Star Wars Episode 9 schedule

This week’s Star Wars Celebration promises to unleash a cavalcade of information about a galaxy far, far away, but before that kicks off, we’re turning our attention to a new interview with Star Wars: Episode 9 co-writer/director J.J. Abrams. After original director Colin Trevorrow left the movie, Abrams slid into the director’s chair to wrap up the trilogy he began in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and he talks about battling some intense time constraints, collaborating with an unfamiliar co-writer, and how he thinks he and his team may have something special on their hands for the hugely-anticipated conclusion to the Skywalker saga.

In an interview with FastCompany, Abrams spoke about the pressure of having a two-year window to complete every aspect of making a giant blockbuster – including casting, building sets, and more. Of course, it all starts with a script, and he explains how he needed a co-writer to help him write, so he called Argo writer Chris Terrio, with whom he’d never worked before, and Terrio screamed (in joy, of course) at the prospect of working on the movie with him:

“…what I realized in that moment was, I hadn’t been aware until then that I needed to work with someone who would scream at the prospect of working on Star Wars. Because I had been through the process, and I was looking at brass tacks: This is what it’s going to take, this is the reality of it. And he was looking at it sort of childlike: Oh my God, I can’t believe we get to play in this world, which I needed to be reminded of. I needed that point of view, because that’s not where I was.”

I’m hoping Terrio’s exuberance comes through in the final script, because two of the best aspects of The Force Awakens are its zippy pace and the way many of its characters seem to having so much damn fun during their space adventures. Abrams sounds like he was almost beaten down by the gargantuan prospect of making this movie, but hopefully that shift in perspective gave him a reason to fall in love with this world all over again.

And for those who put stock into things like this, there’s some good news: Abrams is optimistic about what he’s seen so far:

“However, to answer your question—truly, finally—now that I’m back, the difference is I feel like we might’ve done it. Like, I actually feel like this crazy challenge that could have been a wildly uncomfortable contortion of ideas, and a kind of shoving-in of answers and Band-Aids and bridges and things that would have felt messy. Strangely, we were sort of relentless and almost unbearably disciplined about the story and forcing ourselves to question and answer some fundamental things that at the beginning, I absolutely had no clue how we would begin to address. I feel like we’ve gotten to a place—without jinxing anything or sounding more confident than I deserve to be—I feel like we’re in a place where we might have something incredibly special. So I feel relief being home, and I feel gratitude that I got to do it. And more than anything, I’m excited about what I think we might have.”

Hearing Abrams talk about the “Band-Aids and bridges” model of storytelling calls to mind the way writer/director Chris McQuarrie works on the Mission: Impossible movies, essentially crafting them on the fly during production. While that style totally works for McQuarrie and has resulted in several of the most purely entertaining films in that entire franchise, the burden of expectation on Abrams and Co. is much greater here because they’re finishing not only a trilogy, but the entire Skywalker saga as we know it. Here’s hoping the final cut lives up to Abrams’ current excitement.

Star Wars: Episode 9 arrives on December 20, 2019.

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