Well, this is both shocking and truly amazing: “Looper” writer-director Rian Johnson, known for his esoteric, often existential low-budget genre movies, has been handed the keys to the biggest franchise in the galaxy. That’s right: he’s going to write and direct “Star Wars: Episode VIII” and write the treatment for the ninth film as well (early reports, from Deadline, that he would write and direct both, have been debunked by The Hollywood Reporter and The Wrap). While Johnson didn’t comment on the news, he did post a clip from “The Right Stuff” that perfectly captures his state of mind.
This is a really great move by Disney and Lucasfilm. Johnson is a ridiculously talented director, having only directed three very small films: the high school-set film noir “Brick,” the crime caper comedy “The Brothers Bloom,” and the slightly larger time travel thriller “Looper” (starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), which was Johnson’s biggest box office hit to date and had the largest budget. With that film Johnson proved himself to be a filmmaker who could handle complicated visual effects while putting the story front and center. It’s a wonderful, dizzyingly clever film and if anyone wants to know why our excitement for the “Star Wars” franchise just spiked, all they need to do is watch it.
With this announcement, Disney is clearing up some dangling question marks for the franchise: namely, would Abrams return to the franchise after completing work on “Star Wars: Episode VII,” which is currently filming around the world. The answer: no, no he is not. (We have a feeling that Johnson may still be swayed to direct the ninth film, even if he’s not officially attached right now.) Johnson joins the ranks of the recently assembled “Star Wars” dream team, which now includes “Godzilla” filmmaker Gareth Edwards and “Chronicle” director Josh Trank, who have both been contracted to helm one of the stand alone “spin-off” movies that will exist in between canonical installments.
Honestly, this is an absolutely wonderful sign of the franchise heading in the right direction, with clear leadership and a commitment to creative excellence. This is very good news, indeed.
“Star Wars: Episode VII,” which features original stars Harrison “I Broke My Leg!” Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, along with new cast members John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o, Daisy Ridley, Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, and Domhall Gleeson (who we saw at a party the other night and just said: “I’m really excited about ‘Star Wars!’”), will be released on December 18th, 2015.
Gallery | Meet the ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ (2015) Cast
- John Boyega (TBA Young Jedi)
PARK CITY, UT – JANUARY 20: Actor John Boyega poses for a portrait during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival at the WireImage Portrait Studio at the Village At The Lift Presented By McDonald’s McCafe on January 20, 2014 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
- Daisy Ridley (TBA)
- Adam Driver (TBA Villain)
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 28: Actor Adam Driver attends the ‘Inside Lleywn Davis’ premiere during the 51st New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on September 28, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
- Oscar Isaac (TBA)
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 17: Oscar Isaac attends the after party for the 25th Anniversary concert for the Rainforest Fund at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on April 17, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
- Lupita Nyong’o (TBA)
CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 15: Actress Lupita Nyong’o attends the Calvin Klein party during the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2014 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
- Gwendoline Christie (TBA)
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 18: Actress Gwendoline Christie attends the ‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 4 New York premiere at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center on March 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
- Andy Serkis (TBA)
ANAHEIM,CA – APRIL 19: Actor Andy Serkis attends the ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ during 20th Century Fox press line at WonderCon Anaheim 2014 at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 19, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
- Domhnall Gleeson (TBA)
NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 01: Actor Domhnall Gleeson attends the ‘About Time’ premiere during the 51st New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on October 1, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
- Max von Sydow (TBA)
HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 26: Actor Max von Sydow arrives at the 84th Annual Academy Awards held at the Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
- Harrison Ford (‘Han Solo’)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 02: Actor Harrison Ford attends the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
- Carrie Fisher (‘Princess Leia’)
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 22: Actress Carrie Fisher attends Geffen Playhouse’s Annual ‘Backstage At The Geffen’ Gala at Geffen Playhouse on March 22, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
- Mark Hamill (‘Luke Skywalker’)
HOLLYWOOD, CA – MAY 04: Actor Mark Hamill attends the screening of ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’ during Entertainment Weekly CapeTown Film Festival Presented By The American Cinematheque & Sponsored By TNT’s ‘Falling Skies’ at the Egyptian Theatre on May 4, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly)
- Anthony Daniels (‘C-3PO’)
LONDON – MARCH 13: Actor Anthony Daniels arrives at the Sony Ericsson Empire Film Awards 2006, the annual awards show voted for by the public, at the Hilton London Metropole on March 13, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)
- Peter Mayhew (‘Chewbacca’)
LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 19: Actors Peter Mayhew and Harrison Ford arrive at St. Jude’s 30th anniversary screening of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ at Arclight Cinema on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)
- Kenny Baker (‘R2-D2′)
Los Angeles, UNITED STATES: Star Wars actor Kenny Baker signs autographs during the opening day of ‘Star Wars Celabration IV’ in Los Angeles 24 May 2007. The five-day convention celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars saga. AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
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