J.J. Abrams will write and direct Star Wars: Episode IX, but Lucasfilm reportedly offered the job to Rian Johnson first.
On Tuesday, the studio announced that the director of The Force Awakens will return to close out the new Star Wars trilogy following the departure of Colin Trevorrow. This came as a bit of a surprise because The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson was previously reported to be the frontrunner for the job.
Well, according to Deadline, Lucasfilm did indeed want Rian Johnson to return for Episode IX, but he turned them down.
“Rian Johnson decided not to take the offer to come back and replace the recently departed Colin Trevorrow on Star Wars: Episode IX,” Deadline reports.
Over the weekend, Rian Johnson said that he did not currently have any plans to direct Star Wars: Episode IX, though at the time a lot of fans just assumed he was being cautious with his language because he hadn’t yet officially closed a deal.
“It was never in the plan for me to direct Episode IX, so I don’t know what’s going to happen with it…for me, I was entirely focused on Episode VIII and having this experience,” Johnson recently said. “Now I’m just thinking about putting the movie out there and seeing how audiences respond to it. So no, I’m not really thinking about that right now.”
Some fans were also surprised by the news that Rian Johnson will not return for Episode IX because he said on Twitter in July that he would direct another Star Wars movie “in a heartbeat.”
I would do another SW movie in a heartbeat. I've had the time of my life.
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) July 20, 2017
But Johnson never specified that he would direct Episode IX in a heartbeat. Episode IX is set to hit theaters just 17 months after The Last Jedi, and so for Johnson to direct and presumably write the next Star Wars installment, he would need to go right from The Last Jedi into production on Episode IX with no break after working on a Star Wars movie almost nonstop for the past several years. With that in mind, it’s understandable why Johnson might need a break before taking on such a massive project again, yet the way Lucasfilm operates these days, there really is no time for a break between movies.
Unfortunately for fans of his work, Johnson is not currently expected to have any involvement in Episode IX whatsoever. For some time it was reported that Johnson was writing a treatment for the movie, but he later said that this is not the case. Johnson has also said that he received virtually no notes about where the story needed to go in The Last Jedi, and so presumably this will continue and the end of the trilogy will be out of his hands.
Star Wars: Episode IX will be directed by J.J. Abrams and written by J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio. It’s currently scheduled to be released in May 2019.