Rian Johnson, director of “Brick,” “Looper,” and three of the best episodes of “Breaking Bad,” is coming to the Star Wars universe.
According to Deadline, Johnson will write and direct Star Wars episodes “VIII” and “IX” after Abrams’ “Episode VII” hits theaters in December 2015. The Wrap and the Hollywood Reporter both contradicted Deadline’s claims that he would direct both installments, citing sources who said Johnson was attached only to direct episode “XIII” and that he would be writing the treatment for, but not directing, episode “IX.”
Whether or not Johnson ends up directing “IX,” his involvement marks a big shift in the franchise’s direction. When J.J. Abrams was announced as the director for 2015’s “Episode VII” last year, many simply assumed that he would helm the entirety of the new trilogy, as George Lucas did during the prequel series. It is unknown if Abrams or his production company Bad Robot will have any involvement with “Episode VIII.”
Johnson is by all accounts a solid choice for Star Wars. “Brick” established him as a thoughtful and compelling storyteller, while 2012’s “Looper” showcased his inventive approach to time travel. “Looper” brought in $66 million domestic and $176 million worldwide on a $30 million budget, proving that Johnson could play with form and still make a genuine hit. Johnson directed the “Breaking Bad” episodes “Fly,” “Fifty-One” and “Ozymandias,” widely considered to be among the series’ best. His work in “Fifty-One” earned him a Directors’ Guild Of America Award in 2013.
Disney has tapped creative young directors for Star Wars in the past, but only for side-projects in the series. Johnson’s involvement reflects a deeper dive into a younger talent pool, and a move away from more established creators like Abrams. Both “Godzilla” director Gareth Edwards and “Chronicle” director Josh Trank are set to direct a pair of spin-off films, which will be released in off-years between installments in the main trilogy.
Johnson has yet to make an official statement on the Star Wars gig, but based on a clip from “The Right Stuff” that he tweeted out soon after the announcement, he’s nervously anticipating shooting.
Meanwhile, the first new Star Wars film, “Episode VII,” is currently shooting. It stars John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong’o and Gwendoline Christie. Original series stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford are also onboard for the first installment in the trilogy.