A relative unknown. Zero blockbuster directorial credits to his name. Rian Johnson doesn’t immediately seem like the most obvious choice to take the reins of the biggest sci-fi franchise in cinematic history.
But take a closer look at the man due to direct Star Wars: Episode VIII , and you'll realise that The Force is strong with this one. After the wildly unpopular George Lucas prequels, it is probably a wise move on Disney’s part to recruit an edgy outsider whose street cred is riding high on the back of stints on everyone’s favourite meth drama, Breaking Bad.
Not only has the man presided over arguably the greatest TV episode ever but he's also proven himself to be a precocious talent with brilliance, balls, and plenty of brains. Here’s more about the man who’s giving you permission to enjoy the galaxy far, far away again.
1 | He can do gritty
Johnson's 2005 directorial debut Brick was a lesson in grade A detective drama. A neo-noir film, it starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a high-school outsider searching for the perpetrator of his girlfriend's murder. Taking cues from a hysterical, cryptic phone call from her the day before her body is found in a creek, he becomes immersed in the world of local heroin lords. Johnson wrote the dark, unusual script after graduating from the USC School of Cinematic Art and spent seven years pitching, before finally getting together the lowest budget he could manage to make it independently. His tenacity paid off when he was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the Sundance Film Festival.
2 | He has science fiction down
2012 saw our main man direct sci-fi crime thriller Looper, in which he again cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role, alongside Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt. In the future, time travel is illegal, so mob bosses send anyone they want killed back in time to be killed by Loopers. When a Looper is no longer of any use, he's sent back in time to be killed by his younger self. This is called "closing your loop". A clear, well-expressed take on a complicated concept, it showed he can take on the whole futuristic/predetermined destiny thing and package it in a smart, nuanced way.
3 | He wrote one of the best episodes of television, ever
'Ozymandias', Breaking Bad's breathtaking penultimate episode, has not only been heralded by critics, fans and Vince Gilligan as the greatest episode of Breaking Bad's five seasons, but has also been described as perhaps the best episode of any television show ever. The episode is toe-curlingly tense and littered with Johnson's subtle stylistic touches, demonstrating something we’re all becoming familiar with: the small screen is where the most creative thinking is happening these days.
4 | He likes a risk
Johnson also directed 'Fly', the most polarising episode of Breaking Bad, in which plot is virtually static and Walter White spends most of the hour trying to kill a pesky fly. 'Fly' was a serious departure from the style of the rest of the show, and was loved and loathed in equal measure. Pretty much like Star Wars, then. Good practice.
5 | He can have a laugh
One of the worst things the new Star Wars film could be is a po-faced snooze-fest, so it's good to know that Johnson knows how to lighten the mood. He celebrated the announcement with a tweet of a scene from the film The Right Stuff, in which protagonist Alan Shephard is shot into space, but only after uttering the words "Dear Lord – please don't let me fuck up."