According to Deadline, in a “bombshell” move by Disney and Lucasfilm, Rian Johnson will write and direct Star Wars: Episode VIII. He will also write a treatment for Episode IX, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The announcement is a bit surprising, considering many of us assumed J.J. Abrams would continue (in some capacity) on the next two films. Though not much else is known, Deadline says, “it is in keeping with Disney and Lucasfilm’s strategy of entrusting the venerable franchise to the best and brightest writers and directors…” Johnson certainly fits that description: his debut indie-film Brick was a critical breakthrough, but it wasn’t until his daring and acclaimed Looper, the time-travel action film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, that Johnson crept onto the mainstream map.
As we have discussed in more detail, Disney’s and Lucasfilm’s choices of writers and directors for both the films in the new trilogy and the stand-alone films are indeed impressive. Abrams seemed to be a perfect choice for Star Wars: Episode VII, having created and executive produced the hit television series Lost and directed the two recent Star Trek films. Garreth Edwards and Josh Trank, both hired to direct the two stand-alone films, also seem promising choices. Edwards just came off the monolithic success of Godzilla, but he first came to prominence with the indie hit Monsters. Trank found critical and box-office success with his debut Chronicle, a cautionary tale about super-powered teenagers.
In an interview with Indiewire two years ago (during the theatrical run of Looper) Johnson expressed that he wanted to continue pursuing original films instead of adaptations (he also directed a few episodes of Breaking Bad). Although a new Star Wars isn’t, striclty speaking, an adaptation, the expectations that come with the property certainly push it outside the purely “original” territory. Apparently the chance to direct an installment in one of the most endearing film series of all time was too tempting. As excited as we are for Johnson, he posted only this on his Twitter feed:
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) June 20, 2014
We have faith in you, Rian.
Star Wars: Episode VII is scheduled for release on December 18, 2015—in spite of Harrison Ford’s broken leg.