It’s no secret that behind the scenes, the last few Lucasfilm movies have undergone some serious issues. Star Wars: The Force Awakens underwent fairly extensive reshoots, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story found its entire third act reworked and reshot by a different director, and Solo: A Star Wars Story had its directors fired during production and replaced by Ron Howard.
The drama streak continued with Star Wars: Episode IX, for which Jurassic World and Safety Not Guaranteed filmmaker Colin Trevorrow was hired to write and direct. Trevorrow spent two years on the project, but in September 2017 he was unceremoniously removed from the film and replaced by J.J. Abrams. This came in the wake of Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s firing off of Solo, and it very much appeared as though Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was trying to avoid a similar situation owing to creative disagreements, where she got too deep into the film with the “wrong” fit behind the camera.
But what exactly happened? Why was Trevorrow fired from Episode 9? A new report in the Wall Street Journal sheds a bit of light on the ordeal, noting that Trevorrow successfully pitched his idea for Star Wars 9 to Kennedy, Disney president Alan Horn, and Disney CEO Bob Iger when he was hired. But the WSJ says that once Trevorrow and his frequent collaborator Derek Connolly got to work on the script, Kennedy was unhappy with the drafts he was submitting. Lucasfilm hired Harry Potter and the Cursed Child writer Jack Thorne to take a stab at Episode IX in 2017, but both Kennedy and Trevorrow were unhappy with how that draft turned out as well.
After the Thorne draft, Trevorrow reportedly wanted to take another stab at the script himself, but instead Kennedy decided to fire Trevorrow and move on. Rumors have swirled that Trevorrow’s major point of disagreement with Kennedy was that he wanted to keep Luke Skywalker alive, thus altering The Last Jedi, but the source of these rumors is simply a fan on the internet theorizing. Indeed, that particular sticking point seems unlikely, and more often than not on projects like this it’s not one story point that leads to someone leaving the project—it’s a series of disagreements.
As we now know, J.J. Abrams was subsequently hired to direct and co-write the script for Episode IX in the wake of Trevorrow’s exit,with Oscar-winning Argo and Batman v Superman scribe Chris Terrio, but Abrams was not the first filmmaker Kennedy approached.
The WSJ confirms what we kind of already knew: Lucasfilm considered rehiring The Last Jedi filmmaker Rian Johnson to direct Star Wars 9, but the WSJ notes there were no serious discussions as Johnson likely wasn’t eager to start chasing a release date, and as we now know he’s working on his own new Star Wars trilogy on his own time.
Speaking with the WSJ, Abrams admitted he had already formulated ideas for Episode IX but never thought he’d get to see them through:
“I had a bunch of ideas from the beginning, back on VII, of where the story would go,” said Mr. Abrams. “I just never in my wildest dreams thought I would have a chance to execute them.”
We may not know exactly what Trevorrow had planned until Episode IX comes out, if we ever know, but it does very much sound like Abrams and Terrio started from scratch when they came onboard. We’ll have a better idea of how much of Trevorrow’s work remains when the final writing credits are revealed, but for now it’s interesting to have a bit more information on why, exactly, this director swap ensued.
It should be pointed out that despite all this drama on these Star Wars movies, by most accounts they’ve turned out just fine—even Solo. So while under normal circumstances this could be reason to worry, Lucasfilm has pretty much earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the final product, so it’s full speed ahead on J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX.