J.J. Abrams reveals he had a small window of time to make Star Wars: Episode IX

JJ Abrams Star Wars Force Awakens Star Wars: Episode IX

J.J. Abrams was responsible for bringing Star Wars to new and old generations with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He was initially hesitant, but Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy was able to persuade him to direct the film. He passed the baton to Rian Johnson with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and it received mixed reactions from fans while being praised by critics. With Episode IX, Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow was originally supposed to direct, but he was fired. Abrams was then brought back to finish the trilogy with Star Wars: Episode IX, and he reveals that he initially had reservations about returning along with having a small window of time to finish the project.

“I wasn’t supposed to be there. I wasn’t the guy, ya’ know? I was working on some other things, and I had something else that I was assuming would be the next project, if we’d be so lucky,” Abrams tells Fast Company.

“The whole thing was a crazy leap of faith. And there was an actual moment when I nearly said, ‘No, I’m not going to do this,'” Abrams continued. “I was trepidatious to begin with, getting involved because I love Star Wars so much and felt like it was… It was almost, on a personal level, a dangerous thing to get too close to something that you care that much about.”

The director then elaborated on why he decided to return, and it was thanks to a push from his wife.

“And to ask to have that happen again, I felt a little bit like I was playing with fire,” Abrams added. “Like, why go back? We managed to make it work. What the hell am I thinking? And there was a moment when I literally said, ‘No,’ and Katie [McGrath, Abram’s wife and co-CEO of Bad Robot] said, ‘You should do this.’ And my first thought was, has she met someone? And then I thought, she’s usually right about stuff. And when she said it, I think that she felt like it was an opportunity to bring to a close this story that we had begun and had continued, of course. And I could see that even though the last thing on my mind was going away and jumping back into that, especially with the time constraints that we were faced with…”

Many fans have been vocal about their disappointment with the new trilogy and the way it has been created. The upset fans wished that the creative team would have a plan for the whole trilogy, but it was done in a way where a new director could take the next film into an entirely different direction. Johnson did surprise fans with his twists, and that resulted in the fanbase being split. As for Episode IX, Abrams said it was hard since he had to do things backward. There was a release date but he didn’t have a script, cast, and sets at the time.

“Of course, I was excited about what we could do, but I was acutely aware of how little time we had to do a fairly enormous job,” Abrams said.

Not only did he have to close the trilogy, but he also had to do it in a small window of time.

“To have no script and to have a release date and have it be essentially a two-year window when you’re saying (to yourself), you’ve got two years from the decision to do it to release, and you have literally nothing… You don’t have the story, you don’t have the cast, you don’t have the designers, the sets.”

Abrams then talked about the challenges of continuing a story that Johnson has crafted for The Last Jedi.

“I had some gut instincts about where the story would have gone,” he continued. “But without getting in the weeds on episode eight, that was a story that Rian wrote and was telling based on seven before we met. So he was taking the thing in another direction. So we also had to respond to Episode VIII. So our movie was not just following what we had started, it was following what we had started and then had been advanced by someone else. So there was that, and, finally, it was resolving nine movies. While there are some threads of larger ideas and some big picture things that had been conceived decades ago and a lot of ideas that Lawrence Kasdan and I had when we were doing Episode VII, the lack of absolute inevitability, the lack of a complete structure for this thing, given the way it was being run was an enormous challenge.”

In the end, Abrams is happy with the product.

“I feel like we might’ve done it,” he said. “Like, I actually feel like this crazy challenge that could have been a wildly uncomfortable contortion of ideas, and a kind of shoving-in of answers and Band-Aids and bridges and things that would have felt messy. Strangely, we were sort of relentless and almost unbearably disciplined about the story and forcing ourselves to question and answer some fundamental things that at the beginning, I absolutely had no clue how we would begin to address. I feel like we’ve gotten to a place—without jinxing anything or sounding more confident than I deserve to be—I feel like we’re in a place where we might have something incredibly special. So I feel relief being home, and I feel gratitude that I got to do it. And more than anything, I’m excited about what I think we might have.”

Star Wars Celebration is happening this weekend in Chicago, so we’ll definitely hear more about Star Wars: Episode IX along with other Star Wars projects like Star Wars: Fallen Order and The Mandalorian.

Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters on December 20, 2019.

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John Nguyen
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