After the success of J.J. Abrams's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a sequel was inevitable. Lucasfilm was back on top of its game and it was only a matter of time until production for Star Wars: The Last Jedi would commence. What took many fans by surprise though was that Abrams was not coming back to direct said sequel, instead Looper's Rian Johnson would helm the project. But, despite Abrams stepping down from the director's chair, he was still very much an integral part of The Last Jedi.
J. J. Abrams Never Really Left After All
Johnson recently spoke with The New York Times, where he revealed that Abrams was a huge influence to The Last Jedi way before this sequel was ever even in production. During filming of The Force Awakens, Johnson said that he was allowed to watch dailies, which let him conceptualize the sequel with ease:
I had figured there would be a big map on the wall with the whole story laid out, and it was not that at all. I was basically given the script for Episode VII; I got to watch dailies of what J. J. was doing. And it was like, where do we go from here? That was awesome.
In a way, Abrams was to Johnson what Qui-Gon was to Obi-Wan: a Jedi Master to a padawan. By allowing Johnson to see and experience the production of The Force Awakens, Johnson was able to learn and study the new characters, essentially creating an inherent connection with those characters that would translate well to the sequel. Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren were Abrams's creations, but they were also a part of Johnson. Both filmmakers influenced each other and it was nice to hear that Johnson despite not being obliged to consult with Abrams, never hesitated to ask questions:
If I had questions — what did you think this was going to be? What were your ideas for this? — I could always ask him. But those questions only address what these characters want and how they get there.
It was important for both filmmakers to get these characters right. Johnson will expand the mythos behind these new characters in The Last Jedi, and the influence that Abrams instilled into the sequel will no doubt be ever-present.
The only question now is: will Abrams or Johnson direct Episode IX? Here's a thought: they both could.
[Source: NY Times]