He said Star Wars creator George Lucas approached him about series. “He didn’t necessarily want to direct them, and he told me that he had talked to [Robert] Zemeckis, he talked to me, he talked to Steven Spielberg. I was the third one he spoke to.” In each case, they all told Lucas the same thing: “George, you should just do it!”
While Howard sat in the director’s chair for Willow, a project masterminded by Lucas, he appeared to never actually consider taking on the Star Wars assignment. “I don’t think anybody wanted to follow up that act at the time,” he said. “It was an honor, but it would’ve been too daunting.” Prior to its release in 1999, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was the most anticipated movie continuation of all time. Who could blame a filmmaker for not wanting to take on that level of anticipation? Howard even mentions Lucas was wary of it himself.
Of course, in that land of what-ifs and almost-weres, where Alejandro Jodorowsky made Dune and David Lynch made Return of the Jedi, it’s possible Ron Howard’s Phantom Menace is warmly regard. Or, perhaps, the prequels were never the Star Wars movies the fans craved.