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So far, the cast of The Last Jedi generally has nothing but good things to say about Rian Johnson, which raises the question of why he was not immediately brought onboard to replace Colin Trevorrow when the vacancy opened up on Episode IX. We sat down with Johnson at the Last Jedi press junket in Los Angeles this weekend, and he explained that he never considered directing the final entry in the current trilogy because the plan was always to hand off the current story to focus on his new trio of Star Wars films. Johnson told us:
The hiring of Rian Johnson for Episode IX arguably seemed like a logical step when Colin Trevorrow dropped out of the project earlier this summer. During that hectic period, numerous rumors swirled about the status of the project and the various directors who could enter the equation to take over, including one story suggesting that Rian Johnson specifically turned the job down. However, Johnson's comments to CinemaBlend seem to put those ideas to bed, as he has confirmed that he never entertained the possibility of rounding out this trilogy, and he always planned on handing it off to someone else. The only thing that has changed is the fact that The Force Awakens helmer J.J. Abrams is now the one to cap off the story.
This also makes sense when we look at the sheer magnitude of what Rian Johnson has waiting for him beyond his work on Episode VIII. After The Last Jedi, he will go in on an entirely new trilogy for the Star Wars franchise, which will tell a brand new story about a brand new ensemble of characters. Developing this story will likely take quite a bit of time and effort on Johnson's part, so handing Episode IX to J.J. Abrams and allowing the Looper director to handle his new story will go a long way towards freeing up the mental and physical energy to get it right.
Check out a clip from our interview with Rian Johnson below to hear what The Last Jedi director had to say about the possibility of directing Episode IX!
In the long run, this could turn into a massive benefit for the Star Wars franchise as a whole. The series has had some trouble hanging onto directors in recent months, and the departures of Phil Lord and Chris Miller from Solo: A Star Wars Story, as well as the aforementioned exit of Colin Trevorrow (and Josh Trank before him), highlight how drama-free Rian Johnson's tenure has felt. He's not directing Episode IX, and that's because there's a more substantial job for him to do over the next few years.