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Rian Johnson to direct 'Star Wars: Episode VIII' and 'Star Wars: Episode IX'

May the force be with Rian Johnson. On June 20 Deadline exclusively reported that director Rian Johnson has been chosen to write and direct the next two films in the "Star Wars" franchise. Disney announced a new version of the film series over a year ago, and standalone films based on popular characters are in the works. Johnson will take over for J.J. Abrams, who is currently filming "Star Wars: Episode VII" in London.

Rian Johnson
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The new series is expected to take place twenty years after the end of the original trilogy by George Lucas. One of the most popular science fiction film sagas in history, it's no surprise that a new trilogy is coming instead of just a seventh film. It will also mark the first time that a director has helmed multiple movies, since no single individual has directed more than one film in the franchise ever. George Lucas, who created the story, has written the screenplay or been involved in each film through his company Lucasfilm Ltd.

Johnson is no stranger to science fiction films, having directed the dark indie film "Brick" starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the time traveling thriller "Looper" with Bruce Willis. The director has been rather vocal on Twitter about his love for the beloved space franchise, and the directors of the previous films have all managed to produce box office breaking films. The films have no scheduled release date, although Disney has promised a "Star Wars" relate film each year which gives the films theatrical releases in 2017 and 2019.

After the release of the seventh film in 2015, a standalone film directed by "Godzilla" helmer Gareth Edwards will debut in theaters in 2016 on a still unspecified character, although rumors hint that it may be Boba Fett or Yoda. Another standalone film, directed by "Chronicle" helmer by Josh Trank is expected to arrive in 2018. Johnson is expected to be busy with the new films for nearly the rest of this decade.

The Huffington Post revealed on June 20 that Johnson may only be writing the ninth film and not directing, which has yet to be confirmed by the director or the studio. Lawrence Kasdan, who helped Lucas write the original trilogy also worked Abrams on the seventh film script, so it's likely he will return to complete the scripts for eight and nine along with Johnson. Leaving the writing and directing to one person is unlikely, especially for a franchise that has included many different writers and directors from the first film until now.

"Star Wars: Episode VII" is currently filming in London and Abu Dhabi. The film is on track to arrive in theaters on December 18, 2015 and will include returning actors Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill. Ford recently suffered a broken bone in his leg while filming scenes on the Millennium Falcon, and his scenes are being shifted to allow him two months to heal. Newcomers to the film include Adam Driver, John Boyega, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong'o, Gwendoline Christie, Max von Sydow, Andy Serkis and Oscar Isaac.

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