THR: On the Inter-studio Drama behind Abrams’ Deal to Direct Star Wars: Episode IX

With his deep involvement in the Star Wars Universe in the new Disney era, it is easy to forget that JJ Abrams is still a director tied into a development deal with an entirely different studio. The Hollywood Reporter had a piece a few days ago covering just exactly what that means for Disney, Abrams, and his struggling home studio, Paramount.



This article dives deep into the political and financial machinations of the Hollywood system. While Abrams has seemingly been one of the key figures in Star Wars development since he first officially signed on with Lucasfilm back in 2013, he has simultaneously been tied up with a multi-million dollar per year development agreement with Paramount. An agreement that has resulted in his Star Trek films as well as Super 8, along with his producing credits on the Mission: Impossible and Cloverfield franchises.


But Paramount is a Studio that has been struggling as of late. According to THR, the new Chairman and CEO over at Paramount was not too pleased to find out he would be losing Abrams’ talent for an extended period of time yet again. A period of time that would take Abrams through the end of his contract which expires in 2018. In the end, Paramount begrudgingly agreed to let Abrams loan his talents to Disney again in exchange for a fee for which the exact number seems to be in dispute.



But as THR points out, Paramount CEO Gianopulos didn’t have much of a choice in the matter:


As for Gianopulos, the exec accommodated the move even if he was not happy, say sources. Paramount declined comment, but the studio chief is said to be irked to see Abrams get poached again — this time despite a specifically negotiated obligation. But fighting Abrams would have meant alienating the filmmaker and taking on major adversaries: Lucasfilm, Disney and possibly even Steven Spielberg, who isn’t involved with Star Wars but has a long-term association with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy and has taken credit for luring Abrams to helm The Force Awakens in the first place. And then there are Abrams’ reps at CAA. With Paramount in need of all the support it can get, Gianopulos had to be realistic.


All that being said, it doesn’t seem there is too much bad blood between Abrams and Paramount as THR seems to think Paramount will seek to renew his contract when it expires next year. THR’s sources say all parties recognize that this was too good an opportunity for him to turn down, and although unfortunate for Paramount’s immediate plans, it is doubtful it will damage the long term relationship.


It will be interesting to see what Abrams does after Episode IX having now developed such a strong relationship with Disney and Lucasfilm. Will Abrams return to his former home in Paramount to help them get back on track, or try to parlay his Star Wars gig into a larger role at the behemoth of the industry that Disney has become over the past decade?



Head to THR to check out the full piece.



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29 thoughts on “THR: On the Inter-studio Drama behind Abrams’ Deal to Direct Star Wars: Episode IX

  • September 22, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Hollywood handles like gangsters, no wonder Lucas never wanted to be there in the first place.

  • September 22, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Well… it didn’t seem like anything was happening there as it was. I’d understand if maybe Paramount actually had a film all set up and ready for JJ to direct. Didn’t seem to be the case. He was just sitting there… wondering why he put Luke on that island 😛

    • September 22, 2017 at 8:59 pm

      i think they were waiting for him to pitch a new project, but yeah they should have been throwing ideas at him to get him back in the game.

      • September 22, 2017 at 10:30 pm

        I don’t like the thought, but remember that Transformers is Paramount and Michael Bay claims he’s done with it. Its possible they wanted JJ for a potential reboot.

        • September 22, 2017 at 11:10 pm

          the more i think about this the more i like the idea. JJ’s style would be perfect to fix that broken franchise.

          • September 23, 2017 at 12:39 am

            Maybe but is his (creative) heart really into Transformers? He wasn’t really into Trek, but he did manage to pull together a decent first movie. (He should have passed on the second one, in hindsight, but now I wonder if Paramount pressured him to direct it.)

            Whether you like what he did with TFA, there’s no denying that JJ really does love SW the most.

          • September 23, 2017 at 1:02 am

            absolutely. though i think we can all agree that a half-hearted effort from JJ is better than what bay has been doing. 😉

        • September 25, 2017 at 1:23 am

          Bay may be done, but they have a whole writers room making spin offs and setting up a cinematic universe.

  • September 22, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Abrams’ deal for IX: $15m + 30% backend.

  • September 22, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Don’t fret Paramount, you still have Darren Aronofsky (and Lucasfilm will *never* pull him from you).

    • September 24, 2017 at 11:21 am

      After mother! underperformed? That’s cold comfort…

      – Pomojema

      • September 24, 2017 at 3:00 pm

        Yes, Pomojema, it certainly is.

  • September 22, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    the lesson here is disney gets whatever it wants, even verses another major studio. i am curious if JJ deliberately put off making anything new for paramount just in case episode IX came open. if so it was a smart gamble.

    • September 23, 2017 at 2:22 am

      He took time off for his family since he had to go overseas a lot for TFA

      • September 23, 2017 at 3:22 am

        true but its been almost two years and paramount at least thought he’d back at it by now.

        • September 23, 2017 at 8:15 am

          You never know, I do recall him working on several projects after TFA like production & something to do with video games. & for all we know he may have been working on Episode 9 for a while already. I at least hope that’s the case… seems like a very short span of time to write a story with production starting in 4 months.

  • September 22, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Maybe Paramount can have Rick McCallum. We hear he’s readily available.

    • September 22, 2017 at 9:35 pm

      “Wait a minute, that ain’t Rick Berman.”

      • September 22, 2017 at 9:41 pm

        What is it with Ricks?

  • September 22, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Here’s the solution. Disney should just buy Paramount. Problem solved.

    • September 23, 2017 at 1:17 am

      Shhhh don’t give them ideas.

    • September 23, 2017 at 9:28 am

      Give Paramount back to Marvel!

  • September 23, 2017 at 4:07 am

    JJ Abrams has the copied script of Star Trek 4:The Voyage Home ready for a reboot. This time they’ll rescue a blue whale.

  • September 23, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Paramount aren’t going to kick up much of a fuss due to the deal they have in place for the existing Indiana Jones films and any future ones in the franchise

  • September 23, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    Since his name isn’t J.J. Abram, someone needs to learn how to use an apostrophe. Really. – I better go watch my favorite makeup movie, Rouge One…

  • September 23, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    In light of Jim Cameron and Ridley Scott taking on producer roles for
    Terminator and Blade Runner respectively, I wonder if Spielberg might
    be considering having J.J. direct Indy 5? Especially if he’s hellbent on
    his obsession with remaking West Side Story. This could be all part of
    some sort of gentleman’s agreement with Paramount somehow.

    • September 25, 2017 at 6:19 am

      Ford and Abrams seem to get along great.

  • September 27, 2017 at 1:32 am

    JJ had better not turn Episode 9 into a copy of Return of the Jedi like he turned Episode 7 into a remake of a new hope!

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