‘Willow’ turns 35: How George Lucas enlisted his ‘American Graffiti’ star Ron Howard to direct the follow-up to the ‘Star Wars’ trilogy

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at Warwick Davis willow, Left, and Ron Howard directing Val Kilmer. (Photos: Everett Collection)

Ron Howard was hardly a freshman when he was enlisted by George Lucas to direct willow (1988), the famous fantasy adventure about an aspiring magician (Warwick Davis) who teams up with a hardened warrior (Val Kilmer) to rescue an infant princess from a cannibal queen. The film, Lucas' follow-up to the original star wars Trilogy, was released on 20 May 1988.

Howard had already directed a string of hit films Splash (1984) and cocoon (1985), and of course, working in showbiz since childhood as an actor on TV staples the andy griffith show And happy Days, In fact, Howard, who also co-starred in Lucas's film american graffitiproduction was wrapping up cocoon when lucas approached helming willowan idea (originally called munchkins) That star wars Creator has been around since 1972.

But willowThe long, globe-spanning shoot, elaborate sets and intricate action sequences made it an entirely creative experience for the budding filmmaker.

Howard told Yahoo in 2016, “I've grown a lot through that movie.” director's reel interview (see above, with willow starting at 3:03). “And the next film I made [1989's Parenthood] was easy. It was like I had nothing left to fear after 137 days of production or whatever it was to make willow,

Howard is grateful to Lucas, who despite the overwhelming success star warshad trouble selling the idea to a major studio (after various rejections, MGM agreed to finance half of the film's $35 million budget, while Lucas covered the rest).

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“I was very happy that George brought me on board. He was going to bankroll this film with his own money, which he did. So it was a huge endorsement from him,” she said. “They were also the first studio company and producer to give me a final cut, which was a very remarkable gesture.”

willow was not a box-office behemoth à la star wars It was the 12th highest-grossing film of 1988 in the – but was still a success, grossing $137 million worldwide. It also had a long and attractive shelf-life on home video. (Howard, meanwhile, has gotten his own crack star wars universe when he replaced co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller in 2018. Solo: A Star Wars Story,

Also called one season sequel series willowlaunched on Disney+ in 2022, with Davis returning in the role and Howard serving as an executive producer.