Star Wars: Episode VIII and Episode IX will not be written and directed by Episode VII director J.J. Abrams.
Deadline is reporting that director Rian Johnson will write and direct Star Wars: Episode VIII and Episode IX. The Wrap has added that the Looper director will write both movies but will only direct Episode VIII.
Update: Screen Crush has spoken to Johnson’s publicist who has confirmed that Johnson will be writing and directing Episode VIII but only writing Episode IX, like the report from The Wrap said.
Lucasfilm could be set to confirm what Johnson’s involvement exactly is at any point, and we’ll update this as more information comes in.
Johnson himself has given a semi-official statement on Twitter by way of a clip from The Right Stuff:
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) June 20, 2014
Johnson is best known for directing Looper, a 2012 science fiction, time travel film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt. The film was well received by critics and audiences alike. It holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and made $176.5 million on a $66.5 million budget.
Looper proved to a wide audience that Johnson is a person who gets sci-fi, and having him direct a Star Wars movie makes perfect sense. He’s also not the big name that J.J. Abrams is, and picking someone based on their skill to make interesting movies is a good thing to see in this huge franchise.
Apart from writing and directing two other movies titled The Brothers Bloom and Brick, Johnson is also well known for directing a few Breaking Bad episodes. Johnson directed the highly debated season 3, episode 10 episode “Fly” as well as two season 5 episodes, episode 4, titled “Fifty-One” and episode 14 titled “Ozymandias,” the only episode from the series to have a perfect “10” rating on IMDB.
It’s not yet known whether J.J. Abrams decided not to direct Episode VIII (and Episode IX) himself or if Disney and Lucasfilm decided to go in a different direction. There have been some rumblings that prior to filming itself Disney was frustrated with the ways Abrams was running things, but to speculate on whether they replaced him or not would be futile.
The past month saw the announcements of two other Star Wars directors. Godzilla director Gareth Edwards and Chronicle director Josh Trank will direct two of the standalone Star Wars films that will come in between the new episodes. The subjects of these films have not yet been revealed.