Why Rian Johnson Is Being Sued Over Star Wars: Episode 8

Rian Johnson isn’t exactly a household name, to the level of a Steven Spielberg or a Martin Scorsese, but he’s about to receive a jolt of publicity once his name is associated with Star Wars: Episode VIII. But with that attention often comes headaches, such as a new lawsuit Johnson is facing because a former colleague is trying to slice off a piece of the director’s sure-to-be-big Star Wars pie.

With Rian Johnson busy preparing Star Wars: Episode VIII for its December 15, 2017 release date, The Hollywood Reporter reports that Johnson’s former agent, Brian Dreyfuss, is suing the director for a breach of implied contract. Basically, he’s claiming that he is owed 10 percent on commission on “any and all projects he facilitated,” up to and including Star Wars: Episode VIII. The complaint claims that when Johnson brought CAA on in 2011 as a co-agency, it was a calculated movie to shut Dreyfuss out, so he’s taking the director to court to get some of his money.

The main crux of the argument is that Brian Dreyfuss is taking credit for connecting Rian Johnson with Lucasfulm head Kathleen Kennedy, a meeting that eventually led to Johnson being hired to direct Star Wars: Episode VIII. In going after another party in the lawsuit, producer Ram Bergman, Dreyfuss is claiming:

[Dreyfuss] alleges that Bergman used his extensive influence on and over [Rian] Johnson to convince him to forestall any pursuit of the opportunities with Lucasfilm, in particular the Star Wars Projects, until after Johnson terminated [Dreyfuss] as his representative.

The complaint filed by Brian Dreyfuss claims, according to Deadline, that the two worked closely during the early stages of the director’s career. Dreyfuss reportedly even had his father invest $35,000 into Johnson’s first film Brick, a brilliant film noir detective story starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a high schooler trying to solve a mysterious crime.  

Rian Johnson undoubtedly has his own side to the story. He fired Dreyfuss at one point, prior to accepting the Star Wars gig, and Dreyfuss likely is just doing the math on what should be 10% of that Lucasfilm paycheck and realizing he wants in on that nest egg. Now it’s up to the courts to decide if Brian Dreyfuss has enough of an argument to make a legal case.

In the meantime, Rian Johnson will continue to toil away on Star Wars: Episode VIII, which is expected to continue the storyline that J.J. Abrams started in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As mentioned, it will be in theaters in December 2017

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.