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Directors were once the kings of Hollywood, but in the age of the franchise, they’re increasingly interchangeable

Film has long been considered a director’s medium, with cinematic auteurs presiding over movie sets like gods. But as high-profile filmmakers are being replaced on big-budget projects with increasing regularity, some say film is fast becoming more of a board-of-directors’ medium, especially in the critical realm of the franchise.

This new reality was underscored last week when Colin Trevorrow was suddenly dropped from “Star Wars: Episode IX” because of creative differences; on Tuesday, Lucasfilm announced that J.J. Abrams, who directed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” would take the helm.

There was a time when the replacement of someone like Trevorrow – handpicked by Steven Spielberg to direct 2015’s “Jurassic World,” a $1.67-billion-grossing hit – would have been earth-shattering news. But Lucasfilm currently has one of the highest divorce rates in the industry. In the past two years, co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were ejected from an upcoming film about Han Solo already deep into production; Tony Gilroy was reportedly brought in to assist with extensive reshoots on Gareth Edwards’ “Rogue One” and Josh Trank fell out of his planned “Star Wars” spinoff.

As Armando Iannucci wryly observed while introducing his dark comedy “The Death of Stalin” at the Toronto Film Festival, being a director on a “Star Wars” movie evokes the unnerving uncertainty that followed the Soviet dictator’s death: “You just don’t know from day to day what’s going to happen to you.”

Edgar Wright, Patty Jenkins, Michelle MacLaren, Tim Miller, Ben Affleck, Seth Grahame-Smith, Rick Famuyiwa and Cary Fukunaga, have either walked away or been ousted from highly anticipated films at varying stages of development, most citing “creative

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