The first reviews of The Last Jedi are in, with many critics hailing the new Star Wars installment as the best since The Empire Strikes Back. And if critics are that impressed with filmmaker Rian Johnson’s work in the iconic galaxy far, far away, then the folks at Lucasfilm are twice as thrilled — which is why it wasn’t too surprising to learn that the studio had signed Johnson to develop a brand new Star Wars trilogy, complete with new characters and an epic new journey. What might surprise you, however, is that Lucasfilm gave Johnson the OK even though he didn’t have a story idea to pitch.

It’s highly unusual for a studio to commit to a project — much less a blockbuster trilogy — before they hear the concept. It’s even crazier for one to give a filmmaker the go-ahead when that person doesn’t even have a story idea yet. But according to Rian Johnson, that’s how it happened when he sealed the deal for his new Star Wars trilogy.

Speaking with /Film, Johnson says he’s “just at the beginning of the beginning” of writing the story, which he hadn’t come up with yet when he pitched the idea of a new Star Wars trilogy to Lucasfilm and Disney. Below, Johnson explains how the deal came about:

It came about because we were getting to the end of making this and again, I knew I wasn’t doing the next one. And I had had a really good time not just making this movie, but working with Kathy and also working with Disney, working with Bob Iger, Alan Horn, and Alan Berg. And we just had just a really good experience. And we were all…it was like last week of senior year. We were cleaning out our lockers. And all getting kind of sad. And saying, how do we keep working together? And that I threw out, I said, the most interesting thing to me would be a new trilogy, one story told over three movies. Go new places, meet new folks, come up with a new story to tell in the Star Wars universe. The sky’s the limit. That sounds thrilling. And they really responded to that. So we’re off, yeah.

According to Johnson, that was the pitch — there was no story idea yet, and it seems like he’s just now starting to figure out what it will be. He has plenty of time, of course: The Last Jedi hits theaters this weekend, followed by Episode IX in 2019. In between, there’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, which arrives next May. Lucasfilm will likely put together another spinoff for 2020, which means the earliest we’ll see the first movie in Johnson’s new trilogy is 2021.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi High-Res Photo Gallery:

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