Star Wars: Episode IX director J.J. Abrams admits his original ideas for the film that would eventually become The Last Jedi were different than what Rian Johnson ended up doing with the project. Johnson was hired for the Episode VIII job way back in June 2014, tasked with continuing the story Abrams began with 2015's The Force Awakens. Few would have predicted it at the time, but The Last Jedi infamously went on to be one of the most divisive blockbusters in recent memory, with Johnson's bold and risky creative choices acting as a lightning rod for countless debates.
During the build-up to The Last Jedi, Johnson stated that he had a tremendous amount of leeway while working on the movie, having only to use The Force Awakens as a jumping off point (obviously). While Lucasfilm didn't mandate Johnson follow any preconceived plot points, that doesn't mean there wasn't any brainstorming going on in regards to where the sequel trilogy could go next. Daisy Ridley once revealed that Abrams mapped out drafts for the remaining two chapters, but popular belief is that Johnson went in his own direction. Abrams has now said that's the case.
In an interview with Fast Company that in part touched on Abrams' return to Star Wars, the director talked about having to follow Johnson's film in order to serve up a satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga:
"I had some gut instincts about where the story would have gone. But without getting in the weeds on episode eight, that was a story that Rian wrote and was telling based on seven before we met. So he was taking the thing in another direction. So we also had to respond to Episode VIII. So our movie was not just following what we had started, it was following what we had started and then had been advanced by someone else."
It is vital to understand that Abrams is not bemoaning or criticizing Johnson for doing his own thing on The Last Jedi. He liked Johnson's Episode VIII pitch and went on record to state the polarizing Last Jedi reactions did not influence his approach to Episode IX. He's merely explaining that a film changed story directions while it was in development, which isn't anything new for the film industry. Arguably, it's for the best Lucasfilm gave Johnson the freedom to break away from Abrams' "gut instincts" and make the Star Wars movie he wanted to make. The whole point of bringing in a unique voice like Johnson is to give him a chance to flex his storytelling muscles and craft something he could proudly call his own. It'd be counterintuitive to box him in and limit what The Last Jedi was capable of.
Last year, Simon Pegg hinted that Abrams had a different idea for Rey's parentage, but fans will likely never know the full extent of the variances between the two visions. And, frankly, at this point, it's all moot. Regardless of what Abrams had in mind, The Last Jedi happened exactly the way it did, and now it's up to Abrams and Chris Terrio to honor that while moving the trilogy towards its conclusion. It'll be interesting to see what they came up with, and hopefully it ends the Skywalker saga on the highest of notes.
Source: Fast Company
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019