Here’s Why J.J. Abrams Almost Turned Down Directing Star Wars: Episode IX


Back when J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens hit cinemas, Disney spelt out their plans for their Sequel Trilogy. Episodes VIII and IX were set to be directed by two well-regarded young talents who’d proven their worth in indie cinema. Rian Johnson had directed the excellent Brick and would go on to prove his blockbuster credentials with Looper, while Colin Trevorrow had directed oddball comedy Safety Not Guaranteed and mega-hit revival Jurassic World.

It sounded like a pretty ironclad plan… and then Trevorrow decided to squeeze in a little passion project before entering pre-production on Star Wars: Episode IX. That was The Book of Henry, a film so incredibly terrible that it got him quickly and unceremoniously fired.

Disney and Lucasfilm needed a replacement fast, and there was one obvious candidate: J.J. Abrams. Having stewarded the return of the franchise, he’d proven his credentials, but the only problem was that he didn’t think taking the job would be such a great idea. Speaking in a new interview with Fast Company he explained his doubts as so:

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.” 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?

And there was a moment when I literally said, “No,” and Katie  said, “You should do this.” And my first thought was, has she met someone? And then I thought, she’s usually right about stuff. And when she said it, I think that she felt like it was an opportunity to bring to a close this story that we had begun and had continued.

The whole interview is worth reading, and is chock full of insights into Abrams’ working technique and how he realized he really needed hit to the ground running in order to make the film the best it could possibly be. Personally, I’m very glad that he took the job and was slightly relieved when Trevorrow got the boot. Don’t get me wrong, Jurassic World was alright, but I hadn’t seen anything in that that suggested he had a genuine grasp on what makes Star Wars what it is.

Anyways, Star Wars Celebration in Chicago kicks off this Thursday and there’s a special panel dedicated to Star Wars: Episode IX. Smart money says that we’re at least going to finally learn the film’s title, with a possible trailer debut coming, too. As always, watch this space for more.

Source: Fast Company