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The Real Reason Colin Trevorrow Left The Rise Of Skywalker

It turns out that big-budget, blockbuster filmmaking is a bit of an inexact science.

In a recent interview with io9, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker producer Michelle Rejwan discussed the circumstances which led to writer/director Colin Trevorrow's exit from the project.

Trevorrow, the mastermind behind the Jurassic World franchise, had made a significant amount of headway on Rise of Skywalker before he and his writing partner Derek Connolly departed in September 2017. The filmmaker's contributions were substantial enough for him to receive a story credit on the upcoming film, but according to Kennedy, he basically started out behind the 8-ball through no real fault of his own.

This was due to two factors: the fact that Trevorrow had not been involved in either Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and simple time constraints. "I wouldn't say [Trevorrow's version] didn't work," Kennedy explained. "Colin was at a huge disadvantage not having been a part of Force Awakens and [a] part of those early conversations, because we had a general sense of where the story was going."

Kennedy went on to elaborate that Trevorrow's vision just wasn't meshing quite right with the story elements that the creative team already had in mind, and that while it might have gotten there eventually, time was a factor. "Like any development process, it was only in the development that we're looking at a first draft and realizing that it was perhaps heading in a direction that many of us didn't feel was really quite where we wanted it to go," she said. "And we were on a schedule, as we often are with these movies, and had to make a tough decision as to whether or not we thought we could get there in time or not. And as I said, Colin was at a disadvantage because he hadn't been immersed in everything that we all had [been] starting out with [The Force Awakens]."

This makes perfect sense, and as Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams was involved in the process of putting together the sequel trilogy's story from the very beginning, it also makes sense that the best way to get Rise of Skywalker into theaters on time was to bring him back on to replace Trevorrow. As it so happens, Trevorrow himself has credited Abrams with finding the "key" to the whole story: the return of Emperor Palpatine, which was one of Abrams' first contributions to Rise of Skywalker's story upon being brought back into the fold. 

How did Rise of Skywalker's story come together?

As it happened, though, it took a meeting of the minds between Abrams, co-writer Chris Terrio, Kennedy, and Rejwan to come up with the perfect ending to the Skywalker Saga. Rejwan related that Palpatine's big comeback in Rise of Skywalker, for example, was a plot point which all four agonized over for quite some time — the Emperor having seemingly met his decisive end at the conclusion of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

"I think there was a feeling of inevitability that Palpatine had been a part of all three [trilogies] and in the biggest picture of nine movies, he has been there from the very beginning," she explained. "And his presence in this movie, we will not spoil that, but... the ending of where we left him last, in Return of the Jedi, was very important to J.J. and Chris and to all of us. We discussed it at great length... I think it definitely feels as though it is in the DNA of the [Skywalker Saga]. And it felt appropriate to have [Palpatine] be in this movie."

Kennedy elaborated that the creatives weren't sure that they'd hit upon that perfect ending to the saga until shooting was already well underway. "There was a point in the shooting where there was an epiphany moment," she said. "Where all of us very clearly said, 'Yes, this feels right.' The how, getting there, the details in that? We were [working on them] right up until the end."

She went on to explain that this wouldn't have been possible without a degree of brutal honesty on the part of everyone involved — especially in regards to Terrio, who had no prior Star Wars credits on his resume, and therefore could offer an outsider's perspective.

"I think the great thing about the dialogue that happened consistently with J.J., Michelle, Chris, and myself was that because we all know each other pretty well — Chris was really the only person we didn't know super well — but there was a very free, confident, honest dialogue that could happen," Kennedy said. "Nobody was being overly polite. If you didn't think something made sense, If you couldn't follow it, if you thought, from a fan's point of view, that you're stepping outside the lines and it was a bogus kind of thinking, no one was afraid to say that because we knew how important this was to get right."

Important, indeed; it's not every day that filmmakers are tasked with crafting a satisfying conclusion to one of the most beloved film series of all time. Fortunately, we don't have long to wait before we can finally feast our eyes on the fruits of their labor: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits the big screen on December 20.