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Rian Johnson Cites 'Twelve O’Clock High' & 'Letter Never Sent' Among Inspirations For 'Star Wars: Episode VIII'

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist July 29, 2014 at 3:26PM

While J.J. Abrams' upcoming "Star Wars: Episode 7" doesn't have a formal, non-generic title yet, the spotlight now turns to Rian Johnson's "Star Wars: Episode 8." With the filmmaker tapped to write and direct that installment and to write the treatment for "Star Wars: Episode 9," he's diving deep into the George Lucas created universe. And while he's likely sitting on all kinds of spoiler-y details, he recently shared a couple of clues that will give super-fans something to chew on.
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Twelve O'Clock High Rian Johnson Letter Never Sent

While J.J. Abrams' upcoming "Star Wars: Episode 7" doesn't have a formal, non-generic title yet, the spotlight now turns to Rian Johnson's "Star Wars: Episode 8." With the filmmaker tapped to write and direct that installment and to write the treatment for "Star Wars: Episode 9," he's diving deep into the George Lucas created universe. And while he's likely sitting on all kinds of spoiler-y details, he recently shared a couple of clues that will give super-fans something to chew on.

Appearing on a Filmspotting podcast (via Chicago Sun-Times), the director was humble regarding his "Star Wars" job. “I can only assume it was a clerical error, like in the movie ‘Brazil.’ There’s a Brian Johnson out there who is really mad,” he said. Johnson went on to reveal that he and his crew have been holding nightly screenings, mentioning Henry King's "Twelve O'Clock High" starring Gregory Peck, and Mikhail Kalatozov's "Letter Never Sent" among the recent choices.

And while we really doubt that "Star Wars: Episode 8" will resemble either in its finished form —one concerns a tough as nails WWII commander whipping his team into shape, the other regards four geologists trapped in a giant forest fire— we'd wager Johnson wants his team to adapt the tones and textures of those films into blockbuster dimensions. 

But for now, Johnson prefers to crack wise: “With these films, I am trying to harken back to the original ‘Star Wars’ …. Christmas special. We have Jefferson Starship.”

In related news, rumors are swirling that Simon Pegg may make an unseen appearance —as a voice, perhaps— in "Star Wars: Episode 7." Over the weekend at Comic-Con, Benedict Cumberbatch seemed to spill the beans when asked if he was considered for a role in Abram's installment. “J.J. and I are friends, so yeah, possibly,” Cumberbatch told MTV. “But I think J.J. is very good at creating something original out of something known, and I think apart from his continuing use of Simon Pegg — and who can blame him, frankly — it made sense not to do it.”

Meanwhile, speaking with Vulture, Pegg was asked directly whether or not he'll be in 'Episode 7'. After hemming and hawing, he finally answered: "Of course, I visited the set. It’s amazing, and I love 'Star Wars.' I want to see everything happening. It looks wonderful, and you need to believe those characters. Any type of stunt casting might just pop you out of the movie." 

Anyway, you have a long time to scrutinize those quotes. "Star Wars: Episode 7" arrives on December 18, 2015. And below, watch "Twelve O'Clock High" in full, followed by the opening shot from "Letter Never Sent."

This article is related to: Rian Johnson, Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, Star Wars: Episode 8, Star Wars, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg


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