easily overlooked, contributions to the modern Disney supremacy. He set the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe into motion with his 2008 blockbuster Iron Man, and concocted a winning formula for live-action adaptations of Disney animated classics with his critically acclaimed take on The Jungle Book in 2016.

In creating The Mandalorian, Favreau partnered with Lucasfilm talent Dave Filoni, whose extensive work on the canonical animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars was instrumental in expanding the universe of Star Wars. The show's inaugural season consists of eight episodes, and features guest directors from the world of film, including Bryce Dallas Howard and Taika Waititi.

In these excerpts from a press conference with the cast and crew of The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau talks about creating one of the cornerstones of the new Disney+ platform, and fostering a collaborative environment with all of the talent involved.

The Mandalorian debuts with the November 12 launch of Disney+, with new episodes following each Friday.




MEDIA: From a personal perspective, what was appealing about doing the first live-action Star Wars series?

JON: As somebody who grew up with Star Wars, and really having been formed around what I experienced when I was little with the first film, there was some aesthetic to it that I really gravitated to. And my whole taste in movies was probably formed in a big way from seeing George Lucas' original film. I learned about cinema through the lens of that film, because my father would explain to me, "This is a lot like samurai movies, or this is a lot like westerns, or World War II films." And so that became my inroad. And then there was the whole Power of Myth with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers that was filmed up at [Skywalker Ranch]. And that opened me up to the mythic structure and the monomyth and my understanding of mythology and storytelling. And so to come back and return to this with the freedom that this new platform affords, because there's nothing to compare it to, nothing has been on TV other than the holiday special... [laughs] And the idea of telling a story over more than just a couple of hours told every few years opens us up to this novelization of story, and a return back to the roots, in many ways, of the Saturday afternoon serial films that my parents' generation grew up with--with cliffhangers, adventure. And drawing from that style of storytelling lends itself really well to what we're tackling here. And it's fun not to have a preciousness in the way we're telling the stories, because we're coming back to you next week with another one. And so to engage the audience in a way that I enjoy being engaged with the shows (specifically what ABC had done in streaming services, where it's bigger budget, it has a lot of the qualities and aesthetics of a film, but the novelization of a serialized storytelling)...To me, that's where it really opened up a lot of freedom and opportunity where we don't feel that we're repeating or copying anything else that people have experienced through Star Wars.

The footage that was just presented looks great...

It's the first time people are seeing anything. And we wanted to compile little bits from different episodes. Because I think also part of what's fun about this, and with this new service, is that everybody, wherever they are, if they have this service, they're seeing it first, you know? And it's nice to be able to show stuff to people, to understand what it is, so you can talk about it, and kind of cut through how crowded the marketplace is with so many stories and so many services. So it's nice to have everybody here to react to it, which is really helpful in getting the word out. But it's also nice [for] everybody to experience something at the same time, which is what I really loved about watching, like, Game of Thrones--there's a sense of "what's going to happen this week?" And the idea that it's not cascading down. Now of course, the service isn't available everywhere yet, but as it rolls out, hopefully everybody around the world will be able to have that same experience. But for us, there's a really fun dialogue that we're looking forward to that we usually normally get only at the conventions, where you get to show it, people get to react, and then you get to talk about it. And it gets us excited as filmmakers. And then that dialogue unfolds over the course of [the series]. And I'm happy it's being released at a rhythm, because although we're not able to react in what we're doing because all those episodes are done, it certainly will inform what we're doing in the second season, which we're actually in--the first week of the second season's under our belt. And our cast, when you see them, especially Pedro, might be a little tired, because they were up late last night.



Carl Weathers has expressed gratitude about how his role on this project has been expanding...

We really did rope him in, he's not kidding...I don't want to say too much, but we worked him in a lot into the show, more than he agreed to. And now, in season two, he's a part of our directors brigade. I know him through the Directors Guild...Of course, I was a fan of his acting, but he's been more directing lately. So that's been fun. So this whole high-tech, innovative set that we've developed for these specific stories--by Carl being there and being part of it, and seeing how we were putting this together, and experimenting with it and seeing it all come together--he was perfectly qualified. He understood the story, he understood the characters, the cast, and the technology. And so it's really fun to be working with Carl now on storytelling.

What sort of contributions have your directors brought to the series? Season one features episodes helmed by Bryce Dallas Howard, Taika Waititi, Dave Filoni...

And it's Dave's first time directing live-action. And Rick Famuyiwa also did a couple for us. And Deb Chow, of course, [who] is going on now to do the Obi-Wan Kenobi show. So she came into Star. You're going to see, I think, a lot of people that are working in this incubator of story and technology--people who got together because they love Star Wars--and this enthusiasm that seems to be very contagious. Not just with the people here, but [also with] a lot of people who came up through the ranks over the years since the prequels. And all of them, slowly, like Tom Sawyer coming together to paint the fence. There's this real enthusiasm that's very organic as we're telling the stories, and it's a very collaborative environment. You know, we talk a lot about story, and I write most of it, but that's just the jumping off point for the directors to be very involved, and very collaborative. And all the people who are involved, whether it's at ILM or Lucasfilm or within the cast of The Mandalorian. And so it becomes this really fun, collaborative thing that takes on its own life and own personality. And I think you'll see, with each of the directors, unlike a lot of television, the directors are really being given the opportunity to have authorship over it as though it were a film. So it's been very exciting for us to have that kind of environment to come to work to every day.

