Star Wars Episode IX will begin filming this summer.
That's the word out of D23 Expo Japan this weekend. During a special panel presentation dedicated to Marvel and Star Wars at the fan gathering this weekend, Walt Disney Studios Marketing President Ricky Strauss -- escorted by R2-D2 and C-3PO -- spoke about the success of the overall Star Wars saga and introduced a special video greeting from J.J. Abrams. In the greeting, Abrams revealed that he was hard at work co-writing the upcoming finale to the new Star Wars trilogy ahead of directing the film this summer.
While a specific date was not provided, this is the first news we've had giving any kind of timeline for the upcoming film short of a release date of December 20, 2019. The reveal that Abrams is still working on the writing for the film also explains why fans haven't really gotten any clues as to what they might be able to expect for the film, though many have wondered if Abrams' Episode IX will undo any of the story Rian Johnson took the trilogy toward in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. There has been a lot of backlash against writer/director Johnson about some of the decisions he made with The Last Jedi's story. However, Johnson has no regrets about how he created his film.
"A lot of things that ended up taking hold in the fan community in terms of who is Snoke, who are Rey's parents, and the fever pitch that those rose to, I obviously knew those were questions you had coming out of Force Awakens, but I didn't have the weight of the fan expectation of what the payoff of those questions would be," Johnson explained to The /Filmcast. "Which I think was a good thing."
While Abrams' return to the trilogy may see some of the threads from The Force Awakens woven into Episode IX, Abrams has already been outspoken about how he wants to take the franchise "elsewhere".
"Well, it's certainly something that I'm aware of now working on Episode IX – coming back into this world after having done Episode VII," the director told BBC when asked about the impact these films have on so many people. "I feel like we need to approach this with the same excitement that we had when we were kids, loving what these movies were. And at the same time, we have to take them places that they haven't gone, and that's sort of our responsibility."
News that Episode IX is set to start filming this summer wasn't the only Star Wars-related news out of D23 Expo Japan, either. After Abrams' message to fans, Strauss unveiled brand new, behind the scenes footage for the next film in the Star Wars universe, Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Star Wars: Episode IX opens in theaters December 20, 2019. Solo: A Star Wars Story premieres in theaters May 25th.