How Ava DuVernay Helped Victoria Mahoney Become The First Female ‘Star Wars’ Director

Victoria Mahoney will go down as the first female director in Star Wars history, but she didn’t get to this historic spot alone.

In a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Mahoney, the second unit director for The Rise of Skywalker wrote about her ascension into the Star Wars annals of history, writing how Ava DuVernay helped her to secure the spot.

“It’s no secret to my peer group [that] I’d been trying to break into the studio-franchise realm for 10 years. Begging to simply get a meeting. Nada. Zilch. Nunca,” she wrote.

She shared that when it came to The Rise of Skywalker, director J.J. Abrams reached out beyond the usual suspects to find someone to share the helm with him. That search led to a call with DuVernay.

“…After numerous, widely circulated, almost identical lists of directors had landed on his desk, he decided to do outreach calls of his own,” wrote Mahoney. “When he phoned Ava DuVernay for her list, she said, ‘I happen to have a great list, J.J., but I’m not giving it to you. I’m giving you one name and one name only: Victoria Mahoney.”

“In Hollywood’s four decades of making top-tier franchise films, no one other than J.J. has stepped out of traditional hiring practices to take a risk on an outlier like me to helm their second unit,” she continued. “Mind-blowing, right? Not one other filmmaker, producer or studio before him. Equally disturbing: No one else in that position of power has since.”

She also wrote about the joy she felt when she finally got to the set, seeing an entire ship being built.

“..I see J.J. in my periphery, smiling as big and full as me. I’m delighted–and relieved not to have to hide that I’ve been dreaming of this moment and the higher stakes of the day-to-day directing on a massive franchise,” she wrote.

Black Star Wars fans are also delighted and relieved to have more representation behind the scenes as well as the representation in front of the camera from John Boyega, Naomi Ackie, Billy Dee Williams and the voice of Lupita Nyong’o.

With Mahoney paving the way for female directors of color with Star Wars, let’s hope she’s the first of many more directors to come. As she herself wrote in her column, “…young filmmakers…began stopping me at airports, coffee shops and restaurants. All of them were eager to share their affinity for sci-fi and how teachers have tried to talk them out of the genre because studio hiring practices still remain traditional for big-budget franchises–suggesting that they might never be employed. But having chanced upon a photo of me and J.J., they think, ‘He hired her. She exists in that realm. So can I.’”

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