The Force is strong in Rian Johnson.
Lucasfilm announced Thursday afternoon that the 43-year-old writer and director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (in theaters Dec. 15) will create a brand-new Star Wars trilogy, the first of which he is also set to write and direct, with longtime collaborator Ram Bergman onboard to produce.
"We had the time of our lives collaborating with Lucasfilm and Disney on The Last Jedi. Star Wars is the greatest modern mythology and we feel very lucky to have contributed to it," the filmmaking duo said in a statement. "We can't wait to continue with this new series of films."
"We all loved working with Rian on The Last Jedi," Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said. "He's a creative force, and watching him craft The Last Jedi from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career. Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy."
Johnson's films, separate from the episodic Skywalker saga, will introduce all new characters. No release dates have been set yet, and per Lucasfilm, "no porgs were available for comment."
J.J. Abrams, who wrote and directed 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, will return to oversee the third and final chapter of the current series, set for release on Dec. 20, 2019. The movie will see the return of Finn (John Boyega), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Rey (Daisy Ridley), and it will also introduce characters such as Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran).
Lucasfilm clearly believes in Johnson's vision, as it replaced Phil Lord and Chris Miller with Ron Howard on Solo: A Star Wars Story, and it fired Colin Trevorrow to hire Abrams for Episode IX.
Johnson's journey to a galaxy far, far away began in childhood. "Star Wars was everything for me," he told The New York Times in September. "As a little kid, you get to see the movies only once or twice, but playing with the toys in your backyard, that's where you're first telling stories in your head." As a lifelong fan of the George Lucas's saga, it was "so emotional to step onto the Millennium Falcon set [on The Last Jedi], because that was the play set we all had when we were kids. Suddenly, you were standing in the real thing. There's this rush of unreality about it."
Years ago, the director had taken a few "general meetings" with Kennedy, but the call to direct Star Wars: The Last Jedi came "really, really out of the blue," he said. "It was like a bomb dropped. I suddenly realized, 'Oh, this meeting is about this.' I didn't try to hide the fact that I was freaking out. But I also said, 'Can I think about it?' After Looper, I had been approached with other franchise stuff and gotten used to saying no. And I knew this would mean so much to me—the worst thing I can imagine is having a bad experience making a Star Wars movie."
Obviously, being on set with his childhood heroes was surreal. "It took a while before I could sit across the table with Mark and not, every three seconds, think, 'I'm talking to Luke Skywalker.' With Carrie, I felt we connected as writers very quickly. She spoke her mind, man. They both did. Anyone whose life is that weirdly tied to a character like this, where you drop a script in their lap and say, 'Now it's this,' there's no way it's not a discussion," he said. "But they were both so engaged in the process, and trusting. The fact that both of them at some point said, 'OK, even if this isn't what I was expecting, I'm going to trust you'—that was really touching."