Most of the news regarding “Star Wars: Episode VII” in recent months has been mostly speculation about potential casting calls and whether director J.J. Abrams was about to abandon ship. All these rumors were unsubstantiated, but recent weeks have brought some concrete news to light that has changed the project completely.
The biggest piece of news is that original screenwriter Michael Arndt is no longer involved with the project. He is said to have been a huge fan of the Star Wars universe growing up. He had previously worked with Disney as the writer of “Toy Story 3,” for which he earned an Oscar nomination. His script for the indie favorite “Little Miss Sunshine” already won him one Oscar. No reason was given for Arndt’s abrupt departure.
Not only is Abrams not jumping ship as previously rumored, he is also taking over screenwriting duties along with Lawrence Kasdan. Abrams is largely known as a director, but he is also a screenwriter; he penned the scripts for “Super 8” and “Mission: Impossible III,” to name just a few of his credits. The legendary Kasdan had a hand in writing “The Empire Strikes Back,” which is largely considered the best of all six Star Wars films to date. He was also a writer for “Return of the Jedi” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which means he has plenty of experience working with Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo and Indiana Jones in those two films respectively.
Speaking of Ford, he is still remaining tight-lipped about whether or not he will be involved in the project. He has been making the talk show and promotional rounds recently to promote his new sci-fi flick “Ender’s Game,” and in nearly every interview, he has been asked about whether he will be returning as the scruffy-looking nerf herder in the planned trilogy of sequels. He hasn’t given much away, but with filming due to start next spring in London’s Pinewood Studios, the world will likely soon know his status on the film one way or another.
There is some news on two potential new characters, though. Recently, Disney has released the character descriptions for two parts in a future film as part of a casting search. The first is the part of a teenage girl who has learned how to take care of herself because she lost her parents at a young age. She is street smart and uses her sense of humor to diffuse situations. The casting call is for any actress of any ethnicity who can play a teen about seventeen years old.
The other character is named Thomas, and he grew up without a father figure in his life. He doesn’t always have a lot of self confidence, but he steps up when the situation warrants it. The casting call asks for men between nineteen and twenty-three years of age with an athletic build and a handsome face. Considering the names of past Star Wars characters, most observers feel that the names Rachel and Thomas will not be the names of the characters in the film.
The last piece of news about “Star Wars: Episode VII” is that it finally has an official release date. When Disney bought the franchise rights from creator George Lucas last fall, they announced the film would be coming in 2015, but no month or date was given. On November 7, the official Star Wars website published a press release with the official date-Dec. 18, 2015.
This is a big departure from the usual release date of other films in the franchise, which was usually in May. With the recent news of Abrams and Kasdan rewriting the script, many felt that Disney might push the film back until sometime in 2016, but company executives didn’t want to do that. Instead, the film will go from the expected spring date to the holidays, which may actually position it for greater success. The summer season, which generally begins in May, is usually very crowded with other big budget films with a sci-fi or fantasy focus.
By releasing the film in December, Disney also ensures that “Star Wars: Episode VII” will not compete with “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” a superhero film that is slated for a May 1, 2015 release. Since Disney owns both Marvel and Star Wars, it just makes good business sense for the two films not to compete for the same audience. Now both films can stand on their own to net what will likely be billions of dollars worldwide.