J.J. Abrams Nearly Said ‘No’ To Working On Star Wars Episode IX

Daisy Ridley and John Boyega in Star Wars; The Force Awakens

J.J. Abrams took on a herculean task when he agreed to write and direct the first new Star Wars movies in years with The Force Awakens. While the movie certainly has its detractors, it was largely viewed as a success, and it certainly was at the box office, where it became one of the highest grossing films of all time.

In addition to being the creative force behind the first film, Abrams has remained part of the new Star Wars universe as a producer, but that doesn't mean he was ready to just jump in to direct Star Wars Episode IX. Abrams admits that when Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy asked him to take on writing and directing duties, he very nearly turned the job down...

I wasn’t supposed to be there. I wasn’t the guy, ya’ know? I was working on some other things, and I had something else that I was assuming would be the next project, if we’d be so lucky. And then Kathy Kennedy called and said, “Would you really, seriously, consider coming aboard?” And once that started, it all happened pretty quickly. The whole thing was a crazy leap of faith. And there was an actual moment when I nearly said, ‘No, I’m not going to do this.’

J.J. Abrams has a lot on his plate. As a writer, director, and especially a producer, he has numerous film and television projects rolling at any one time. Adding something like a Star Wars movie is certainly going to throw a wrench in those works in a big way. However, it seems that it wasn't simply the fact that Abrams had something else he thought he would be working on that caused him to hesitate.

Instead, the major reason J.J. Abrams almost turned down Star Wars Episode IX was because he was so happy with the way that Star Wars: The Force Awakens turned out. As a major Star Wars fan himself, Abrams was incredibly nervous that the first film wouldn't work, and he largely feels that the movie succeeded. He was proud of his work and proud that he got to make a Star Wars movie. He tells Fast Company that he felt trying to do it all again would be tempting fate...

I was trepidatious to begin with, getting involved, because I love Star Wars so much and felt like it was... It was almost, on a personal level, a dangerous thing to get too close to something that you care that much about. And yet, with Force Awakens, I feel like we managed to introduce these new characters—for some people, new actors—and continue a story in a way that I thought had heart and humanity and humor and surprise. Though of course I’m aware that there are critics of that movie, it felt to me like we dodged a bullet. Like we got in there, we got to do something. And I left loving Star Wars as much as I did when I got there. Like, somehow, it was on a personal, selfish level something I was really happy to have done. Not just excited about doing but happy to have done. And to ask to have that happen again, I felt a little bit like I was playing with fire. Like, why go back? We managed to make it work. What the hell am I thinking?

Originally, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow had been tapped to write and direct Star Wars: Episode IX. However, in the fall of 2017, it was announced that Trevorrow and Lucasfilm had different visions for the conclusion of the trilogy, and therefore had decided to part ways. Rumors have indicated that Lucasfilm didn't like Trevorrow's script.

This meant that Star Wars Episode IX had to go from zero, with no script, to completely finished in a little over two years. The release date of Episode IX was originally going to be the summer of 2019, but it was pushed back to December around the same time Abrams was brought on board. This was another reason that the director was hesitant about taking the job. There was so much work to be done in a finite amount of time.

Part of Abrams solution to the problem was to get help, specifically, he called Chris Terrio to ask if the Justice League writer would be interested in co-writing Episode IX with him. Terrio was quite excited to get on board, which helped J.J. Abrams in an unexpected way. According to the director...

And what I realized in that moment was, I hadn’t been aware until then that I needed to work with someone who would scream at the prospect of working on Star Wars. Because I had been through the process, and I was looking at brass tacks: This is what it’s going to take, this is the reality of it. And he was looking at it sort of childlike: Oh my God, I can’t believe we get to play in this world, which I needed to be reminded of. I needed that point of view, because that’s not where I was. Of course, I was excited about what we could do, but I was acutely aware of how little time we had to do a fairly enormous job.

And yet, an enormous job is exactly what J.J. Abrams agreed to undertake. Star Wars Episode IX is in post-production as we speak and we sit here on the eve of Star Wars Celebration, where we expect to finally begin to learn a few details about the story. The first trailer, which will almost certainly include the full title, will probably drop then, and we'll finally get a look at everything J.J. Abrams has been working on for the last two years.

Abrams was happy with the way he brought Star Wars back and launched this new trilogy. Now he has the equally massive, if not even bigger task, of ending the trilogy in a satisfying way. We'll see if he truly stuck the landing when Star Wars Episode IX arrives in December.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.