Looper director Rian Johnson will write and direct Star Wars: Episode VIII, and write Star Wars: Episode IX, according to surprise reports Friday afternoon. Citing an unnamed source, Deadline first reported that Johnson would also direct Episode IX, but The Wrap has since reported that Johnson will only write Episode IX, not direct it.
There has been no official confirmation from Disney and Lucasfilm, though Rian Johnson tweeted a clip moments after the news broke, perhaps commenting on the situation:
“Dear lord, please don’t let me f–k up,” Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn) says in the clip from The Right Stuff, just before he blasts off into outer space.
If everything is as it seems, Johnson may be anxious about taking on the gig, but he’s an exciting choice to take over for Star Wars: Episode VII writer-director JJ Abrams and Episode VII co-writer Lawrence Kasdan. Johnson has shown a sharp eye and a knack for playing with genre ever since his breakout first film, Brick, and with Looper he showed that he could also work well with sci-fi, universe building, and larger budgets. (Though budgets not nearly as large as a Star Wars sequel.) He also has a way with snappy dialogue, something that the Star Wars movies (and especially the prequels) are less known for, but which would be a welcome addition.
He’s also great at engaging with fans, something that is now considered an important part of taking over a beloved franchise like Star Wars. He often enters back-and-forth dialogues with followers on Twitter (he has 60,000, a number that is sure to grow), has been widely praised for his work on another beloved series, Breaking Bad (he even directed one of the show’s most acclaimed episodes, “Ozymandias”). One of the things that is most fun about following Johnson is his innovative approach to letting fans in on behind-the-scenes details and photos.
We’ll see whether Johnson manages to remain so widely liked while taking on a franchise about which people have so many strong opinions, but it seems like he has about as good a chance as anyone at making something new and exciting for both diehard fanboys and casual moviegoers.