At the start of production on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there was always the question of who would direct the next sequel. J.J. Abrams, who helmed this reboot of the decade-long dormant property, declared right away that he didn't want to do it. As the first movie turned out to be, literally, a backbreaking experience. But now, with Rian Johnson firmly in the writer/director seat, Abrams is changing his tune. But only because the script by Rian Johnson is so good. In fact, it may be too good.
After reading the Star Wars: Episode VIII script for the first time, lifelong friend and Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Greg Grunberg says J.J. Abrams had quite the unexpected reaction. It was something Greg Grunberg had never heard out of his friend before, with the two working for decades side by side in the industry. Here's what the actor, who plays X-Wing pilot Snap Wexley, had to say to The Washington Post.
"He read it and said something he never, ever says. He said: 'It's so good, I wish I were making it.' He may have said something one time on 'Lost,' with Damon [Lindelof, the co-creator], but I never hear him express regret like that."
More than anything, J.J. Abrams' remark serves as a ringing endorsement for what Rian Johnson is about to do. While the incoming director has already shot a few select scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII featuring Luke Skywalker on Skellig Michael in Ireland, the main bulk of principle photography begins this spring in the UK at Pinewood Studios. J.J. Abrams has revealed that he shared early cuts of The Force Awakens with Rian so that he could get a sense of the tone and style that they were aiming for. The directors wanted the transition between films to be a smooth one, though both have distinctively different directing styles. Rian Johnson is known for the time travel thriller Looper along with such cult favorites as The Brothers Bloom and Brick.
J.J. Abrams isn't completely bailing on the Star Wars franchise. As he's done with future Star Trek sequels, The Force Awakens director is staying on board as a producer. On Star Wars: Episode VIII, he will actually be an executive producer. But as a straight up director, J.J. Abrams made the decision long ago to give up the reigns. Though for awhile some believed he might be back to captain the ship on Star Wars: Episode IX, that job eventually went to Colin Trevorrow.
With a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an A+ Cinemascore, many see J.J. Abrams as the conquering hero who saved the franchise after the much maligned prequels. The film is on track to become the biggest box office blockbuster of all-time. And it not only set the foundation for a new trilogy and a number of spinoffs, which will arrive once a year for eternity, but it has also propped merchandising back up, with more than $3 billion in sales expected from toys, theme parks and more. As for Greg Grunberg's Snap Wexley, you can expect him to be back. Though he was given the line 'I've been hit!' while stationed inside his X-Wing cockpit, the actor refused to say it, exclaiming, 'I wasn't going down!' So, what do you think? Will Star Wars: Episode VIII be better than Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Or is it all hype?