It’s only been a few hours since news broke that Colin Trevorrow is exiting the director’s chair on STAR WARS EPISODE IX, but already reports are swirling about who may step in as his replacement. Trevorrow had been attached to direct EPISODE IX since August 2015, and originated the screenplay alongside his frequent co-writer Derek Connolly, with whom he wrote SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED and JURASSIC WORLD. But tensions reportedly arose over creative differences, specifically relating to the screenplay, as the time to actually start shooting drew closer. Jack Thorne (‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’) signed on to rewrite the script last month, and now the search is on for a new director—or could it be someone more familiar that Lucasfilm is looking to for Trevorrow’s replacement?
Per Deadline, STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI writer/director Rian Johnson “atop a shortlist of directors” who may replace Trevorrow, and the prospect of Johnson is “in the air.” Now those are about as far from solid words as possible, so this isn’t like Johnson is in any kind of official negotiations, but the choice of Johnson to direct EPISODE IX would make a lot of sense. As Lucasfilm has run into creative issues on nearly all of its STAR WARS movies to date, including replacing directors, THE LAST JEDI has been the smoothest of ships and the studio is said to be incredibly happy with the finished product. Moreover, as filming on EPISODE IX was intended to begin in early 2018, Johnson is someone who’s already familiar with the universe and cast, and could easily jump into the film without too much of a delay.
Again nothing is confirmed, and if Johnson did sign on to direct EPISODE IX it would mean he’d basically have no break in between the two biggest films of his career to date, but the filmmaker has publicly stated that he’d direct another STAR WARS film “in a heartbeat,” and if Lucasfilm is willing and able to push filming on EPISODE IX back to early or mid summer 2018, that would give Johnson time to prep the film and ensure it would hit its May 2019 release date.
News of Trevorrow’s exit comes as Lucasfilm has had some very public troubles with its filmmakers. The studio fired HAN SOLO directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller three weeks before filming was set to conclude after Kennedy and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan grew frustrated with the directors’ approach to the material. Lord and Miller were replaced by Ron Howard, who stepped in almost immediately and is currently overseeing an expansion of that initial production schedule to keep the movie on track. Then there’s ROGUE ONE’s Gareth Edwards, who was reportedly sidelined during extensive reshoots as Tony Gilroy took the reins, and Josh Trank was fired off of an untitled spinoff movie when reports surfaced of troubles on the set of his FANTASTIC FOUR movie.
All of this in mind, it definitely makes sense for Lucasfilm to turn to Johnson, a familiar and compatible face, to close out this new STAR WARS trilogy. The studio no doubt wants to avoid any more public displays of troubles during its productions, even though the films thus far have been tremendous box office and critical successes.
Again, this is all far from confirmed, but whether Johnson takes/lands the STAR WARS 9 gig or not, I think we’re probably going to see Lucasfilm hire more experienced and established filmmakers on its upcoming projects. We already know Oscar-nominated BILLY ELLIOTT director Stephen Daldry—who’s next directing a big budget adaptation of the musical WICKED—is in early talks to develop and helm an OBI-WAN movie, and the hiring of a veteran like Howard on HAN SOLO was a sign that Kennedy, a Hollywood veteran herself, wanted someone extremely well-versed in the kind of classical filmmaking that it seems Lucasfilm expects from this new STAR WARS universe.
Expect more news on the STAR WARS 9 front soon, as that May 2019 release date isn’t getting any further away.