Going from indie work to a big budget studio franchise is quite the change of pace. Darren Aronofsky recently breached that gap earlier this year with Noah, with directors such as Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) following his example during summer's blockbuster onslaught. The transition isn't always easy; the studio system has more checks and balances in place, and is frequently governed by the bottom line, and for some filmmakers, the loss of cherished creative freedom can be a major deal breaker.
But that's not going to stop Rian Johnson from hopping aboard with Lucasfilm to work on Star Wars Episode VIII. Johnson may be best known for his 2012 film Looper, his third effort following 2008's The Brothers Bloom and his 2005 debut, the critically acclaimed neo noir Brick. In case you missed it amid the hustle and bustle of J.J. Abrams' Episode VII (which just began shooting in May), a couple months ago news hit the Interewbs that Johnson will be steering the ship on the next installment of the series, while also potentially taking on scribe duties for Episode IX.
Despite the passage of time, no official announcement has been made to verify June's proclamation; as the case may be, feel free to take Johnson's recent comments on his involvement as pseudo confirmation (but nothing more). Speaking on the 500th Filmspotting podcast (reported via the crew at /Film), Johnson took the opportunity to open up about getting the Star Wars Episode VIII gig in the first place, his intentions in making the film, and what the Star Wars universe means to him as a movie fan.
Of course, we're talking about Star Wars, one of the most popular and well guarded franchises in the world; there's only so much that Johnson is able to safely say. But in all of his chatter, there's a through line of effusion. He seems to be genuinely giddy over his participation in Star Wars' big screen resuscitation. (Maybe his enthusiasm should be taken as a portent.) Check the full quote from Johnson:
“The thought of it made me so completely joyfully happy...I wanted to to play in this world, of literally the first movie my dad put me in the car to see.”
Nobody knows what stylistic flourishes Johnson might have to check at the door to get Star Wars Episode VIII made, but one thing's for sure: his excitement will remain well intact. Who can blame him? Johnson was born in the decade of Star Wars' birth. He grew up on it, witnessed the germination of one of film's greatest franchises at ground zero. Fandom isn't a necessary qualification for directing a franchise picture like this, but it certainly doesn't hurt, either. As far as it concerns Johnson, it might actually give the film a welcome boost of vigor.
He has much and more to say about working with Lucasfilm to date (it's apparently just like summer movie camp, where Johnson and his crew watch movies like Twelve O'Clock High every night), but he also made note of his goals with the series, too. How do you get legions of audience members to forget about the often reviled prequel films? By shooting for something that more closely resembles the trilogy that started it all. Accordingly, Johnson wants to "harken back to the original Star Wars", which coheres nicely with his remarks about his childhood memories of seeing that film in theaters.
All of that nostalgia should work well in his favor, though we obviously won't see the fruits of his labors on Star Wars Episode VIII for some time. At the very least, though, it looks like Johnson has been totally energized by getting the job. With little else to go on in the interim, it's totally reasonable to take that as a good thing.
Star Wars: Episode VII opens in U.S. theaters on December 18th, 2015.