‘Star Wars’ standalone film loses its director

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The rebooted “Star Wars” franchise hit a bump on Friday as filmmaker Josh Trank, who was selected to direct one of the upcoming standalone films, said he was stepping down from the project to pursue other “creative opportunities.”

Trank, 30, the director of 2012’s sci-fi movie “Chronicle” and the upcoming “Fantastic Four” movie, was selected to direct the second “Star Wars Anthology” due out in 2018. The three anthology films will intersect a new trilogy in the franchise, kicking off with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in December.

“After a year of having the incredible honour of developing with the wonderful and talented people at Lucasfilm, I’m making a personal decision to move forward on a different path,” Trank said in a statement on StarWars.com.

“I’ve put a tremendous amount of thought into this, and I know deep down in my heart that I want to pursue some original creative opportunities.”

Lucasfilm’s vice president of development, Kiri Hart, added, “We are grateful for the energy and love of Star Wars that he brought to the process.”

No replacement for Trank has been named yet.

“The Force Awakens,” directed by J.J. Abrams, is the first of a new “Star Wars” trilogy being produced by Walt Disney Co since it purchased the franchise from Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.05 billion. It is expected to be one of the biggest box office hits later this year, and its two trailers have already amassed millions of views amid frenzied fan interest.

“Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One,” directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones, is the first of the standalone films and is due out in 2016.

“Star Wars,” created by filmmaker George Lucas, grossed more than $4.4 billion at the worldwide box office since 1977 with six films and has become embedded in pop culture, spawning a legion of devoted fans.

Franchise stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher will all return in “The Force Awakens.”

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)

‘Star Wars’ standalone film loses its director