The term “nice guys finish last” is usually said in derision, but writer-director Rian Johnson may just be about to turn that sentiment on its head, as his next gig will have him taking over and finishing off a major franchise trilogy. The franchise? Why, just Star Wars, that’s all.
According to breaking reports from Deadline on Friday night, Johnson is currently in negotiations with Disney/Lucasfilm to take over the reins from JJ Abrams, who is currently busy with Episode VII, to write and direct Star Wars: Episodes VIII and IX, undoubtedly two of the biggest upcoming gigs in Hollywood, bar none. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
The consummate down to earth filmmaker who is always willing to engage with his audience, Johnson has been steadily working his way up through the Hollywood ranks on charm (just check out all the appearances he’s made on /Film’s Slashfilmcast podcast) and tons of very noticeable talent. He first grabbed attention with his high-school noir crime tale, Brick, broadened his scopes a bit with The Brothers Bloom, then – pardon the pun – sent everybody for a loop, when he proved that he can also do big budget blockbusters with the sci-hit Looper, and has spent the last while directing some of the most critically praised episodes of Breaking Bad‘s final season.
Much like Disney/Lucasfilm’s recent hiring of Josh Trank (Chronicle) and Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) to respectively head up two of their Star Wars spinoff movies, this is another bit of inspired, and very timely, acquisition of a young, talented filmmaker who has proven himself both on the indie and blockbuster level, but has yet to really become a household name.
While Johnson has not yet officially commented on this gig, shortly after the news broke on Friday, he did tweet this telling little clip from The Right Stuff.
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) June 20, 2014
Looper showed that Johnson can juggle both characters and world-building big ideas with ease, and that he also has an eye for creating a realistic sci-fi universe that feels completely lived in and not just existing in a computer somewhere. This last part is rather important, as everything we’ve seen and heard so far about the new trilogy is that they want to completely avert the green-screen shininess of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy, and go back to the more grungy practicality of the original films. Johnson would fit into that style of filmmaking perfectly. He even once commented on how it was so difficult to see the original trilogy in all their original glory before Lucas started making changes.
I mean, think about if we couldn’t see the original ‘King Kong’ and see that original effects work because someone in the ’50s had decided that that looked phony with the stop-motion and they’ve rotoscoped over it with a man in a suit. Imagine wanting to do effects and wanting to study the work of those guys, wanting to see how it was done then and literally not being able to. […] It’s film preservation, in my mind. And it’s a pretty dire one. I guess we all kind of assume and hope that there’s prints in a vault somewhere that will come out. I’m sure there are, but I don’t know. And I don’t know Lucas. I’m sure he’s been asked about it. I’d be curious to hear his take on that, because he’s been such a champion of film preservation. He came out against the colorization, so I know that his heart’s in the right place about it.
So now that we know who will be ending off this new saga, and probably how – from a technical perspective – he will go about going that, we just have to wait with baited breath to find out just what the Force this saga will actually be about. And, of course, how Johnson will find a way to get Joseph Gordon-Levitt to be a part of it!
Last Updated: June 23, 2014