In Depth

Star Wars 9 has a script, says JJ Abrams - but what will it be called?

Director says the film is ahead of schedule and expected to begin shooting at the end of July.

Star Wars director JJ Abrams has confirmed that Episode 9 is running ahead of schedule with a script that will be ready for filming this summer.

“Sometimes having the script in advance is something I haven’t always been lucky enough to have,” he said in an interview with US talk show host Stephen Colbert. “But I’m writing this with Chris Terrio, who’s a genius, and I’m having a great time.”

The not-yet-named film is expected to begin shooting at the end of July.

Abrams is returning to the Star Wars franchise after previously directing The Force Awakens. As well as with directing, he is co-writing the film with Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio.

Lucasfilm announced in September 2017 that Abrams would be directing the final installment of the current trilogy, replacing Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow.

“Being back for Episode 9 is as surreal as it gets and really exciting,” Abrams added.

The film is expected to pick up where last year’s The Last Jedi left off, with actors Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, and Oscar Isaac all set to reprise their roles.

Episode 9 was originally slated for release on 24 May, but production issues during autumn 2017 pushed the film’s schedule back by six months. Its current release date is 20 December 2019.

6 September

Star Wars 9: Fans divided as JJ Abrams returns

Not all Star Wars fans are happy at the news that JJ Abrams has been drafted in to write and direct the final instalment of the franchise after Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow parted ways with Disney last month.

Under Abrams’ direction, 2015’s The Force Awakens, the seventh film in Star Wars’ Skywalker saga, became the third highest grossing film ever made.  But NME reports that “despite its success and positive reviews” some fans have launched a petition calling for the filmmaker to be replaced. 

Matt Vela, who set up the petition, argues Abrams’ direction of The Force Awakens resulted in a film that was too similar to Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope.

“There was virtually no creativity,” he writes, “and no risks taken.”

He argues that Lucasfilm and Disney had promised a new director for every film “to promote a fresh new vision on every instalment”.

“Therefore, to prevent Star Wars Episode 9 from becoming yet another rip off of the original trilogy (specifically, a rip off of Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi), and for the good of the Star Wars brand, we demand that [Lucasfilm President] Kathleen Kennedy replace JJ Abrams as director of the upcoming Episode 9 film” he said.

Lucasfilm have yet to respond to the petition although Kennedy has backed Abrams saying: “With The Force Awakens, JJ delivered everything we could have possibly hoped for, and I am so excited that he is coming back to close out this trilogy”.

Abrams’ involvement “isn’t exactly the most inspiring choice, especially when so many were hoping for a female director to take the reins, but it may be exactly what fans are wanting to reassure any concerns Lucasfilm are in an unstable position”, says The Independent.

It follows a number of bust-ups between producers and directors, with Trevorrow’s departure coming soon after the directors of the Han Solo film, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired over disagreements about the movie’s tone. Godzilla’s Gareth Edwards was also reportedly sidelined during the filming of Rogue One while Josh Trank was dropped from a Star Wars anthology film.

For his part, Abrams appears to have been reluctant to return to the franchise following his successful outing first time round. After the release of The Force Awakens, Abrams was said to be done with Star Wars, despite admitting he wish he’d stayed on for The Last Jedi after reading the script.

Yet it appears that despite his reservations, guarantees from the film’s producers and a huge payout, reported by the Daily Express to be “at least seven figures”, persuaded him to return.

As for Lucasfilm, by re-appointing Abrams “it’s clear they will do anything to make sure the giant machine that is Star Wars stays firmly on track”, says the Independent.

Filming on the as-yet unnamed film is due to begin next summer, with a preliminary release date pencilled in for 20 December 2019.

6 September

Jurassic World's Colin Trevorrow becomes fourth director to fall out with Lucasfilm

The director of Star Wars: Episode 9 has quit after a falling out with the film's producers, making him the fourth director to leave the franchise prematurely.

Colin Trevorrow, who is best known as the director of Jurassic World, said he was quitting the film, which is expected to star Daisy Ridley and John Boyega and has a tentative release date of May 2019, because he and Lucasfilm have different "visions" for the project.

A statement released on the Star Wars website said Lucasfilm and Trevorrow "have mutually chosen to part ways" adding "Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process, but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ".

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the main source of friction between the two sides was over the script, with Trevorrow being made to rewrite it several times, however,"it's fair to say that a lot of people have been wondering if this was in the cards since his latest film The Book of Henry was slaughtered by critics earlier this summer".

British writer Jack Throne, who wrote the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is reported to have been drafted in to work on the screenplay.

Lucasfilm has "a reputation for ruthlessness" when it comes to hiring and firing directors says the BBC. In 2015, Fantastic Four's Josh Trank was dropped from directing a standalone Star Wars story and only three months ago veteran director Ron Howard took over the Han Solo spin-off film after its previous directors were pushed out.

"There’s no question this looks like a crisis, both for Lucasfilm and its parent studio Disney", says Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph. Blame must lie squarely with the Lucasfilm Story Group he said, "an in-house committee responsible for working out where Star Wars goes next and exactly how it gets there, which has decided it doesn’t want to bring a wide range of contrasting voices and filmmaking styles to the Star Wars universe after all".

The search is now on for a replacement with Deadline reporting that Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson currently topping the list. The Looper director "fit seamlessly into the Lucasfilm machine, which is no small feat given the number of star directors who've been chewed up and spat out under the 'creative differences' line in exiting Star Wars movies" says the Hollywood gossip site.

Rumours that JJ Abrams, who directed the The Force Awakens, could step in were quashed by the The Wrap's reporter Umberto Gonzalez.

"Certainly, Lucasfilm will now be soberly reflecting on what they’ll look for in a director in future" says Collin and after their experiences hiring and firing young up-and-coming talent it could be that they come to the conclusion "experienced, arguably boring safe pairs of hands are the best people to do it".

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