J.J. Abrams isn’t a person who shrinks from a challenge. After overseeing the reboot of the Star Trek film franchise, he took the reins to steer movie goers back to that galaxy far, far away, directing and executive producing Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
He’s not someone who likes to stay too long in one place, either. And that’s why it’s unlikely he’ll helm any upcoming Star Wars films.
“It was a wonderful way to visit a place that meant so much to me and obviously so many,” Abrams said in an interview with Fortune at South by Southwest. “I knew that if it worked, it was the perfect time to step down – and if it didn’t, no one would want me to do it anyway.”
One doesn’t just walk away from the biggest film franchise of all time, of course. Abrams remains executive producer of Star Wars Episodes Eight and Nine. And that position suits him just fine.
“I’m very happy to be where I am,” he says. “Rian Johnson [who is currently directing Episode Eight] is brilliant and needs no help from me. As executive producer, I’ve been collaborating with them, but they are obviously doing all of the heavy lifting and it’s very exciting to see what’s going on.”
Beyond Star Wars, Abrams is executive producing HBO’s ambitious sci-fi Western Westworld, another reboot of a cult favorite. And it may be his longest running passion project.
“Westworld is one of those things I’ve wanted to work on for so long,” he says. “I had a meeting probably 21 years ago with Michael Crichton [who wrote and directed the 1973 original film] about doing this. And it’s taken along time to get this going.”
That’s continuing to prove true. In January, production on the series shut down temporarily to get ahead on writing. At the SXSW panel he shared with filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, though, Abrams showed the audience a trailer for Westworld. (HBO has still not given a premiere date for the series.)
Abrams says he’s actually thankful to the network for not rushing production, as he feels this story talks about many things that are relevant in today’s world.
“At the heart of Westworld is this story of consciousness and oppression and discover,” he says. “It’s one of the projects I feel most grateful and lucky to be a part of. What [the directorial team has] done is so stunning and cool and they’re not rushing it because of business maters and the network is giving them the time. That is never a bad move.”