I know we’re all getting a bit sick of Star Wars, even me if I’m honest, but an interesting interview popped up online yesterday with JJ Abrams about what went on directing Star Wars, especially Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker.
The interview was conducted by Adam Chitwood from Collider.
The plan was originally to have three different directors, with three different, but coherent movies to finish off the Skywalker saga. JJ initially said no, but then agreed to take on Episode 7, with Rian Johnson in for Episode 8 and Colin Trevorrow to finish off with Episode 9.
JJ was eventually convinced, and then was pleased about taking on The Force Awakens. He started writing initial drafts with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt. The initial drafts had a satisfying conclusion to Han Solo’s arc and would also make the fans fall in love with Rey, Finn, Poe, BB8, and the rest of the new members.
The idea was to have one director do a ‘creative hand-off’ to the next and let the movies continue and certain threads are followed, for example, Rey’s confrontation with Luke. Apparently, The Last Jedi was a critical success, but many of the fans disagreed. In fact, it seemed like Johnson had completely changed some of the directions that JJ had started in The Force Awakens.
As we know, Colin Trevorrow had ‘creative disagreements’, particularly with Kathleen Kennedy it seems and was either fired or chose to walk away. JJ was hired back to finish the trilogy off. JJ had said he had plans for Episode 9, but never thought he would get to see them through :
“I had a bunch of ideas from the beginning, back on VII, of where the story would go, I just never in my wildest dreams thought I would have a chance to execute them.”
When JJ took over as writer and director he had to finish a story he had started but from a middle section that was not what he had planned or sketched out. He was able to bring about some of his ideas he initially had, for example, about Rey’s parentage.
Now, in an interview, JJ Abrams appears to confirm what fans suspected all along. These three new Star Wars movies didn’t have any form of plan or arc laid out upfront which each director had to follow. In the interview, Abrams says :
“I’ve been involved in a number of projects that have been – in most cases, series – that have ideas that begin the thing where you feel like you know where it’s gonna go, and sometimes it’s an actor who comes in, other times it’s a relationship that as-written doesn’t quite work, and things that you think are gonna just be so well-received just crash and burn and other things that you think like, ‘Oh that’s a small moment’ or ‘That’s a one-episode character’ suddenly become a hugely important part of the story.
I feel like what I’ve learned as a lesson a few times now, and it’s something that especially in this pandemic year working with writers [has become clear], the lesson is that you have to plan things as best you can, and you always need to be able to respond to the unexpected. And the unexpected can come in all sorts of forms, and I do think that there’s nothing more important than knowing where you’re going.”
He does think that sometimes it’s the plan that gets in the way:
“There are projects that I’ve worked on where we had some ideas but we hadn’t worked through them enough, sometimes we had some ideas but then we weren’t allowed to do them the way we wanted to.
I’ve had all sorts of situations where you plan things in a certain way and you suddenly find yourself doing something that’s 180 degrees different, and then sometimes it works really well and you feel like, ‘Wow that really came together,’ and other times you think, ‘Oh my God I can’t believe this is where we are,’ and sometimes when it’s not working out it’s because it’s what you planned, and other times when it’s not working out it’s because you didn’t [have a plan].”
It seems though, that he learned the hard way :
“You just never really know, but having a plan I have learned – in some cases the hard way – is the most critical thing, because otherwise you don’t know what you’re setting up. You don’t know what to emphasize. Because if you don’t know the inevitable of the story, you’re just as good as your last sequence or effect or joke or whatever, but you want to be leading to something inevitable.”
The interview is here :
What is interesting to me in this interview is that he seems to be biting his tongue, that he wants to say more, but he just can’t.
There are examples of how things change as they go on. The creator of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, initially wanted to kill off Jesse Pinkman at the end of the first season but, seeing the chemistry between Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston, he changed his mind. Jesse became an integral part of one of the best TV series ever.
Abrams understands that things change, sometimes for the good, sometimes not so much for the good.
It seems that The Rise of Skywalker is not the movie Abrams wanted to make and had a lot of studio interference. The hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut did the rounds on Twitter. Dominic Monaghan was interviewed and said :
“I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version…. Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”
There are so many questions and most of the answers are speculation and rumor. Is there an Abrams cut out there of The Rise of Skywalker? How much did Disney interfere with the movie? Was there ever a plan for the arc of the three movies?
I know I’ve read and seen a lot of information about the entire thing, but most of it cannot be confirmed. My personal take has always been that I don’t think Abrams or Colin Trevorrow had the same ideas as Kathleen Kennedy. She was the one that wanted to take the story in the direction she wanted. I get the impression that Rian Johnson was on board with all her ideas, hence why he was offered another, separate trilogy.
I’ve always felt that Abrams was very much a scapegoat, who had obstacles placed in his path at almost every turn. What are your thoughts? Is Abrams to blame? Was it Disney? Was it both?