Back in 1977, Star Wars was the ideal North Star influence for a future filmmaker named J.J. Abrams. But now, 35 years later, he says the Jedi universe isn’t the right direction for his career.
Disney’s newly acquired Lucasfilm is moving fast on the now-public plan to have a new Star Wars film in theaters in 2015 to launch a new trilogy. Sources say Lucasfilm sent a treatment last week to three filmmakers — Abrams and Oscar winners Brad Bird and Steven Spielberg. But Abrams told EW this morning that as much as he loves the Jedi universe, it won’t be his next destination.
“I have some original stuff I am working on next,” said Abrams, who is now in post-production on Star Trek Into Darkness, the follow-up to his 2009 hit Star Trek. Then of course there’s Revolution the latest addition to his considerable television pursuits, which have included Lost, Fringe, and Alias.
Abrams also told EW that the 1977 tale of mystic knights, a kidnapped princess, an evil empire and eccentric robots was a life-changing adventure for a youngster who was soon to be obsessed with film and film-making.
“As a kid I was always a fan of special effects,” Abrams said. “Watching movies I was constantly trying to figure out how they did it, whatever the effect was. Star Wars was the first movie that blew my mind in that way; it didn’t matter how they did any of it because it was all so overwhelmingly and entirely great. It was funny and romantic and scary and compelling and the visual effects just served the characters and story. It galvanized for me; not for what was exciting about how movies were made, but rather for what movies were capable of.”
Fans of Starfleet and of the Jedi have long viewed the brands as rivals of a sort and Abrams was clearly on the side of the Force as a kid. His disinterest in Star Trek as fan has served him well, he has said on a number of occasions, because he wasn’t distressed when it came time to set aside certain aspects of the mythology for the reboot. That memory has a flip side — he knows he wouldn’t have that same detached decisiveness if he was directing, say, Harrison Ford as in a return to the Han Solo role.
Abrams said back in 2009 that one of his great challenges was helping the Enterprise catch up to the Death Star in cinema’s Space Race.
“As a kid, Star Wars was much more my thing than Star Trek was,” told Hero Complex back in 2009. “If you look at the last three Star Wars films and what technology allowed them to do, they covered so much terrain in terms of design, locations, characters, aliens, ships — so much of the spectacle has been done and it seems like every aspect has been covered, whether it’s geography or design of culture or weather system or character or ship type. Everything has been tapped in those movies. The challenge of doing Star Trek — despite the fact that it existed before Star Wars — is that we are clearly in the shadow of what George Lucas has done.”
That rules out two of three known candidates. On Thursday night, at the premiere of his new film Lincoln, Spielberg said the galaxy-spanning Jedi saga created by his buddy George Lucas just isn’t a good fit for him. “It’s not my genre,” the director explained. “It’s my best friend George’s genre.”
Spielberg has made three films with alien life — E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and War of the Worlds — but all of those films were set on contemporary Earth and in a grounded reality. That said, the future visions presented in Minority Report and A.I.: Artificial Intelligence certainly present environments that aren’t far removed from prequel trilogy settings like Coruscant and Kamino.
With Spielberg and Abrams out of the picture, it’s now all eyes on Bird, now, who has been traveling abroad in recent days while doing location scouting for his upcoming project, 1952, a sci-fi project for Disney (co-written by EW senior writer Jeff Jensen and Lost scribe Damon Lindelof). As for the new Star Wars story, the hiring of Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) was announced on Friday.