Disney have announced that Star Wars: Episode IX, the possible final instalment in the blockbusting Star Wars franchise, will be directed by JJ Abrams.
The film’s planned release date has been moved to December 2019 to allow Abrams and his co-writer Chris Terrio to develop a new script.
Abrams will be returning to the franchise after his work on 2015’s critically and commercially successful Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He’ll be slipping into a director’s chair recently vacated, for undisclosed reasons, by Colin Trevorrow.
Trevorrow had been working on the film since August 2015. The original script reputedly had a significant role in it for Carrie Fisher, whose death at the end of last year left an unfillable hole at the heart of the film series.
In interviews around the original Star Wars film, later retitled Episode IV: A New Hope, creator George Lucas boldly stated that he envisioned a sequence of nine films. After the third, Return of the Jedi, he seemed to be finished with his story in a galaxy far, far away but returned to the saga with the less-than-beloved prequel trilogy between 1999 and 2005.
Disney bought the Star Wars rights in 2012, and announced a programme of a film a year to continue the franchise. Three of those films would be stories in the ‘core’ Star Wars timeline and others would be spinoffs telling other stories around the Star Wars galaxy.
Abrams wrote and directed the first of those ‘core’ sequence sequels with The Force Awakens, in which he notoriously wrote a death scene for the beloved space pirate Han Solo, played for the fourth and final time by Jewish actor Harrison Ford.
The next big screen fix for Star Wars fans will be Episode VIII – The Last Jedi which is expected in cinemas in December 2017.