Subscribe To What Really Happened When Ron Howard Turned Down Directing Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Updates
Ron Howard has previously spoken about how he was given a chance to direct Star Wars: Episode I back in the day, but now the Solo director has felt a need to clarify the situation. Howard says that while he did have a conversation about directing the first of the then new trilogy with George Lucas, it was at about the most informal level possible. It actually was a conversation in a parking lot. According to Howard...
Ron Howard revealed a couple years back that when George Lucas was originally working on the prequel trilogy, he wasn't necessarily looking to direct them himself. He had apparently spoken with both Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis before broaching the topic with Howard. While the director had not previously revealed the degree of casualness to the conversation that he does with Total Film, it does fit with his earlier comments that all three directors had told Lucas in fairly short order that he, Lucas, should be the one to direct the films. Even if Ron Howard had expressed some interest, it's possible it would never have happened, as he then would have had to actually read a script and consider the situation. He wasn't so much offered the movie as he was offered the option to consider it, but it never went beyond that.
At the time, there had only been the original trilogy, and the entire Star Wars universe had only come from the mind of George Lucas. It was likely this reason that Ron Howard didn't even consider taking on directing duties of The Phantom Menace. It was all George's creation and there was really nobody more qualified to direct the films than him.
However, Star Wars is in a very different place now. Lots of different people are writing and directing films, which means the galaxy far, far, away is a bit more accessible to people other than George Lucas. So when Kathleen Kennedy came to Ron Howard this time and asked him not only to direct a Star Wars movie, but take over the direction of Solo: A Star Wars Story from a pair of directors who had already started filming, he was much more open to the suggestion.
Assuming that the other directors that George Lucas spoke to turned him down in a similar fashion, there never really was a chance that anybody else was going to direct the Star Wars prequels. Do with this information what you will.