Yesterday, Star Wars fans were shocked to learn that Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, who had been tapped to direct Star Wars: Episode IX, was leaving the project. Now, the name of the first possible replacement has emerged. Apparently, the name at the top of the short list is a name that is about to become well known to fans of the franchise, because it's none other than Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson.
Originally, the plan was to see a different director tackle each episode of the new Star Wars trilogy, but it seems that now Lucasfilm is considering going back to the well and asking the man who is currently putting the finishing touches on Episode VIII to just keep going and finish out the story. Deadline says nothing is a done deal, but that Johnson's name is certainly out there.
At this point, it makes a lot of sense that Lucasfilm might look to Rian Johnson simply because he's one of the few directors who seems to function well within the Star Wars machine. Gareth Edwards had to have the reshoots of Rogue One overseen by another director, Phil Lord and Chris Miller left the Han Solo movie in the middle of filming, now Colin Trevorrow exits as well. By contrast, we haven't heard about any issues regarding Rian Johnson's time making Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Everything there seems to have been going smoothly, and after separating with two directors on different projects, Lucasfilm could probably use the confidence of knowing the replacement will work out. If the studio goes with somebody else new, it's taking the risk it could end up with the same problem.
To reinforce the idea that Lucasfilm is looking to go with a safer alternative, one source is reporting that another name on the list of potential replacements is Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams. Abrams is an executive producer on the new trilogy and he also directed the franchises' return to prominence without incident.
Colin Trevorrow's departure from Star Wars: Episode IX is being described as mutual and that the visions for the movie simply don't match up between the director and the studio. While that description is obviously vague and could cover all manner of issues, what is clear here is that making a Star Wars movie is a complicated project. Skill as a director isn't the only thing necessary. One also needs to be able to work with Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm and it seems that isn't so easy to do. While there are certainly others out there who could do it, finding the right person is something Lucasfilm apparently has some difficulty doing, and so the studio may not want to let go of the people it already has.