Why J.J. Abrams Almost Turned Down 'Star Wars: Episode 9'

Colin Trevorrow was all set to helm the last entry in the new Star Wars trilogy. But then everything changed. Trevorrow either left on his own accord, or was fired. In either case, Star Wars: Episode IX needed a new director. Speculation ran rampant. What filmmaker would Disney and Lucasfilm bring in? The answer came quickly, and it was a surprising yet familiar choice: J.J. Abrams. Abrams had helmed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and now he would return to close out the trilogy. But according to the director himself, he came very close to turning the whole thing down.

On September 5, 2017, word broke that Colin Trevorrow was leaving Star Wars: Episode IX due to creative differences. Whether or not those differences had anything to do with the widespread derision to his recently released film The Book of Henry remain a mystery, but the fact of the matter was that Episode IX needed a new director. By September 12, we knew J.J. Abrams had the gig.

"I was working on some other things, and I had something else that I was assuming would be the next project," Abrams said in a new Fast Company interview. "And then Kathy Kennedy called and said, 'Would you really, seriously, consider coming aboard?' And once that started, it all happened pretty quickly." 

Coming back to Star Wars, one of the biggest franchises on this or any planet, might seem like a no-brainer. But Abrams was hesitant. "There was an actual moment when I nearly said, 'No, I'm not going to do this,'" Abrams says in the interview. The filmmaker thought it was a "crazy leap of faith" to return, stating that he loved Star Wars so much that it felt "dangerous" to return and get "too close" to something he cared so much about. 

The more he thought it over, though, the more convinced he became. Abrams went away from the Force Awakens experience still high on Star Wars after all these years, and the prospect of coming back to finish what he had started. At the same time, he also felt that he had essentially "dodged a bullet" with Force Awakens, delivering a movie that he enjoyed, and one that was mostly well-received. "To ask to have that happen again, I felt a little bit like I was playing with fire," Abrams says. "Like, why go back? We managed to make it work. What the hell am I thinking?" 

Abrams says it was his wife, Katie McGrath, who ultimately convinced him to return to a galaxy far, far away:

"Katie  said, 'You should do this.'... 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..."

I'm a big fan of The Force Awakens (although I like Last Jedi more, don't you dare @ me), so I'm excited to see Abrams return and see him close out the series. Hopefully he'll be able to dodge that metaphorical bullet again.

Star Wars: Episode IX opens December 20, 2019. We're probably getting a trailer sometime this week.