Daisy Ridley reveals that in the early stages of development on the Star Wars sequel trilogy, J.J. Abrams had written drafts for Episode VIII and Episode IX, in addition to co-writing the script for The Force Awakens. During the build-up to last year's The Last Jedi, much was made about the creative freedom director Rian Johnson had on the project. In contrast from what many had believed, Lucasfilm did not map out a comprehensive arc for the new trilogy, with Johnson following only the Force Awakens screenplay as he worked on his own script.
This approach was very much in keeping with Star Wars tradition, as George Lucas famously made up the beats of the original trilogy as he went along. However, it would appear that Johnson wasn't initially handed a completely blank slate for The Last Jedi, if statements from Ridley on the matter are anything to go by.
During an interview with the French outlet Le Magazine GEEK (hat tip SWNN), the actress was asked if Rey's parentage was an issue resolved during Force Awakens or not. In her response, Ridley offered her interpretation of the sequel trilogy's writing process:
“Here’s what I think I know. J. J. wrote Episode VII, as well as drafts for VIII & IX. Then Rian Johnson arrived and wrote The Last Jedi entirely. I believe there was some sort of general consensus on the main lines of the trilogy, but apart from that, every director writes and realizes his film in his own way. Rian Johnson and J. J. Abrams met to discuss all of this, although Episode VIII is still his very own work. I believe Rian didn’t keep anything from the first draft of Episode VIII.”
Ridley herself doesn't sound entirely sure if this is how it all transpired, but these comments do make sense. Johnson was hired for the Last Jedi job back in 2014 when Force Awakens was in the midst of production and did meet with Abrams to discuss his script. Though Abrams was set to helm only one Star Wars film at the time, it's very possible he had his own ideas of where the story could go for the latter two installments and wrote them down so he could bounce them off of the other directors that came in. Filmmaking, of course, is a collaborative process, however, meaning Johnson brought his concepts to the table, which apparently won out. Unfortunately, we don't know what was in Abrams' Episode VIII draft, making it difficult to compare the two. That said, Abrams did like Johnson's pitch and wanted to direct The Last Jedi himself after reading the final script.
Whatever Abrams had in mind for Episode IX will definitely be heavily altered as well. Besides Johnson apparently going in his own direction for The Last Jedi, Lucasfilm also has to address the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher somehow in Star Wars 9. Originally, the plan was to have General Leia Organa (the last of the original big three to survive in-universe) at the forefront of the finale, but Fisher's death forced the filmmakers to start from scratch and devise something new. Perhaps one day, long after the sequel trilogy has concluded, we'll learn what Abrams' original vision for all three movies was.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019