Star Wars: Episode 9 was originally set to be directed by Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow. However, Disney fired him over creative differences, and not long after, the company hired The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams to come in and finish the trilogy that he started years prior.
In a new interview, Abrams recalled being pitched on coming back to direct Episode 9–and his initial response was no. He told Fast Company that he had some trepidation over returning because “it was almost, on a personal level, a dangerous thing to get too close to something that you care that much about.”
With The Force Awakens, Abrams was happy with creating new characters and building a new story as the foundation for the new trilogy. It felt like playing with fire to come back to direct another Star Wars film, Abrams recalled.
“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,” Abrams said. “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?”
Abrams literally said, “No,” to Kennedy at one point, but his wife, Katie, convinced him.
“I think that she felt like it was an opportunity to bring to a close this story that we had begun and had continued, of course,” he said. “And I could see that even though the last thing on my mind was going away and jumping back into that, especially with the time constraints that we were faced with.”
According to Abrams, there was no script for Episode 9 when he came aboard, which suggests the version Trevorrow was working on was thrown out. He had the challenging job of creating a script and getting the movie made in a two-year window to hit the December 2019 release window that Disney wanted.
“You’ve got two years from the decision to do it to release, and you have literally nothing … You don’t have the story, you don’t have the cast, you don’t have the designers, the sets,” Abrams said. “There was a crew, and there were things that will be worked on for the version that preceded ours, but this was starting over.”
Because it was such a “mega job,” Abrams said he knew he wanted to bring on a co-writer. He ended up hiring Chris Terrio, who won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Ben Affleck’s Best Picture winner Argo.
One possible benefit of having less time to work on a project is that there is little time to overthink, Abrams said. He said he learned that working on Lost, which he and the team had just 12 weeks to write, cast, shoot, and cut for the pilot episode.
“Truly, finally–now that I’m back, the difference is I feel like we might’ve done it,” Abrams said about Episode 9. “Like, I actually feel like this crazy challenge that could have been a wildly uncomfortable contortion of ideas, and a kind of shoving-in of answers and Band-Aids and bridges and things that would have felt messy. Strangely, we were sort of relentless and almost unbearably disciplined about the story and forcing ourselves to question and answer some fundamental things that at the beginning, I absolutely had no clue how we would begin to address.”
Now that it’s done, Abrams said he thinks Episode 9 will be “something incredibly special.”
“I feel like we’ve gotten to a place–without jinxing anything or sounding more confident than I deserve to be–I feel like we’re in a place where we might have something incredibly special. So I feel relief being home, and I feel gratitude that I got to do it. And more than anything, I’m excited about what I think we might have.”
The full Fast Company interview is incredibly in-depth and fascinating; read it here.
Episode 9, or whatever the film ends up being officially titled, hits theatres in December. In other news, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson recently said he wouldn’t be bothered if Abrams decides to retcon Rey’s parentage.
And in Star Wars video game news, Apex Legends developer Respawn is planning to reveal its new Star Wars game, Jedi Fallen Order, at Star Wars Celebration this weekend.