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J.J. Abrams trades phasers for lightsabers in directing Star Wars Episode VII

The more a film director denies that he’s making a Star Wars movie for Disney, the more likely it seems that they will in fact film people swinging lightsabers around on screen after all. Following the Jan. 15 report that Zack Snyder (300Man of Steel) will direct a Star Wars spinoff once he finishes with his current features comes word that none other than Mr. Star Trek himself, J.J. Abrams, will take control of the mainline series. Multiple Thursday reports claim that once Abrams wraps Star Trek: Into Darkness he’ll begin work on Star Wars Episode VII.

Deadline reported first on Thursday that Abrams would direct the film, working with the script penned by Michael Arndt. Arndt, writer of Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine, was the first person to be officially attached to the beginning of the next Star Wars trilogy. “It’s a done deal with J.J.,” said Deadline’s unnamed source. The Wrap also confirmed the story, claiming that its source said Disney and Lucasfilm had also been pursuing Argo director Ben Affleck.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit backed up the story on Twitter as well. “Confirmed: J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars Episode 7!” said Kit, “Sources say the negotiations quite down the road.”

J.J. Abrams was actually one of the very first directors rumored to be in the running for Star Wars Episode VII following the announcement that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm for over $4 billion. Abrams told Empire magazine in December, though, that while he talked with Lucasfilm, he was definitely not going to be doing the next Star Wars.

“There were the very early conversations [with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy] and I quickly said that, because of my loyalty to Star Trek and also just being a fan, I wouldn’t even want to be involved in the next version of those things,” said Abrams, “I declined any involvement very early on. I’d rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them.”

Paramount Pictures and the newly rejuvenated Star Trek series will likely need to find a new steward going forward.

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Star Wars Expanded Universe will live on, just not through the films

There really wasn’t ever a lot of doubt, but Star Wars, and its new handler, Disney, has officially closed the door on its Expanded Universe, at least as far as the upcoming films are concerned. In an official statement, Lucasfilm confirmed that the only material the new movies will be pulling characters from are the original Star Wars films and two official TV shows - Clone Wars and the upcoming animated Disney series Star Wars Rebels.
“While Lucasfilm always strived to keep the stories created for the [Expanded Universe] consistent with our film and television content as well as internally consistent, Lucas always made it clear that he was not beholden to the EU,” Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said. “He set the films he created as the canon. This includes the six Star Wars episodes, and the many hours of content he developed and produced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These stories are the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align.”
Despite the announcement, however, the Expanded Universe will live on outside the movies. Even though the films will not draw from it, Lucasfilms is taking steps to ensure that the Expanded Universe will continue to grow.
"We have an unprecedented slate of new Star Wars entertainment on the horizon," Kennedy announced. "We're set to bring Star Wars back to the big screen, and continue the adventure through games, books, comics, and new formats that are just emerging. This future of interconnected storytelling will allow fans to explore this galaxy in deeper ways than ever before."
For those that haven’t followed Star Wars beyond the movies, Lucasarts defines the Expanded Universe as “anything in the Star Wars universe outside the scope of movies or TV shows,” specifically, “books, comics, games, etc.” That includes stories that feature the main characters from the films, as well as events that may have happened thousands of years before. As long as it builds off of Star Wars lore and is not part of the film and TV world, it is part of the Expanded Universe.
Moving forward, Lucasfilms has created a new story group designed to coordinate all Star Wars creative development. This group will oversee the stories in the upcoming novels, games, and everything in between. That includes all  of the Star Wars comics, which are reverting back to Marvel after spending several years under the oversight of Dark Horse Comics. There will even be a slight bit of crossover.
“In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe,” a Lucasfilms statement claims. “While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe. For example, elements of the EU are included in Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitor, the Imperial Security Bureau, and Sienar Fleet Systems are story elements in the new animated series, and all these ideas find their origins in roleplaying game material published in the 1980s.”
Current Expanded Universe properties will remain in print under the newly created “Legends” banner.
The next piece of canonical Star Wars content on the way is Star Wars Rebels, a computer animated series set between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. The series takes place roughly five years before the events of A New Hope, and follows a group of rebels fighting against the Empire. The show will debut this fall on the Disney Channel, and then air regularly on Disney XD. Star Wars Episode VII will then hit theaters on December 18, 2015.
To help explain the role of the Expanded Universe going forward, Lucasfilms has released a new video outlining the Expanded Universe’s past, present, and future. If you’re curious about the Expanded Universe, we have five places you might want to check out.

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Chewbacca officially set to return in Star Wars: Episode VII
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Chewbacca is officially set to return in Star Wars: Episode VII, and the man inside the walking carpet's suit will be none other than Peter Mayhew, The Hollywood Reporter confirms. Mayhew has been Chewbacca's inner human since the Star Wars series premiered in 1977 with Episode IV: A New Hope. He even donned the hairy outfit for the for the Wookiee's appearance in the so-bad-it's-amazing (but still really bad) Star Wars Holiday Special.
There's no word on how many of the upcoming Star Wars movies Mayhew is signed on for, but he'll at least appear in the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Wars: Episode VII, which is currently filming and set for release on December 18, 2015. This marks only the second official confirmation we've gotten on Star Wars characters or casting. It is already known that R2-D2 will be returning, and now we know Chewie will as well.
A number of noteworthy actors are all said to be up for roles, including Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong'o, Jesse Plemons, and others. It is also widely believed that original stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher will reprise their roles of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, respectively. While there's plenty of reason to believe that some or all of these reports are true, it's important to remember that they're ultimately all unconfirmed.
We'll know more soon enough. Lucasfilm continues to be cagey about anything Star Wars-related, but that's going to have to change as shooting ramps up.

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Filming on Star Wars Episode VII is underway, and casting is nearly complete
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Star Wars: Episode VII has already begun filming, and the majority of the cast is in place, Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. He went on to confirm that most of the main roles have been filled and the studio is withholding that news for now, but casting is “not completely done yet.”
Horn went on to discuss early issues with the script, which was originally meant to be handled by Toy Story scribe Michael Arndt. Following Arndt’s departure, director J.J. Abrams and Empire Strikes Back writer Lawrence Kasdan took over, essentially starting from scratch. Abrams recently announced that he had completed work on the script.
“It’s all about the screenplay,” Horn said. “It has to be screenplay, screenplay, screenplay.” When asked if the screenplay was where it needs to be, he claimed, “It is now.”
He went on to say that the story will pick up where Episode VI: Return of the Jedi left off, factoring in the time between films “where 6 left off -- and where 6 left off is 35 years ago by the time this is released.” This fits with earlier reports we’ve heard about when the film takes place. Star Wars: Episode VII is scheduled to hit theaters on December 18, 2015. 

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