News and Analysis

Who Is Disney’s New ‘Star Wars’ Director, The ‘Queen Of Raunch Comedy’?
Leslye Headland attends the studio panel at Star Wars Celebration 2023 in London at ExCel on April 07, 2023 in London, England.
Photo by Jeff Spicer/Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney

Disney’s new “Star Wars” showrunner Leslye Headland has been raising eyebrows with her latest comments about her upcoming female-centric, Sith-focused series.

So, we took a deep dive into her past projects and the comments she’s made over the years to get an idea about the woman described as the “Queen of Raunch Comedy.”

Harvey Weinstein And The Seven Deadly Sins

Early in her career, Headland worked under disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein as his assistant for one year during her time at Miramax.

In 2012, Headland said that Weinstein influenced her “raunchy female comedy” “Bachelorette,” which was first a play and later her debut film, The Hollywood Reporter reported. It was part of her Seven Deadly Sins play series, this one dealing with gluttony.

Next, she developed another part of her sins play series called “Assistance,” this one dealing with greed, THR noted. Later, she did “Cult of Love,” Stage Scene LA reported, where she takes aim at the sin of pride, “particularly that of self-proclaimed ‘Christians’ who would counsel praying away the gay, blame a couple’s miscarriage on their godlessness, and refuse antidepressants the better to keep on hearing voices straight from the Big Guy himself,” the outlet noted.

IMDB. Leslye Headland in Sleeping with Other People (2015).

IMDB. Leslye Headland

In 2018, Headland talked to the American Theater about her series and the seven deadly sins. I think they’re just normal,” Headland said. “They’re what comes along with the baggage of being alive and sentient.”

She also told the Theater in 2018 that she was “shocked” Weinstein was taken down and “so emboldened by the chorus of voices that brought him down.”

“When someone is screaming at you, and a whole bunch of grown men are in the same room and don’t do anything, that tells you something right away about what kind of danger you may or may not be in,” Headland said. “You’re like, ‘Oh, no one is going to stop this person. The only person that is going to make sure I don’t come to harm is me.'”

From Plays To Movies

Rolling Stone magazine took their interview with Headland to a whole new level, naming her “New Queen of Raunch Comedy” in 2015 following the release of her raunchcom “Sleeping With Other People.”

The film deals with one of Headland’s favorite themes, “sex addiction,” TV Overmind noted. In one scene, actor Jason Sudeikis demonstrated sex acts in explicit detail.

Headland told Rolling Stone that men “… have no idea what’s going down there. Just, zero clue. I have a chart of the vagina in my house, and when a male friend saw it, he said, ‘Wow…this just looks like something I’m going to fail at!’ I don’t get the mystery. It’s not a boogeyman.”

In 2015, Paste interviewed Headland about the movie and going from plays to the big screen.

“I meant to make these very important pieces of work, and then everyone was just losing their mind laughing about the whole b***-j** monologue or the bottle scene,” the new “Star Wars” creator said. “I guess there’s just something important behind making people laugh about the things that are really, truly painful.”

She also admitted she’s always been a provocateur since she was young and is still today with her plays, films, and series.

“I am that provocateur that I was when I was a little kid … I’m much more interested in ‘What am I not allowed to say? What is the thing that we aren’t talking about in a mainstream space?'” Headland said. “And why not?”

LGBTQ Infused

In 2021, Headland talked with AV Club about LGBTQ representation in films. She said, “as somebody that is a lesbian, every time I see gay or queer representation in the media, I scream with happiness. There is just nothing like seeing that out in the world.”

“To have the power, when you’re creating media, to just put in certain types of people that maybe aren’t necessarily in normal mainstream content or media is just…” she added. “I know that for people who don’t identify that way, it doesn’t seem that important, but to us, it’s huge.”

Basically, if Headland is involved in a project, whether it be on stage, the small or the big screen, it will include LGBTQ references.

Representation In New “Star Wars: The Acolyte”

In 2021, Headland spoke to the Advocate about having representation on “The Acolyte,” series on screen and behind the scenes.

“You can expect some sort of expression of my own artistic dream and just my voice and what it looks like in that universe, for sure,” the SW creator said, “But I also think that representation both on screen and behind the screen, it’s just so important.”

She said with her new series she fully “intends to allow her own personal experiences as a queer woman shine through in the finished product.”

“In the same way that the original ‘Star Wars’ film, ‘A New Hope,’ is about a young man living in Modesto, California, who doesn’t want to take over his dad’s hardware store,” Headland said. “There’s just no way that me being a queer woman is not going to be reflected in my work. I could try not to do it, but why would I? It just feels like a natural extension of what I do.”

She also talked about the characters in her stories and made it clear they will all be queer, in some way.

“I think that because storytelling, at its core, is always going to come down to either the personal or emotional through-line to your characters, your identity is important,” Headland said. “And like I said, mine is just going to be in my work, whether I’m explicitly dealing with it or not, it’s always going to be there.”

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly she also promised that “Star Wars” fans will “see more morally ambiguous characters than you’ve seen in other Star Wars content.”

LGBTQ representation also includes who she’s hired to work on the new series, PinkNews reported.

Transgender actor Abigail Thorn, a biological male who identifies as a woman, was hired for the role of Ensign Eurus and Jen Richards is one of the writers.

Not to mention Headland, a lesbian, is helming the series with wife Rebecca Henderson starring in it as a “Jedi knight prodigy,” Pink News noted.

Gay, non-binary star, Amandla Stenberg, stars in the show, as does Charlie Barnett, an outspoken gay star, the outlet noted.

Disney has faced a backlash at the box office following its push of LGBTQ representation.

Disney Pixar studio, “Elemental,” included a “non-binary” character and the movie had one of the worst openings in the studio’s history, earning $29.5 million at the domestic box office. “Strange World” involved a same-sex teen romance and was a box office flop for the company.

According to Disney+ “The Acolyte” is rated TV-14. Bounding into Comics reported in March 2023, that Headland brought in an intimacy coordinator for part of the show’s production. The outlet reported that the coordinator was used for 8 episodes of the first season.

An intimacy coordinator “is an advocate, a liaison between actors and production, and a movement coach and/or choreographer in regards to nudity and simulated sex and other intimate and hyper-exposed scenes,” according to SAG-AFTRA.

Earlier this month, a video from the 2023 Star Wars Celebration resurfaced in which Headland said the new series will be like the children’s movie “Frozen” which she labeled “coded queer.”

Headland talked about watching “Frozen” as an adult and was captivated by “the concept of true love being between two sisters and not a heterosexual relationship. She said it “inspired” her to create a similar story that her parents would have allowed her to watch when she was a younger “queer” person, as previously reported.

In 2020, Headland spoke to Entertainment Weekly about improving LGBTQ representation in films and promised that “Star Wars” fans will “see more morally ambiguous characters than you’ve seen in other Star Wars content.”

“Russian Doll” And “Dying For Sex”

Headland co-produced a short in 2021 called “Pink and Blue,” about “a Trans couple of color raising their child in a binary world.” She also directed Netflix’s “Russian Doll,” which is filled with references of drugs, sex, and numerous LGBTQ references, Vulture noted. She’s currently directing the FX series called “Dying for Sex” about a woman diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, who abandons her husband of 15 years to explore her sexuality,” Deadline reported.

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