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Let’s say that you were handed the keys to the kingdom of a rejuvenated Star Wars. You signed on to direct the first chapter of a planned trilogy, but you knew that several more movies were on the docket, including the conclusion to a trilogy you were starting, as well as several spinoff movies. Would you be able to stop at just one movie, or would your creative curiosity get the better of you?
J.J. Abrams, it seems, will show the resolve of a Jedi by passing the baton to the next wave of Star Wars directors and not looking back. After helming December’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Abrams tells EW in a revealing interview that he will become the equivalent of a Ghost Obi-Wan and watch over the franchise from a safe distance, passing on the opportunity to return to the series for the as-yet-untitled Star Wars: Episode IX. Abrams explained:
No, I’m not going to direct Episode IX, as much as I am deeply envious of anyone who gets to work with this group of people on the future movies. … It’s a thrill to see [Johnson] take things and elevate them beyond what we had imagined at the time."
J.J. Abrams is referring to Looper and Brick director Rian Johnson, who is busy mapping out the destinations of Star Wars: Episode VIII, due in theaters on May 26, 2017. There were a number of unconfirmed reports that Johnson was writing both episodes VIII and IX at the same time, with an eye toward possibly directing the end of the trilogy. In addition, Colin Trevorrow’s name has been bandied about after the overwhelming success of Jurassic World, but we weren’t sure if that was for Star Wars: Episode IX, or for the standalone spinoff movie that Josh Trank exited.
All that we know, for certain, is that Abrams is at the forefront of an exciting pack of filmmakers who all of a sudden have been invited to play in this massive (and still growing) Star Wars sandbox. Abrams and Johnson are joined by Gareth Edwards – who is helming Star Wars: Rogue One -- as well as co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who have been tapped to direct a "Young" Han Solo film for 2018. Someone’s expected to fill in for Trank… though it won’t be Abrams, who says he’s comfortable in his Godfather role.
Do you know what can change his mind? Money. Namely, if The Force Awakens earns as much as everyone expects it to earn, and J.J. Abrams is anointed the savior of the franchise, you can bet that Disney will back the truck up to his driveway and unload mounds of cash to get him to come back and complete his story. But for now, the future of Abrams’ direct involvement in Star Wars ends with The Force Awakens, and he’ll oversee from a safe distance after that.