EXCLUSIVE: Deadline hears that Ron Howard has emerged as front-runner to replace Phil Lord & Christopher Miller on the untitled Han Solo Star Wars spinoff film. Disney dropped a shocker this afternoon with the announcement that the duo exited a picture that has been in production since February at London’s Pinewood Studios. This after an inability to recover from creative rifts with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The latter has been mentioned as possible to step in, but I’m putting my money on Howard.

The film stars Alden Ehrenreich playing a younger version of the character originated by Harrison Ford in the original Star Wars trilogy and The Force Awakens. The Han Solo pics also stars Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca).

In Howard, Disney’s getting a pro who can step right in and keep the picture on track for a May 2018 release. He has been busy as ever and recently agreed to direct a feature docu on Luciano Pavarotti while developing numerous features that include an adaptation of the publishing phenomenon of Hillbilly Elegy, but I am hearing that he might well step right in here and keep the Solo film on track.

It’s not the first time Disney has had turbulence in the director’s chair as rumors had writer Tony Gilroy directing the extensive re-shoots on the Gareth Edwards-directed first Star Wars spinoff Rogue One, a film that turned out to be a crowd-pleasing success that crossed the billion-dollar mark in worldwide gross. Trying to confirm with Disney. Howard’s repped by CAA.