The script for Star Wars: Episode VII will now be the product of a collaboration between Star Trek Into Darkness director J.J. Abrams and Empire Strikes Back writer Lawrence Kasdan, Lucasfilm confirms. Kasdan steps up after serving as a consultant on the project under previously confirmed scribe Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine). The change doesn’t appear to affect the plan for a Star Wars: Episode VII 2015 release, though production at Pinewood Studios in the UK now won’t begin until spring 2014. Filming was previously believed to be kicking off in early 2014.
It appears that elements from Arndt’s own writing – which itself is based on a Star Wars Episode VII outline from series creator George Lucas – will be kept in place for the foundation of the Abrams/Kasdan script. As Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy noted in the press release, “There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a Star Wars story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen. J.J. of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing filmmaking and design team in place already prepping for production.”
The design team Kennedy refers is already at work on nailing down an assortment of pre-production duties. Location scouting, production design, casting, and costume design are all in motion right now, according to the announcement. It’s a sizable group, and one largely made up of folks who have worked with Abrams in the past. One noteworthy name that Star Wars fans should appreciate seeing is Ben Burtt. He’ll continue as sound designer for Star Wars Episode VII, filling the same role that he did on all six previous Star Wars releases.
Kasdan’s first feature-length project as a scriptwriter was Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, and he continued to write other big-name Lucasfilm scripts, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, and the story for the video game, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. Kasdan also wrote a number of other ’80s and ’90s classics, including The Bodyguard, Wyatt Earp, Mumford, and a trio of Academy Award-nominated scripts: The Big Chill, Grand Canyon, and The Accidental Tourist (the last of which also grabbed a Best Picture nom).
While there’s certainly an argument in favor of the fresh eye that an entire script from Arndt could have brought to this project, you had to expect some meddling from the powers-that-be. Star Wars Episode VII is an important production for Lucasfilm, and it represents a huge investment for Disney, the company’s new owner. As these things go, an Abrams/Kasdan collaboration isn’t at all a terrible thing..we hope. Certainty will only come in 2015, when Star Wars: Episode VII lines up against the likes of The Avengers 2, Ant-Man, the Man of Steel sequel, Assassin’s Creed, and a mind-boggling array of other tentpole competitors that promise to establish what may well be the most blockbuster-heavy cycle of releases in film history.