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Rian Johnson confirms he didn’t know J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars plans

Rian Johnson on the red carpet
Rian Johnson says he had no idea about J.J.Abrams’s future plans for Star Wars. Pic credit: ©

The Last Jedi director, Rian Johnson, has confirmed he didn’t know about J.J. Abrams plans for Star Wars.

Despite having finished over a year ago, the Star Wars sequel trilogy debates still rage among fans. 

Adding further fuel to the debate is Rian Johnson, who has confirmed what many had suspected: He had no idea of any of the plans for Rise of Skywalker when he was making The Last Jedi. This has once more sparked talk on who was really in charge of the story.

Last Jedi fallout

Johnson has become a polarizing name among Star Wars fans. It appears that for every fan that enjoyed the Last Jedi, another one hated everything about it. Many fans have slammed its storyline and strange characterizations, such as Luke becoming a hermit, which proved particularly unpopular with many. 

Johnson offered some bold turns in the film, such as the revelation of how Rey (Daisy Ridley) was just a “nobody” abandoned by her parents. He also threw in a twist by having Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) kill Snoke to take over the First Order. 

Rise of Skywalker altered all of that by revealing that Snoke was just a puppet for the resurrected Palpatine. It also turned out Rey was really Palpatine’s granddaughter. 

Rather than stay evil with the First Order, Kylo embraced his old identity of Ben Solo and sacrificed himself to save Rey. 

The sudden changes to the storyline have been argued at countless fan boards and sites, with many speculating it seemed as if Johnson and J.J. Abrams (who wrote The Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker) might not have been on the same page. 

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Rian Johnson says he didn’t know Ben Solo would die

Rian Johnson still working on his Star Wars movie trilogy
Star Wars: The Last Jedi director still working on a new trilogy. Pic credit: Lucasfilm

Talking to author Sariah Wilson, Johnson was point-blank asked if he knew of Ben’s ultimate fate, and responded, “No, I did not.”

Wilson then clarified in a series of tweets exactly what was Johnson’s point of view and how he approached making The Last Jedi.

He explained that it was very much a full hand-off between 7 and 8, just as it was from 8 to 9. Rian did his best to tee up a bunch of things and tried to bring 8 to a point where there were lots of places the story could go. He didn’t want to be unfair to the next director and leave a lot of possibilities. He wasn’t trying for a specific outcome for the end of the series, “but to have lots of dramatic potential” for 9. He answered my question again by saying he didn’t know whether Kylo would live or die, then quickly corrected himself to say he didn’t know whether *Ben* would live or die and how the series would resolve.

This appears to confirm the theory that while Abrams had a rough outline of the overall story, he didn’t share this with Johnson. This may mean some of Last Jedi’s big moves (such as killing Snoke) weren’t in Abrams’ plans and forced him to alter them for Rise of Skywalker. 

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The movie’s path

Kylo Ren rises from the sea
House Greyjoy; We Do Not Sow. Pic credit: Star Wars/YouTube

Johnson’s words on his not knowing Abrams’ sequel plans are interesting considering the leaked Episode IX script by Colin Trevorrow. That version did have elements that made it into ROS, such as an epic space battle. 

Yet differences include Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) having a central role, no Palpatine, and Rey still being a “nobody.” And rather than redeeming himself, Kylo would have embraced the Dark Side before finally being defeated by Rey. 

Trevorrow was removed from the film just two months before Last Jedi was released amid rumors that Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy was not happy with the script. Abrams thus took over writing/directing duties for ROS.

While not openly saying it, Abrams did indicate that he had to alter ROS‘s plans after Johnson unexpectedly made changes to the storyline in TLJ. While both men have been open in praising the other, rumors of tension between them remain. 

To be fair, the original trilogy also had a “make it up as we go” approach by George Lucas. But fans have complained that the lack of an overall focused storyline hurt Episodes VII-IX and prevented the sequels from being as great as they could have been.

Johnson is still planning his own Star Wars movie trilogy, which, as sole writer/director, allows him to avoid the sudden creative shifts that marred his first attempt at the saga. 

A long-time freelance writer with a major love for movies, TV, more

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