Four years ago in 2015, director Colin Trevorrow was announced as the director of Star Wars: Episode IX, the final film in the Skywalker Saga. At the time, the announcement raised some eyebrows: Trevorrow hardly had the amount of experience you’d expect for a film this big and important, and the one big film to his name, Jurassic World, was financially successful but creatively a basic retread. Still, indie filmmakers had stepped into the tentpole studio system before and made something great, such as James Gunn the year before with Guardians of the Galaxy, so it was an intriguing choice.
Two years, some creative differences and the flop of The Book of Henry later, it was announced that Trevorrow would no longer be directing the project. While it’s true these projects often take a long time to hit theaters, two years is a considerable amount of time and energy in a film. When J.J. Abrams was brought back in to close out the final installment, it was assumed by most he’d scrap everything Trevorrow had done and start from scratch.
But it was recently revealed that Trevorrow and his writing partner, Derek Connolly, would both be receiving story credits on The Rise of Skywalker.
So what does that mean? Writing credits can get particularly confusing with ongoing franchise movies based on existing IP, where multiple creators and writers might have a hand in the final story that ends up on the screen. For starters, creating the story is different than writing the screenplay and so crediting for each operates differently. Screenplay credits are fairly straightforward: If a writer contributes at least 33% to a screenplay, they’re credited. They’re the writers who took the ideas or the treatment and turned it into the final script. Story credits, however, are a little more ephemeral and hard to pin down as a story credit can indicate a person came up with specific elements such as the characters, plot, theme, etc. but might have provided anything from a story document to a full script. However, getting a story credit generally only happens when someone’s contributions are used for a not-insignificant chunk of the final story. Trevorrow and Connolly getting story credits (but billed below Abrams and co-writer, Chris Terrio) indicates that Abrams and Terrio wrote the majority of the story but incorporated a fair amount of Trevorrow’s overall story arc into the final script.
One thing that definitely wasn’t Trevorrow’s idea? Bringing back Palpatine. In an interview with Empire, he revealed that idea belongs to J.J. Abrams. “Bringing back the Emperor was an idea J.J. brought to the table when he came on board,” he explained. “It’s honestly something I never considered. I commend him for it. This was a tough story to unlock, and he found the key.”
He’s grateful to Abrams for not completely gutting his ideas, however, noting that while no one in the creative life should expect any guarantees their work will see the light of a theater screen, it’s still gratifying that some of his has. “I’m grateful to J.J. for embracing some of our ideas,” he said. “It’s exciting that fans will get to see the moments that felt essential to all of us.”
Lucasfilm may not have ultimately felt that Trevorrow was the right fit to pilot the great Skywalker ship home to its final port, but there’s no denying that Trevorrow is an enormous Star Wars fan whose heart was in the right place and that he acted with class when being let go from the project. In a May 2018 interview, Trevorrow revealed there was a reason for that: He didn’t want to spoil anything for the fans:
I don’t want to talk too much about it because I don’t want to affect the way that fans get to see these films. When we were kids, these movies came to us from far away. They were a gift. And the more we talk about how they’re made, the more it reveals that they’re just movies. But they’re not just movies, they’re more than that.
Whatever went down behind the scenes at Lucasfilm, it’s clear Trevorrow gets just how important Star Wars is, because it’s important to him, as well. “I got the opportunity to tell a story that is a celebration of everything I believe in,” he said in the same interview. “I got to tell it to George Lucas and I got to tell it to Luke Skywalker, and those are experiences I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
It’s got to be gratifying for him to see his name on the credits for the final Skywalker Saga film.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters on December 20th. Get tickets here.