'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Set to Open May 26, 2017; Rian Johnson Confirmed to Direct

Thursday, 12 March 2015 09:29 Written by  iamrogue
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'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Set to Open May 26, 2017; Rian Johnson Confirmed to Direct

Disney CEO Bob Iger has Star Wars beans, and he spilled some of them at a shareholders meeting in San Francisco this morning.

Iger announced not only the title of next year's standalone movie, Star Wars: Rogue One, but the release date of the second installment in the new trilogy that kicks off with this year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Star Wars: Episode VIII will open nationwide on May 26, 2017, just one day off from the actual 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars.

Iger also confirmed what's been an open secret since last June: Rian Johnson is writing and directing Episode VIII.

So now it's officially official.  Johnson's not a surprise, but the release date is a little unexpected.  Not the 2017 part, we already heard that Episode VIII would hit in 2017, followed by Episode IX in 2019.  The May part is surprising, though, because The Force Awakens and Rogue One are set for December 2015 and 2016, respectively.  The six existing Star Wars movie have all arrived in May, so with Star Wars: Episode VIII, the series returns to its release date roots.

With Rogue One in December of next year and Episode VIII in May 2017, we'll be getting two new Star Wars movies inside a six month stretch.  Don't get too used to that pace, though, because Disney's planning on releasing one Star Wars movie every year and will establish a more spaced out pattern down the line.

Here's the relevant bit from the official announcement over at StarWars.com:

Bob Iger confirmed that Rian Johnson will write and direct Star Wars: Episode VIII. The film, which continues the saga after the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is set for release on May 26, 2017 — forty years and a day after the release of Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. Johnson is widely considered one of cinema’s most gifted young filmmakers, having directed the modern sci-fi classic, Looper, as well as Brick and The Brothers Bloom. He was also behind the camera for three episodes of the critically-acclaimed TV series Breaking Bad, including “Ozymandias,” which series creator Vince Gilligan named as the best installment of the show. Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman, producer of Looper, Don Jon, Brick, and The Brothers Bloom, are on board to produce.

With Johnson taking over as writer and director, we've been expecting JJ Abrams to segue into a producer role not unlike the one George Lucas played on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  It's worth noting, however, that Abrams isn't mentioned as a producer of either Episode VIII or Rogue One in today's announcement.  What gives?  Is JJ out after ushering in the Disney era?

Episode VII remains mysterious, but we know that, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, original trilogy stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher effectively hand off the series baton to a younger group of actors whose characters are expected to be the focus of Johnson's movie.  Those younger actors include John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong'o, and Gwendoline Christie.

Johnson himself gave an update on his Star Wars screenplay late last year, saying, "it’s the most fun I’ve ever had writing. It’s just joyous. But also for me personally, I grew up, not just watching those movies but playing with those toys, so as a little kid the first movies I was making in my head were set in that world. So a  big part of it is that sort of direct connection, it’s almost like an automatic jacking-in into childhood in a weird way I guess…. but I don’t know, ask me again in a few years, we’ll talk about it.”

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