Variety is reporting that Rick Heinrichs, a noted collaborator of Tim Burton and an Oscar winner for Sleepy Hollow, has been hired by Disney and Lucasfilm as production designer of Star Wars: Episode VIII under the direction of Rian Johnson.
This is a bold-but-well-calculated choice, as Heinrichs is known for bringing a unique, slightly off-kilter gothic sensibility to much of his work, which could give us an idea of the visual tone Johnson is trying to establish with his follow-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Heinrichs has been a longtime associate of Burton, whom he met while they were both starting their careers at Disney in the early ’80s and collaborated on early short films like the stop-motion piece Vincent and the live-action Frankenweenie.
The textured, German-expressionist Heinrichs sensibility is visible in many of Burton’s movies, including The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands, along with other distinctive films such as Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King, The Coen Bros.’ Fargo, and Gore Verbinski’s second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Heinrichs’ most recent work with Burton, the biopic Big Eyes, opens December 25.
To be written and directed by Looper helmer Rian Johnson, Star Wars: Episode VIII is produced by Ram Bergman and Kathleen Kennedy, with shooting scheduled for the UK’s Pinewood Studios sometime next year and a scheduled release date of December 2017.