Why Rian Johnson almost turned down directing The Last Jedi

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Sep 6, 2017

You're an up-and-coming director and you've just been offered Star Wars. You instantly say yes, right? Uh ... right?

Not exactly. At least not if you're Rian Johnson, creator of the excellent 2012 sci-fi film Looper, who eventually ended up as both director and writer of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. But Johnson reveals in a new interview with the New York Times that when the offer was made, he was at first somewhat taken aback:

"It was really, really out of the blue. I had a few general meetings with Kathy Kennedy when she took over Lucasfilm. I never thought I was actually in the running, because I assumed every director on the planet would want to be doing a Star Wars movie. And then it was sprung on me. It was like a bomb dropped. I suddenly realized, Oh, this meeting is about this. I didn’t try to hide the fact that I was freaking out. But I also said, 'Can I think about it?'"

When asked why he hesitated to take the job instantly, Johnson says:

"After Looper, I had been approached with other franchise stuff and gotten used to saying no. And I knew this would mean so much to me -- the worst thing I can imagine is having a bad experience making a Star Wars movie."

Johnson admits that Kennedy was "slightly confused" when he asked for time to think the project over, and he also confesses that he didn't get much sleep for a few days before finally realizing, "There was no way I could not do this."

As it turns out, it seems as if his experience making The Last Jedi has in fact been anything but a bad one: Johnson also states in the interview that he was given complete freedom to make the movie he wanted to make, with no major requirements or story points imposed on him by Kennedy, Lucasfilm, or parent company Disney.

The fact remains that in a franchise that has seen five directors (Gareth Edwards on Rogue One, Josh Trank on an abandoned spin-off movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller on the Han Solo prequel, and now Colin Trevorrow on Episode IX) either dismissed early on, replaced during production, or had their work significantly retooled, Johnson has been the sole director and (as far as we know) writer on The Last Jedi. With a little over three months to go until the movie opens, it looks like he's going to be the only recent Star Wars filmmaker besides J.J. Abrams to go wire to wire (and he could very well take over Episode IX as well).

There's more in the Times interview, including Johnson's thoughts on the story, what the title means, and the passing of Carrie Fisher, so it's definitely worth a read. The Last Jedi is out in theaters December 15.