The Incredibles and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol director Brad Bird's newest film, Tomorrowland, opens in U.S. theaters this week (at the time of writing this), which has provided the press with multiple opportunities to pick the Oscar-winning filmmaker's brains. Bird, for example, was one of Lucasfilm's top choices to call the shots on the seventh live-action Star Wars movie - a.k.a. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - that will arrive in December 2015, so he's been questioned a lot of late about why he passed on the project.
Tomorrowland was inspired by the Disney theme park attraction(s) of the same name and is really the brain-child of Bird's co-screenwriters on the film, Jeff Jensen and Damon Lindelof - who brought the project to Bird's attention in the first place. The sci-fi/fantasy adventure is headlined by Britt Robertson and George Clooney, and is an original feature in many respects - one that ultimately would've fallen by the wayside had Bird stepped away from the helm, according to the filmmaker.
Here's what Bird offered Yahoo! Movies, regarding his choice to pass on Force Awakens:
“It absolutely was [a tough decision]. But there was no way to do that film without junking ['Tomorrowland'], and we had already gotten George Clooney involved and I was excited about this film. I understand they had to get [The Force Awakens] made, and they would’ve had to push it in order for me to do it.”
Bird and Lindelof, in a separate interview with IGN, also provided a funny anecdote related to what happened when Bird was offered a chance to direct the seventh Star Wars film:
"What's really funny is that we [Damon and I] were having conversations on the phone during this. And we were in Florida scouting [for 'Tomorrowland'] and having to keep this a secret from everybody that we were scouting with. Because that's a buzz kill immediately. But there was this episode of South Park that appeared as this was going on and I was completely blown away. Because there was a shot from it - I even Tweeted [Damon] the shot - it was Cartman and behind him was a lightsaber and in front of him was Space Mountain from Tomorrowland. And God it was happening right in front of me! It was like a super, unbelievable scene from a movie. Like I don't accept that at all. But it was happening right in front of me."
Bird and Lindelof also spoke about how rare non-franchise tentpoles are in Hollywood nowadays, and Bird said this encouraged him to stick with Tomorrowland and make sure it came to fruition - whereas the Star Wars property is "a very robust thing right now" that is going to be fine without him, as the filmmaker put it. Bird pointed out that something like Star Wars was, of course, an original movie at one point too, before Lindelof offered his own take on the appeal of pre-established franchises - and why it's difficult for anyone to pass on them:
"For Brad as a director or for me as a writer the things that you get offered, or the things that are out there, literally 19 out of 20 of them are all franchises based on existing properties - comic books, books. That sort of thing that wouldn't necessarily be considered originals. And then when you start working on an original and you get very pregnant with it, at any time you can get that call and it's like, 'But are you really going to say no to Boba Fett? Are you really going to say no to Spider-Man? Are you really going to say no to Star Wars?' And that's why I think that a lot of original films don't get made. Because it takes Christopher Nolan saying, 'No, actually I'm going to be working on Interstellar now. This one's for me.'...
Bird has made it clear that he's not against playing in a previously-built sandbox, either, so long as there's a compelling story to be told - hence, he's now in the midst of writing The Incredibles 2, having finally settled on a narrative that he feels is worth exploring. It was similar reasoning that inspired the writer/director to board the Mission: Impossible franchise, and explains why he hasn't completely ruled out the possibly of him working on a Star Wars film one day.
That being said, Bird has also made it clear: until further notice, he's going to be focused on crafting the best Incredibles sequel possible - rather than trying to book a trip to a galaxy far, far away.
Tomorrowland opens in U.S. theaters on May 22nd, 2015.