Though he has a huge amount of creative input into the future of the Star Wars franchise, and though he guided the first installment in the post-Disney buyout era, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’ve known for some time that J.J. Abrams is not going to be back to direct any of the planned upcoming films. He hasn’t really talked much about why, but he recently opened up on the topic, saying that, no matter what, after the first movie would be the perfect time to walk off into the sunset.
Star Wars is the second beloved science fiction franchise that J.J. Abrams has helped bring back to life on the big screen—the other, as you probably guessed, is Star Trek. Talking to Fortune magazine, the filmmaker revealed his reasoning behind not wanting to direct any future Episodes after Star Wars: The Force Awakens, saying:
It was a wonderful way to visit a place that meant so much to me and obviously so many. I knew that if it worked, it was the perfect time to step down – and if it didn’t, no one would want me to do it anyway.
He definitely has a good point. From the beginning, J.J. Abrams has made his fandom of Star Wars well known to anyone who would listen. By directing The Force Awakens, he was able to leave his mark on the space opera franchise that George Lucas started so many years ago. But by walking away when he did, he not only left on a high note, but he also left the door open for others filmmakers to leave put their stamp on a franchise that they love.
And if J.J. Abrams did just get in there and totally screw everything up and enrage the passionate global Star Wars fan base, people would be calling for his head on a spike. If that was the case, there’s no way he’d be back to helm another Episode. There would be riots in the streets.
For his part, J.J. Abrams sounds fairly content with his current role, and is comfortable with the hands holding the reins now. And it isn’t like he’s completely left the Star Wars building. His hand is still very much in the Lucasfilm cookie jar, simply in a different capacity. He continued by saying:
I’m very happy to be where I am. Rian Johnson [who is currently directing Episode Eight] is brilliant and needs no help from me. As executive producer, I’ve been collaborating with them, but they are obviously doing all of the heavy lifting and it’s very exciting to see what’s going on.
So even though J.J. Abrams’ name won’t be the first one to pop up at the end of Star Wars: Episode VIII, as whatever rousing score John Williams whips up next time out swells, you can rest assured that his fingerprints will be all over that bad boy when it hits theaters on December 15, 2017.