It's been more than three months since the release of The Last Jedi, and writer/director Rian Johnson is still dealing with the massive and impassioned fan response to the film. Anyone who works on a franchise as big as Star Wars has come to expect the response to be big, loud, and extensive, whether you're working on a film, an animated series, a comic book, or a toy line. In Johnson's case, though, the reaction was particularly energetic and divisive, with some fans calling the film a bold new direction for the franchise and others flat-out demanding it be wiped from continuity altogether.
For his part Johnson has, at least publicly, kept a cool head about the reaction, responding to any number of fan questions and concerns and even agreeing to keep his association with Star Wars going in the form of an entirely new film trilogy. Whether fans like it or not, Johnson is going to be a major player in Star Wars storytelling for years to come, and if The Last Jedi's response is any indication, fans who don't like it will not be shy about continuing to say so.
So, how does Johnson process that knowledge, even as he embarks on telling a massive new Star Wars story that could dwarf The Last Jedi in terms of scope? How does he factor fan response into his future with the franchise. In an interview with Fandango during SXSW, Johnson gave a simple answer: He doesn't.
“I feel like every Star Wars thing that ever gets made has a big, loud response, because Star Wars fans are passionate, and that’s what makes them awesome,” he said. “And, you know... I don’t think it’s possible when you’re...if you're really telling a story you care about, and having it come from your heart, it's kind of ... it’s just not possible to be intellectually processing, like, what everyone else wants. Nor would it be a good thing, a healthy thing. I don’t think that’s a good way to tell a story.”
Filtering out any and all fan response to something you create while you focus on telling your story that Lucasfilm has entrusted you with can't be easy, and even Johnson has to have read at least one or two criticisms that lingered in his brain. That said, if he did decide to heed fan response — both positive and negative — in the service of crafting his new trilogy, Johnson would never make the new trilogy because he'd spend the rest of his life doing nothing but reading comments sections and Twitter replies. Plus, this is a guy who went toe-to-toe with Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, over the direction of an iconic character, and still stuck to his guns.
Even as he tries to move forward without letting fans echo too much in his head, though, Johnson sympathizes with them. When Hamill, in the same interview, commented that fans are already "anticipating things they're not going to like" in Solo: A Star Wars Story, Johnson noted that he's done that in the past as well.
"But I've been doing that as a Star Wars fan since the beginning," he said. "That's part of being a Star Wars fan! That's what you do, because you love this stuff so much."
Time will tell if Johnson's able to continue walking such a well-defined line between fan and creator.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available on digital HD now, and will be released on Blu-ray March 27.