Since its announcement a month before the release of The Last Jedi in 2017, Rian Johnson’s Star Wars trilogy has been a constant subject of discussion in fan circles. What seemed at first like confirmation of a long-lasting partnership between the director and Lucasfilm that would shape Star Wars for years to come soon unraveled into uncertainty.
The reason seems clear. No installment in the Disney era of Star Wars films has been more divisive than The Last Jedi, which sought to push the franchise forward in a way its predecessor, the very nostalgic The Force Awakens, had not. But its twists and shocking left turns — such as the death of a broken Luke Skywalker — left some fans aghast and others incredibly angry. Petitions for Lucasfilm to “undo the damage” Johnson had done to their beloved saga soon appeared online. One group of fans even announced a plan to remake Episode VIII themselves.
Five years later, you still can’t really bring up Star Wars on Twitter without someone eventually calling out The Last Jedi as “the worst Star Wars film ever made.” So strong was the vitriol surrounding this film that The Rise of Skywalker seemed to actively want to undo many of the story beats established in The Last Jedi as a way to appease angry fans. Somehow, Palpatine returned — and he was now Rey’s long-lost grandfather.
In fact, The Rise of Skywalker seemed like a clear sign that Lucasfilm and Johnson had elected to quietly part ways instead of work on that new trilogy. After all, if the studio wasn’t willing to back Johnson’s creative decisions for the Sequel Trilogy, why would it invest further time and energy into a whole new set of films that risked pissing off fans further?
In 2021, Johnson confirmed his trilogy was still happening, despite having just signed on to make two Knives Out sequels for Netflix next. Even if his Star Wars trilogy is indeed still meant to see the light of day, it will presumably be many years from now.
It’s a fact Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy echoes in a new interview with Vanity Fair about the studio’s upcoming slate of Star Wars projects, confirming that the trilogy has been “back-burnered” because Johnson is “unbelievably busy with Knives Out and the deal he made at Netflix for multiple movies.”
“I’ve had meetings with Rian; he’s somebody that’s come in as part of our little brain trust discussions along the way,” Kennedy elaborated in a separate Vanity Fair article. “He remains very committed to what it is we’re trying to do. He just literally hasn’t had the time to devote.”
In other words, Johnson’s Star Wars trilogy hasn’t been outright canceled, but it also isn’t in active development at the studio. Could Johnson one day come back to finally make a new Star Wars movie? Sure, as Luke once said, no one’s ever really gone. But could Lucasfilm just as easily never mention this trilogy again? Yeah.
Kennedy gave other updates regarding the upcoming Star Wars film slate to Vanity Fair. For one thing, she now believes Taika Waititi’s movie will be the first to hit theaters at an undisclosed date, which means Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron will indeed miss its 2023 release date after alleged “creative differences” forced the studio to delay filming.
What about the Star Wars movie Marvel boss Kevin Feige is reportedly producing for Disney?
“I would love to see what movie he might come up with,” Kennedy said, while denying that there’s “anything specifically” in the works on that front.
Which is very peculiar, considering Loki and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness writer Michael Waldron told Den of Geek just last week that he was currently working on Feige’s Star Wars project.
“It’s coming along, it’s nice to have some time to focus on it,” Waldron told us. “And it’s fun to get to do something that feels fresh and original, and I’m excited to work with Kevin again, and with the team at Lucasfilm. And I love Star Wars. So it’s a blast.”
Waldron also told Variety that he was “writing away” on his Star Wars script.
But if the Rian Johnson trilogy debacle has taught us anything, it’s that plans at Lucasfilm are very fluid, always changing and evolving. We’ll of course keep speculating away in the meantime.
Check out the full schedule of upcoming Star Wars movies and TV series here.