Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy on Planning "Next 10 Years" of Star Wars Films

Producer Kathleen Kennedy -Getty-H 2019
Vincent Sandoval/FilmMagic
The producer is talking with Rian Johnson and 'Game of Thrones' showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to discuss the future: "We are looking at the next saga."

It’s the end of an era — and a saga. As the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker promises, the Dec. 20 movie will bring a piece of cinema history to a close, and according to Lucasfilm's president Kathleen Kennedy, that’s been the plan all along.

“We knew we were going to close this up, we knew that even before we started The Force Awakens,” Kennedy told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. 

Disney CEO Bob Iger has spoken about Episode IX being the final Star Wars film for some time while the company focuses on small-screen efforts The Mandalorian, from Jon Favreau, as well as an untitled Rogue One prequel starring Diego Luna. But Kennedy is already planning plenty of big-screen adventures to come. 

"We are looking at the next saga. We are not just looking at another trilogy, we're really looking at the next 10 years or more," Kennedy said.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson is developing a trilogy of films, while Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are crafting their own trilogy. 

“This [movie] is the culmination of the Skywalker Saga; it’s by no means the culmination of Star Wars," said Kennedy. "I’m sitting down now with Dan Weiss and David Benioff...and Rian Johnson. We’re all sitting down to talk about, where do we go next? We’ve all had conversations about what the possibilities might be, but now we’re locking it down."

This summit is on the calendar for next month, Kennedy said.

Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams came into the project after the September 2017 exit of Colin Trevorrow, and for him it was a chance to complete the journey he started with 2015's The Force Awakens.

“When Kathy called and asked if I’d be interested in coming aboard this movie, I was surprised by how emotional I felt about it,” Abrams told THR. “I didn’t expect to feel the way I did, and the opportunity to finish the story we started was something I couldn’t resist.”

The Rise of Skywalker isn’t just the end of the story started in The Force Awakens; it’s also the end of the nine-movie cycle started with 1977’s original movie. Abrams described trying to tie everything together as “this crazy challenge,” but believes that the movie will satisfy the demands placed upon it.

“The beauty of working with [co-writer] Chris Terrio and producing with Kathleen Kennedy is that I think we have found a way — I hope, it’s up for you to decide — to bring this story to a conclusion in a way that feels satisfying, surprising, amusing, shocking, all the ways that a story should make you feel. Mostly, it’s an adventure story about this new generation of characters who have inherited all sorts of things from those who come before. That was, in a way, how I felt about working on this movie.”

Everyone involved with the movie was staying tight-lipped about any potential plot spoilers for the none-more-secretive movie, but a running theme in talking to the cast was the sense of responsibility and community the final installment brought.

“I’m very proud of the story that J.J. put together, and I’m very proud of the performances,” John Boyega said. “It’s all of us together, and for me, that was enough.” Daisy Ridley added, “I felt a lot of emotion because I was so happy with what we were doing, I was so happy with the people I was working with, the cast and crew was amazing. All of the other stuff sort of falls to the wayside. You’re just trying to do the right thing [for the movie]; that’s all you can do.”

Ridley also sidestepped any question about the title’s meaning with regard to Rey’s parentage by talking about how new the title actually is. “I only learned the title last week,” she said. “I’m still processing.” Boyega, she added, only learned the title "last night."

Naomi Ackie, who plays new character Jana, said that her experience on the movie included “a lot of quiet moments sitting very quietly on the carpet floor saying, ‘I just need a second to get over this.’ It can be quite overwhelming, but this experience has been, and continues to be, so positive. It’s helped me grow as a person, to be honest.”

Also positive was the standing ovation Kelly Marie Tran received at the Star Wars: Episode IX panel, coming after she had temporarily stepped away from social media after being targeted by trolls. “I was so emotional,” she said. “I definitely did not expect it, and I was all, ‘I’m not prepared! I’m not prepared!’ I was just trying to keep it all together.”

Tran was one of the few castmembers willing to entertain the possibility of appearing in a future Star Wars project, saying, “I love what Rian [Johnson] did, I love what J.J.’s doing, and I love that I’ve had the chance to be a part of it. I would never put an X on anything.” Boyega, on the other hand, said that he was “absolutely” ready to step away from Finn for the time being, explaining that the Rise of Skywalker shoot “gave me all the pleasure I needed, all the closure I needed” after spending years with the character.