How was your experience of working with Taika Waititi?

Well, you know, when you're bringing in a director like Taika, he's clearly doing it because he wants to. The guy is just such a powerhouse right now creatively. And I think everybody's really discovering what a talent he is. People who follow comedy or independent film knew about him long ago, and now he's just really enjoying a wonderful run. And so when he shows up, it gets everybody excited because it's a fresh energy on the set. He finds opportunities for humor, he brings his style of humor to it. But he also is a fan. And to me, that was the bottom line prerequisite. You didn't have to be the most experienced, you didn't have to have worked on Star Wars before, you didn't even have to have ever directed live-action before. We have a few people, as we said, that hadn't done that. The thing was that you had to be willing to collaborate, you had to love Star Wars, and you had to want to do something great and help invent this new thing. And to have Taika in there as somebody who was a battle-hardened veteran who could come in and just has tremendous instincts, and to work with the actors...I had known him for a while, and from the Marvel world, we had been sharing experiences that we had had. But to actually be on the set and to witness what he did was tremendous. And then to have him do the voice of IG-11 and bring that specific tone to that character, but also the tone to what he directed, was fantastic. I'm grateful to him for that.



You posted a photo of George Lucas visiting you on the set of The Mandalorian. What do you recall from that experience, and did you drink the Skywalker Vineyards wine in the picture?

Uh, we didn't drink the wine that day. I don't think I'll ever drink that wine. [It's] right on the mantle, from Skywalker. But Carl was there that day. I think Gina was there that day. I know for sure this guy [Dave] was there. I met Dave because I was up at the ranch mixing Iron Man, and he was secretly working with George on Clone Wars before anybody had ever heard of it. And I showed him Iron Man, he showed me Clone Wars, and I was like, "If you ever need a voice on this, I'd love to do it," which turned into me playing a Mandalorian named Pre Vizsla on his show. But what's so nice is that George had worked with him for [almost] ten years, and so a lot of what's wonderful about working with Dave is that continuity of vision...But the thing that really stood out, and [George] didn't say it in front of Dave because he didn't want to embarrass him, but I could see that he was very proud that Dave was getting on the next step. Because when George discovered Dave, Dave was just an animator that he brought in. I'm sure you've heard the story, or he'll tell it, where he thought it was a joke, that his friends were pulling a prank on him. And then after he met with George, George said, "Do you want to run this show?" And so it's been a long relationship and understanding filmmaking, understanding Star Wars, and now, as we get into live-action, to take the next step. So I think that's a big reason he was there, because he wanted to make sure I was continuing Dave's journey with him. It felt very special, you know...Very special day.

[jokes] Why so many references to the Star Wars Holiday Special...?

I didn't realize there was a lot of...I guess there is. Well, there definitely was the gun, right? The pulse rifle. Here's the thing...We're starting with new characters, right? There's all sorts of conjecture. "Is it going to really reveal that it's Boba Fett all along? Is it a character we already know?" We wanted to start fresh with a whole new set of characters that you never met before. It reminds me of when we were starting with Iron Man. So for new fans, these were new characters, new actors, and a new world. And actually even the MCU, in that version of it, was new. So it was a really nice entry point for people who didn't know anything about Marvel before, and just wanted to see a movie and they liked the actors that were in it. And we assumed that you didn't know anything, and so we introduced you to everybody. But by the same token, the foundation of all of genre are the fans that have been there since the beginning and the people who grew up with it. And so how do you balance those two things at the same time? And I think for much of the time with superhero films, there was the notion going back decades that the fans will be there anyway, just make it as approachable and accessible as you can to the general audience. But I think that's changed a lot, and I think that Kevin Feige and Avi Arad and all the people who started off with the MCU smartly realized, "No, those are your fans, that's who's been there along, and you build out from the grassroots. So never lose touch with the people who've put in the time and who've cared." And so there are ways that even though we have new characters and you can jump in because it's chapter one, we wanted to make sure that if you were watching and you knew about it...And this is where Dave has really been a treasure trove, because we tried to work stuff in whether it's humorously, like making a reference to Life Day, or a reference to a prop that has been appreciated by a core group over time. Just putting those little Easter eggs in. Or big movements in the story that reflect storylines in either the Legends or in canon that people have known. And, by the way, all of the animated content that Dave's been working on...How do you weave all of it together so that you don't have these divided, segmented parts of the audience, but you could start to bring it all together and coalesce it in a way that creates an overarching narrative, and rewards the people who had been putting the time in over the years, since they were kids growing up with it? I mean, it's a sort of long-winded answer of why I snuck a Life Day joke in there. And some of it was when I would write and want to see if Dave caught it, and see what his reaction would be. And he had veto power over everything. You know, he's talking about learning from me, but I'm learning just as much from him.


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