Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson confirmed he has no involvement with the upcoming Episode IX. The sequel trilogy finale has gone through a variety of changes recently, with Force Awakens helmsman J.J. Abrams replacing Colin Trevorrow as director and Lucasfilm moving the release date from May to December of 2019. Abrams is also co-writing the script with Oscar-winner Chris Terrio, after multiple drafts from Trevorrow and Jack Thorne failed to get the ball rolling on the film.
Before Abrams signed on, a popular pick for the job amongst fans was Johnson. While there are still about two months until Episode VIII hits theaters (as of this writing), everything is pointing to a riveting and exciting chapter in the Skywalker family saga, with Johnson challenging the cast of characters and creating new rules for the franchise. Though the filmmaker has expressed his desire to return to the galaxy far, far away at some point in the future (thanks to a great experience with Lucasfilm), he is sitting Episode IX out and giving full rein to Abrams.
In an interview with THR, Johnson was briefly asked about Star Wars 9 making references to the events of The Last Jedi. When inquired about "any discussions" Johnson may have had about Episode IX, he had this to say:
"J.J. Abrams is doing a third movie. I’m not involved in it. They’ll be writing their own story but continuing on with what we did."
When Johnson was first hired for Episode VIII, reports indicated he would also pen a treatment for Episode IX, but earlier this year he said that was "old info" no longer accurate. Understandably so, he directed all his efforts behind The Last Jedi, doing everything in his power to ensure the sequel was as great as it could be. Some fans will be disappointed that he's not sticking around in some capacity (Abrams is an executive producer on The Last Jedi), but Johnson has definitely earned the right to take a break before turning his attention to other projects. If Last Jedi lives up to its on-paper potential, Johnson should have no shortage of options on his plate, including the clout to develop original ideas on a grand scale (see: Christopher Nolan making Inception after The Dark Knight). As fun as it is to make a Star Wars movie, Johnson would probably like some variety on his résumé.
Though Johnson won't be part of the Episode IX creative team, his influence should be felt in the film. Abrams is one of the many to praise the Last Jedi screenplay, remarking he wished he could have directed it himself. Whatever Johnson did with the material seems to have inspired Abrams to think outside the box in terms of what Star Wars is capable of, as he recently said his next movie will take viewers to places they haven't gone before in the galaxy far, far away. After The Force Awakens leaned on nostalgia to rekindle audiences' love for the brand, Abrams understands that approach won't work again. With Last Jedi poised to take things in new directions, the onus will be on Abrams and Terrio to keep that ball rolling. Fortunately, they seem up for the challenge, so Episode IX is in good hands.