In something of an odd development, Michael Arndt has been dropped as screenwriter for Star Wars: Episode VII, and replaced with the duo of J.J. Abrams (also the sequel’s director) and Lawrence Kasdan.
Kasdan’s presence in the Star Wars movie universe is significant, thanks to his contributions to the scripts for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as writing for other Lucasfilm properties like Raiders of the Lost Ark. He had also been serving as a creative consultant on the new line of Star Wars films since Lucasfilm’s acquisition by Disney last year. Abrams, meanwhile, has written for several of his own projects like Super 8, Mission: Impossible 3 and TV shows Fringe and Lost. He has also worked on the scripts for Mike Nichols’ Regarding Henry and Michael Bay’s Armageddon.
It remains unclear why Arndt has decided to drop out of writing the movie. The Oscar-winning screenwriter, whose credits include Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3, was originally tapped to bring about a rough treatment of the story and a first few drafts of Episode VII. However, the powers that may be must have decided either a) Arndt couldn’t cope with the pressure of writing such an anticipated movie, or b) some people with real knowledge of the Star Wars universe might be better suited to the writing department. Hence the hiring of life-time Star Wars fan Abrams and franchise veteran Kasdan to bring a new version of the script. We suppose it’s a good thing that Star Wars: Episode VII is now being handled by people who know their stuff (hey, it could have been worse: George Lucas might have been brought in to do a complete rewrite!) but Arndt’s mysterious exit remains baffling.
In a statement, Lucasfilm President and producer on Star Wars: Episode VII Kathleen Kennedy had this to say: “I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and J.J. working on the script… 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 statement by Lucasfilm goes on to confirm some of the significant crew members who will work on the film behind the camera: “Location scouting, production design, casting, and costume design are already underway on Episode VII. A team of gifted artists are working to bring the latest installment of the Star Wars saga, including director of photography Dan Mindel (Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek), production designers Rick Carter (Lincoln, Avatar) and Darren Gilford (Oblivion, TRON: Legacy), costume designer Michael Kaplan (Star Trek Into Darkness, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), special effects supervisor Chris Corbould (Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises), sound designer Ben Burtt (Lincoln, Star Wars: Episodes I-VI), re-recording mixer Gary Rydstrom (Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan), supervising sound editor Matthew Wood (Star Trek Into Darkness, The Master) of Skywalker Sound, and visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett (Star Trek Into Darkness, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) of Industrial Light & Magic. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, with Tommy Harper (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Jason McGatlin (Tintin, War of the Worlds) serving as executive producers. John Williams is returning to score Star Wars: Episode VII.”
J.J. Abrams is set to start shooting the movie early next year at Pinewood Studios, with a summer 2015 release firmly in place.