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Like Empire on steroids: ABC president talks Star Wars live-action TV show

It’s hard to believe that months have already passed since the world’s population suffered some kind of mass hallucination that led them to believe that the Star Wars universe had been wrenched from the maniacal hands of George Lucas and sold to Disney. People believed there would be a new Star Wars trilogy with Luke Skywalker in it! Madness!

Actually, all of those things were true. Disney paid a whopping $4.05 billion for Lucasfilm and its various subsidiaries, announcing the purchase with all the passion and fanfare of a law firm merger. The announcement did confirm that new sequels would be made, and there is potential for spin-offs galore. What wasn’t mentioned in the time is the long-in-development live-action Star Wars television series first announced back in 2005. Never one to leave a stone unturned, there are hints that Disney is resurrecting that project for air on its network television subsidiary ABC.

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“We’d love to do something with Lucasfilm, we’re not sure what yet,” ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee told Entertainment Weekly on Friday, “We haven’t even say down with them. We’re going to look at [the live-action series], we’re going to look at all of them and see what’s right. We weren’t able to discuss this with them until [the acquisition] closed and it just closed. It’s definitely going to be a part of the conversation.”

Back in 2011, George Lucas said that 50 scripts for the live-action show had been written and former Star Wars producer Rick McCallum described the show as “dark and adult.” “I think, thematically, in terms of characters and what they go through, it will be… if we can get it together and George really wants to pursue it, it’ll be the awesomest part of the whole franchise.” He then called it “Empire on steroids.”

Since the show was announced in 2005 alongside plans for the ongoing Clone Wars cartoon series, rumors have suggested that the show would follow members of the criminal underworld in the Star Wars universe, including bounty hunters like Boba Fett. One recent piece of Star Wars media, the in-development video game Star Wars 1313, is set to explore that same territory.

That premise would make a good fit for ABC. Its other in-development genre television show, Joss Whedon’s Avengers spinoff S.H.I.E.L.D., will follow law enforcement so there needs to be a show about rogues to balance it out.

“It’s going to be very much up to the Lucasfilm brands and how they want to play it,” said ABC’s Lee, “We got to a point here with Marvel, a very special point, where we’re in the Marvel universe, and very relevantly so, but we’re not doing The Avengers. But S.H.I.E.L.D. is part of The Avengers. So maybe something oblique is way [to approach the Star Wars universe] rather than going straight head-on at it.”

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Godzilla director and Walking Dead game writer come together for Star Wars
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Godzilla director Gareth Edwards and The Walking Dead: The Game writer Gary Whitta are set to direct Lucasfilm's first spin-off feature to follow Star Wars: Episode VII. It's the first in what the press release refers to as "multiple stand-alone movies that will offer new stories beyond the core Saga." The Edwards/Whitta collaboration is set to hit theaters on December 16, 2016, two days shy of a year after director J.J. Abrams' Episode VII kicks off this new chapter for the series.
Edwards is all over the news in recent weeks as the director of Godzilla, his modern take on the 1954 classic. He won the gig after making his debut in 2010's Monster, a giant creature feature with a human focus.
Whitta, a self-described Star Wars fan, is perhaps best known in the gaming community for his work on Telltale Games' Walking Dead series, based on the Robert Kirkman comics. Like Edwards, he made his big screen debut in 2010. He wrote the Denzel Washington/Mila Kunis-starring sci-fi action flick The Book of Eli.
"Ever since I saw Star Wars I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life - join the Rebel Alliance! I could not be more excited & honored to go on this mission with Lucasfilm," Edwards said in a statement.
Whitta shares the director's excitement. "From the moment I first saw the original movie as a wide-eyed kid, Star Wars has been the single most profound inspiration to my imagination and to my career as a writer," he said in a statement. "It is deeply special to me, so to be given the opportunity to contribute to its ongoing legacy, especially in collaboration with a film-maker as talented as Gareth, is literally a dream come true. I'm still pinching myself."
Word of the spin-offs has been circulating for some time, most recently with three confirmed to be in development by Disney -- Lucasfilm's owner -- CEO Bob Iger during an earnings call. Bounty hunter Boba Fett, Jedi Master Yoda, and a younger take on series lead Han Solo are all rumored to be a focus for one or more of the spin-offs, but the Edwards/Whitta announcement offers no additional details. We will have to wait to find out which spinoff will come first.

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Roberto Orci confirmed as director of Star Trek 3
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The search for a filmmaker to direct the third chapter of the modern Star Trek movie franchise has ended close to home, with series writer Roberto Orci confirmed as director of the sequel to Star Trek Into Darkness. 
The previously announced frontrunner for the role, Variety has confirmed that Orci now fills the seat vacated by J.J. Abrams when he left the Star Trek franchise to direct the next installment of Star Wars. Orci co-wrote and co-produced the first two chapters of the rebooted Star Trek franchise (as well as the tie-in video game) with his longtime collaborator Alex Kurtzman, but this will be his first time behind the camera as director.  
Orci campaigned intensely to direct the third Star Trek (the 13th film in the franchise), and has already agreed to write the film with screenwriters Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne after parting ways with Kurtzman for this and future big-screen projects. (The pair continue to collaborate on television projects.)
In addition to his work on the Star Trek films, Orci has been instrumental in shaping the modern Transformers and The Amazing Spider-Man franchises as both a producer and writer, so he's no stranger to world-building. There's no official word yet on when the third Star Trek will arrive in theaters, but with the 50th anniversary of the franchise in 2016, it's reasonable to expect things will move along quickly if the next film hopes to share in the celebration.
Update at 11:28 a.m. 5-14-2014 by Rick: The previous report on rumors that Orci will direct the third Star Trek has been updated to reflect official confirmation of his role on the upcoming movie.
Originally published 5-10-2014.

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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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