For “Star Wars” fans, J.J. Abrams is perceived as the savior of the latest trilogy of the saga, as the director of “The Force Awakens” has agreed to take over production on “Star Wars: Episode IX” following the departure of original director Colin Trevorrow.
But that’s not how it looks over at Paramount.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Abrams is currently under a $10-million-a-year contract in overhead and development with the studio. It’s been his home since his feature debut in 2006 with “Mission: Impossible III,” and his departure to go and make another “Star Wars” movie means the studio brass have to once more wait for Abrams to sprinkle his box office magic on one of their titles.
Abrams always called directing “The Force Awakens” a once in a lifetime job, and because of that, then head of Paramount Brad Grey was gracious enough to let Abrams jump over to Disney/Lucasfilm to make the movie. (Though he made sure Abrams’ next movie would be at Paramount, according to the trade.)
But with “The Force Awakens” earning over $1 billion at the global box office, and breaking countless records, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy had Abrams on speed dial when she needed someone reliable to take over “Episode IX.”
That left current Paramount chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos with two choices: defy the powerful Lucasfilm and Disney machine and make it difficult for Abrams to take the movie, or sit on his hands and wait a little longer.
He chose the latter.
Abrams’ last movie for Paramount was 2013’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which earned over $460 million worldwide. He was also a producer on studio hits “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and “10 Cloverfield Lane” in 2015. Since then, he’s been engulfed in the “Star Wars” saga. And with no finished script yet for “Episode IX,” and the release date pushed to December 2019, Abrams’ deal with Paramount will have expired by the time he’s done (it ends the summer of 2018).
For his troubles, THR reports that Gianopulos has received money from Disney to compensate the loss of Abrams. But not that much: sources say it’s less than seven figures. And the problem with giving a director a big contract like Paramount gave Abrams: “How to enforce them is as complicated as the deals themselves,” one source told THR.
But if Paramount didn’t do the deal with Abrams, another studio would have. So Gianopulos and Paramount, which THR reports will likely renew their deal with Abrams after the summer 2018 expiration date, continue to wait for Abrams to come back home and give them a hit.