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Paramount Could Sue J.J. Abrams for Directing Star Wars 9

By Brian Gallagher — September 20th, 2017

Star Wars 9 is back on track, with director J.J. Abrams stepping in to replace fired director Colin Trevorrow. The studio has issued a new December 20, 2019 release date, and the project seems heading in the right direction. However, J.J. Abrams' sudden emergence at the helm of this franchise finale was a direct breach of his contract that was re-negotiated at Paramount after he left to direct the 2015 blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A new report reveals that Paramount was "jilted" when he left to direct Star Wars 9, which lead to Paramount extracting a small sum of money for their troubles, but not nearly what the studio's overall deal with the director is worth.

The Hollywood Reporter reveals that newly-minted Paramount chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos was not pleased that J.J. Abrams was "poached" yet again by Disney to direct this highly-anticipated Star Wars sequel, but he ultimately accommodated the deal, so he wouldn't alienate the star director, or incur the potential wrath of powerhouse studios Disney, LucasFilm and even Steven Spielberg, who is close with LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy and has been said to have lured J.J. Abrams into directing The Force Awakens in the first place. This new report has sparked speculation from some websites that there could be a lawsuit brewing, but there is no indication from this report that Paramount is even considering legal action. Instead, Jim Gianopulous is said to have extracted a one-time fee from Disney that is said to be less than seven figures, to cover the absence of J.J. Abrams in the last two years of his deal with Paramount. Here's what one source said about why Jim Gianopulos didn't try to take on Disney and LucasFilm.

"Saying, 'You're going to do something for us' and handing them millions of dollars for that project, you're putting yourself in great peril. How to enforce them is as complicated as the deals themselves."

Sources in the director's camp state that he was enticed back into the Star Wars fold by a, "once-now-a-twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity," which all parties could appreciate and understand. Still, Paramount, a studio that has been struggling quite a bit lately, is left with the short end of the stick once again, with the studio's deal with J.J. Abrams set to expire in the summer of 2018, which is when Star Wars 9 starts shooting. The director will spend the next year until then writing the script with his Star Wars 9 co-writer Chris Terrio (Justice League). Paramount has been J.J. Abrams' home studio since 2006, when he signed on to make his directorial debut with the action-packed sequel Mission: Impossible III, with his overall deal with the studio said to be worth upwards of $10 million a year in overhead and development costs, believed to be the last lucrative overall deal of its kind in the current studio system, which was re-worked after J.J. Abrams took over the reins on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

When J.J. Abrams signed on to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens in January 2013, it reportedly infuriated then-Paramount CEO Brad Grey, who passed away this past May at age 59. The CEO didn't realize that the director's deal with the studio did allow him the leeway to direct films for other studios, which lead to the CEO renegotiating the studio's contract with J.J. Abrams that obligated the director to make his next movie with Paramount, but now that is not going to happen. Here's what another insider had to say about how Gianopulos couldn't be "an asshole" and tell J.J. Abrams he couldn't direct Star Wars 9.

"You might not put him in the pantheon (alongside Spielberg), but he's a writer, producer and director. There aren't too many of those guys. You can't be an asshole and say no. You do the right thing, and hopefully people repay that."

Even after all of this strife, Paramount is still expected to renew their deal with J.J. Abrams after it expires next summer, but the terms and length of that deal may be much different, and under much more scrutiny. He hasn't directed a film for Paramount since 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness, although he produced last year's sequel Star Trek Beyond, along with 10 Cloverfield Lane and the last three Mission: Impossible movies, including the upcoming Mission: Impossible 6, arriving in theaters next summer. Another insider reveals that, if Paramount doesn't renew their deal with the director/writer/producer, another studio will snatch him up, "in a New York minute." Still, Jim Gianapulos isn't the only one upset over J.J. Abrams directing Star Wars 9, with an online petition formed shortly after the news was announced.

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