From the 2003 Christmas comedy “Elf” to Disney’s live-action “The Jungle Book” and “The Lion King” to the “Iron Man” series, there are few actors and filmmakers who have successfully navigated the current cinematic environment like Jon Favreau.
Favreau’s latest project is a testament to that. Released with the launch of Disney+ this week, “The Mandalorian,” written and executive produced by Favreau, is the first live-action “Star Wars” TV series ever.
Taking place five years after “Return of the Jedi,” between the fall of the Galactic Empire and the emergence of the First Order, it follows the interplanetary adventures of a mysterious bounty hunter similar in some ways to the Mandalorian clone of Jango Fett, Boba Fett, who died in “Return of the Jedi.”
“A Mandalorian is alluded to in the original films that I grew up with,” Favreau said, referring to Boba Fett. “He was a bounty hunter and he wore Mandalorian armor. There was such a fascination with that character even though he didn’t do much in the films.”
Favreau’s Mandalorian, portrayed by “Game of Thrones’” Pedro Pascal, is one who visits the forgotten towns on the edge of civilization, therefore touching on the cinematic influences first seen in “Star Wars” creator George Lucas’ original films.
“I like the image of the Mandalorian because it really hearkened back to the Westerns and samurai films that had originally influenced Lucas,” Favreau said. “It’s a deconstructed version of Clint Eastwood in ‘The Man with No Name.’ That’s a great, mysterious, fun character to see the world through.”
With a mysterious character, Favreau is limited in the amount of detail he can divulge up front. The Mandalorian is a man of few words hidden behind a mask for the entirety of the first episode, and the only details about his life beforehand are seen in short flashbacks lasting only a few seconds. This limitation, however, pushes Favreau to get creative.
“You’re limited as far as what you could present… But on the other hand, you also have…this powerful [“Star Wars”] imagery that…has been established worldwide. We understand what those things are, and when you put those images together with the right music and the right camera work and the right story, it all of a sudden resonates very deeply.”
Like “Star Wars,” Favreau said he is passionate about all the projects he has undertaken, and that’s why he thinks he’s been able to work on some of the biggest ones. For all of those projects, he said he’s felt “a personal connection and responsibility to.”
Favreau said his tonal inspiration for making films might have come from a young age. His mother died when he was 12 years old — around the same time, he said, that he was watching films that would begin with themes of loneliness and sadness and “then a sense of community and love and togetherness takes over.” These themes, he said, are likely the throughline in his films.
“There’s nothing like a movie…or a story to help make you feel that there’s a path to all of this — that makes sense,” Favreau said. “I’m drawn to material that reinforces that.”
With “The Mandalorian,” Favreau will be able to draw those feelings out over a longer period. Unlike other streaming services that release entire seasons at once, new episodes of “The Mandalorian” will be released weekly.
“I was very pleased to hear that for this particular project,” Favreau said. “So we get to have revelations, cliffhangers, adventures [and] things that feel more in tune with what influenced George in making ‘Star Wars.’”
Ultimately, Favreau just wants everyone to have a good time watching the latest installment in the “Star Wars” franchise.
“We’ve grown up in this 40 years of the saga, and we all are working on it because we love it,” he said. “And so, the pressure I feel is more to the audience that I want to make sure that I’m throwing a good party for them.”
The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of Disney+, Lucas Films and ABC News.