It's the dream of many filmmakers who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy: the chance to take on a new chapter in the saga by directing the next Star Wars movie. Some might say it's the chance of a lifetime. But it's a chance that director-producer J.J. Abrams is turning down.
In the wake of Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, which includes the rights to the franchise, the studio is planning to release Episode 7 in 2015, as the start of a third trilogy. So far, only three names are said to have been approached about directing: Abrams, Steven Spielberg, and Brad Bird. Spielberg's already passed on the project.
Now Abrams is out, which comes a bit of a surprise. The prolific 46-year-old admits that the original Star Wars movies were a huge influence on him as both a young fan and a budding filmmaker. Since then, he's racked up an impressive resume as a writer, director, and producer in both TV and film, with several successful sci-fi projects to his credit, including the recent Star Trek reboot. In fact, he's wrapping up work on Star Trek Into Darkness right now. At first glance he would seem to be a perfect fit.
But Abrams says those factors are part of the reason he doesn't want to get involved in Star Wars. His major love of the series might keep him from being objective when making the important decisions being a director requires. He wasn't really a big Trek fan as a kid, which freed him to reimagine that universe for a new generation. And because the two franchises are sometimes viewed as competitors in the arena of sci-fi cinema, some people could see his working on both as a kind of creative "conflict of interest."
There's also a good chance that even a successful filmmaker like J.J. Abrams, despite making such a name for himself in the industry, is a little starstruck by the prospect of taking on such a well-loved, legendary franchise. The Star Wars movies (at least the first three) are an iconic part of cinematic history and have legions of devoted fans, including Abrams himself. He may be understandably concerned about not being the guy to screw up the first Star Wars film in which George Lucas won't be involved.
Then again, it would have been interesting to see what Abrams did with it. Given his track record, it's a good bet that he would have done the series justice. May the Force be with him!
Photo: David Shankbone