J.J. Abrams may be kicking off the new Star Wars trilogy, but the series will get a different director for Episode VIII: Rian Johnson, the director of Brick, Looper, and some of the most memorable episodes of Breaking Bad.
Johnson — a longtime friend and collaborator with Joseph Gordon-Levitt — is known for bringing grit and grounded emotion to genre fare, like setting a hardboiled detective story in a high school in the 2005 drama Brick, or the time-travel saga Looper, with Gordon-Levitt as a younger version of Bruce Willis, trying to assassinate his future self.
The director also helmed some of the most memorable episodes of AMC’s Breaking Bad, including the final season episode titled “Ozymandias,” in which — SPOILER WARNING — Walter White’s DEA agent brother-in-law Hank met his doom.
He will both write and direct the as-yet-untitled Episode VIII, according to multiple sources on the films. Ram Bergman, who produced Looper, Don Jon, and Brick, will also be joining the Star Wars production bandwagon for the project.
Deadline reported that Johnson would also be directing Episode IX, but sources tell EW that part of the rumor isn’t true — most likely pushed by overzealous agents. Right now, sources close to the films say he is only committed to Episode VIII, but that he will have input, naturally, in shaping the story for the final installment — as any filmmaker involved in the brain trust would.
The choice to hire the 40-year-old Johnson is part of Lucasfilm’s strategy of recruiting directors who grew up imagining their own Star Wars stories, usually with a cast of plastic action figures. Chronicle director Josh Trank and Godzilla remake director Gareth Edwards have been tapped to oversee stand-alone Star Wars films, which will exist outside the narrative of the coming trilogy.
Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII is currently shooting in the U.K., and grappling with some bad luck after Harrison Ford broke his leg in an on-set accident. While the Han Solo actor recovers, filming is still underway with no plans to change the Dec. 18, 2015 release date.
Although Johnson had no official comment, the director tweeted this scene from 1983’s The Right Stuff, with Scott Glenn’s astronaut Alan Shepard muttering the pre-launch prayer: “Dear Lord, please don’t let me f–k up…”