For “Star Wars” fans, J.J. Abrams is a savior of the latest trilogy as the director of “The Force Awakens” has agreed to take over “Star Wars: Episode IX” following the departure of the original director. Colin Trevorrow.
But that is not how it looks over at Paramount.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Abrams is under a $10-million-a-year contract in overhead with the studio. It has been his home since his debut in 2006 with “Mission: Impossible III,” and departure to go for “Star Wars” movie means the studio has to wait for Abrams to sprinkle his box office magic on their titles.
Abrams called directing “The Force Awakens” a once in a lifetime job, and the head of Paramount Brad Grey was gracious to let Abrams jump over to Disney/Lucasfilm and make this movie. (Though he made sure Abrams’ next movie would be at Paramount, according to the trade.)
With the “The Force Awakens” earning over $1 billion at the global box office, Lucasfilm head, Kathleen Kennedy had Abrams on speed dial when she required someone reliable to take over “Episode IX.”
That left Paramount chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos with two choices: defy the Lucasfilm and Disney machine and make it tough for Abrams to take the film, or sit on his hands and wait.
He chose the latter.
His latest film for Paramount studios was “Star Trek Into Darkness,” and this had earned an income of over $460 million. He was the producer for “10 Cloverfield Lane” and “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.”
With no script for “Episode IX,” and its release date pushed to December 2019, Abrams’ deal with Paramount will expire when he is done.
The problem with giving a director a contract like Paramount gave Abrams: “How to enforce them is as complicated as the deals themselves,” one source told THR.