J.J. Abrams took on a challenge many filmmakers would have shied away from. He took the reins and steered Star Wars gloriously back into life, exploding the sci-fi franchise back onto our screens with The Force Awakens and launching a new era for Disney and Lucasfilm, that will be followed by Episodes VIII & IX, as well as a series of standalone anthology films.
However, despite the roaring box office success of The Force Awakens, Abrams decided to gracefully walk away from the franchise he helped revive, handing over directing duties to Rian Johnson (Looper) and insisting that he will serve on the future instalments as an executive producer only, write Squareeyed.
In a recent interview with Fortune at the South by Southwest Festival, Abrams revealed his rationale behind deciding to walk away from Star Wars.
“It was a wonderful way to visit a place that meant so much to me and obviously so many.
“I knew that if it worked, it was the perfect time to step down – and if it didn’t, no one would want me to do it anyway.”
“I’m very happy to be where I am,” he says. “Rian Johnson is brilliant and needs no help from me. As executive producer, I’ve been collaborating with them, but they are obviously doing all of the heavy lifting and it’s very exciting to see what’s going on.”
Of course, Abrams is continuing his impressive productivity, executive producing HBO’s highly-anticipated Western series Westworld, another reboot of a cult favourite.
“Westworld is one of those things I’ve wanted to work on for so long,” he says. “I had a meeting probably 21 years ago with Michael Crichton [who wrote and directed the 1973 original film] about doing this. And it’s taken along time to get this going.”
“At the heart of Westworld is this story of consciousness and oppression and discover,” he says. “It’s one of the projects I feel most grateful and lucky to be a part of. What [the directorial team has] done is so stunning and cool and they’re not rushing it because of business maters and the network is giving them the time. That is never a bad move.”
Abrams also recently announced that cinematic adaptations of popular video games Portal and Half-Life are moving ahead, as planned.
He may not be heavily involved with Star Wars but Abrams is certainly keeping busy and we’re delighted about it!