STAR WARS: EPISODE IX Director J.J. Abrams Almost Said No To Helming The Movie

Director J.J. Abrams recalls the intense pressure he faced when saying yes to returning to a galaxy far, far away, and stepping in to helm Star Wars: Episode IX following Colin Treverrow's departure...

With Star Wars Celebration, we'll hopefully get our first look at Star Wars: Episode IX. Disney and Lucasfilm have kept the final installment in the new trilogy (and ninth overall film in the Skywalker Saga) under wraps up intil now and probably for good reason; the new trilogy has been completely polarizing for fans.

Episode IX comes with tremendous baggage and enormous pressure, and in a newly published interview with Fast Company, director J.J. Abrams revealed that he almost chose not to helm the movie.

"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 revealed when asked how he felt about being brought in to helm Episode IX following Colin Treverrow's sudden departure.

"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 recalled, "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."

While kicking off the new trilogy with The Force Awakens brought its own set of challenges, Abrams acknowledged that he left that film "loving Star Wars as much as I did when I got there." He's aware of the critics, but overall he felt happy with the final result.

And to ask to have that happen again, I felt a little bit like I was playing with fire. 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...

Abrams went on to talk about the difficulties of "working backward" with Episode IX, having a release date in place but nothing else - no script, no cast, no sets. "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 admitted.

Lack of time wasn't the only thing Abrams had to worry about with Episode IX. Creating a coherent story that not only wraps up the trilogy but the entire Skywalker Saga was another challenge he faced. Making it all the more difficult was the fact that there wasn't really any pre-planned vision for the trilogy.

I had some gut instincts about where the story would have gone. 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. 

While both directors may have had different visions for the Star Wars trilogy, The Last Jedi's Rian Johnson recently revealed that he doesn't actually mind if J.J. Abrams retcons some of his more divisive choices, such as the lineage of Rey's parents.

Clearly, Abrams had to overcome a ton of hurdles, but the director feels confident in his work on Episode IX.

I feel like we might’ve done it. 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.

Right now, Abrams' word is all we have to go on since Disney has yet to even tease Star Wars: Episode IX. That will hopefully change this weekend at Star Wars Celebration.

Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters on December 20.
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