Following the surprise announcement of Star Wars: Episode 7, fan speculation exploded on two fronts: what direction would Disney take the story and who would helm the project? While details are still scarce about what exactly fans can expect from the plot, Toy Story 3 writer Michael Arndt has been confirmed for script duty, with most insiders reporting that audiences will see a relatively new story direction – instead of a direct continuation (though larger connections and certain returning characters are likely).

Details on who will direct the high-profile project are especially scarce. Plenty of fan-favorite directors weighed-in on the initial announcement but have since distanced themselves from any direct involvement. However, a new comment from producer Frank Marshall, aka husband to Kathleen Kennedy (the new President of Lucasfilm) indicates that the filmmakers have successfully narrowed the list to a “couple of candidates.”

Speaking with MTV, Marshall opened up about the process – asserting that Lucasfilm has an idea of who they might want: “I do [know]. But I can’t reveal it, or I won’t be alive tomorrow.” The producer then claims that the studio is down to “a couple of candidates” – only to assert that it could still be awhile before we hear an official announcement: “I don’t know how soon that will be revealed.

The director then goes on to echo the (arguably) cautious excitement that swept across the internet when news of a new Star Wars trilogy was first announced:

“I’m really excited about this. I didn’t grow up with it, but I was a big fan and have been since the series started. I’ll always remember seeing that big mother-ship go over the screen. I’ve never forgotten it. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

You can check out the full interview with Marshall below – including brief updates on the Bourne and Indiana Jones franchises:

Of course, fans (and news outlets) have been floating a lot of potential Star Wars: Episode 7 directors. On the next page we’ll break down which could be legitimate candidates – and which ones have already opted out of consideration.

Read on to find out who Disney could still be courting for Star Wars: Episode 7 directing duty…

disney lucasfilm star wars 7 Star Wars 7 Director Update: A Couple of Candidates   Who is Left?

A lot of people have been rumored (or mentioned as “dream directors” by fans) including: Steven Spielberg, Neill Blomkamp, Matthew Vaughn, Darren Aronofsky, Joss Whedon, Jon Favreau, Joseph Kosinski, Colin Trevorrow, Guillermo del Toro, J. J. Abrams, and Brad Bird, among others. Of course, plenty of movie fans know that we can already rule out a number of them – given that they already have big-budget properties in production.

  • Brad Bird is still currently working on his mysterious 1952 film for Disney. Fans had speculated that the film could actually be a working title for the new Star Wars movie but Bird’s film was written by Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen (not Michael Arndt).
  • Darren Aronofsky is busy with Noah until 2014 – which would not leave enough time for him to prepare a film with as demanding a pre-production run-up as Star Wars: Episode 7. Plus, let’s face it, that one (while interesting) was a long shot.

On top of the directors that we know are confirmed to be busy with other projects, over the last week, we’ve heard several fan-favorite filmmakers admit that they’re excited about the future of the franchise but assert they have no interest in taking over the George Lucas director’s chair.

Director J.J. Abrams
  • Steven Spielberg – Spoke with Access Hollywood and denied any official involvement: “It’s not my genre. It’s my best friend George’s genre.
  • J.J. Abrams – Spoke with Hollywood Life and also denied any involvement: “I almost feel that, in a weird way, the opportunity for whomever it is to direct that movie, it comes with the burden of being that kind of iconic movie and series. I was never a big ‘Star Trek’ fan growing up, so for me, working on Star Trek didn’t have any of that, you know, almost fatal sacrilege, and so, I am looking forward more [than] anyone to the next iterations of Star Wars, but I believe I will be going as a paying moviegoer!
  • Guillermo del Toro – While the director expressed a polite interest in Star Wars when he talked to Fanhattan, he already has a lot on his plate and it’s extremely unlikely that he’s on the shortlist: “You know, I saw it on the Internet, but I haven’t approached them, they haven’t formally approached me. I mean, I heard some rumblings, but to me it’s really — I have so many projects to discuss or think about.
  • Quentin Tarantino – Speaking with EW: “I could so care less. No, sorry. Especially if Disney’s going to do it. I’m not interested in the Simon West version of Star Wars.
  • Zack Snyder –  Speaking with the LA Times. “I don’t think I’d be interested in [directing]. I’m a huge Star Wars fanatic. I just think doing seven, eight and nine is just a slippery slope. It’s a whole other mythological experiment I’m excited to see, but it’s a lot of effort.

Before we look at some of the potential directors that COULD be in the running, here’s what Kennedy had to say about the way Lucasfilm is approaching their search:

“There’s a whole generation of filmmakers that have been inspired by George and ‘Star Wars’ and they’re absolutely thrilled, excited, and daunted at the prospect of being able to step in and carry the mantle of making these movies… I think we have a unique opportunity to go after some really incredible people. It’s not going to be people who don’t already have some affinity for ‘Star Wars’ probably. It’s going to be somebody who appreciates what ‘Star Wars’ meant to them and is excited to dive in and be a part of this.”

Of the names mentioned, several possibilities remain – though that does NOT mean that any of them are actually on the Lucasfilm shortlist. A few of them have just been mentioned in passing, others have been outright rumored to be in talks, and others seem to merely be throwing their own hats in the ring.

Director Matthew Vaughn
  • Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) – When rumors put Trevorrow in the Star Wars helmer spotlight, the director spoke with (thanks to /Film) and offered his take on how the new film should be approached – comments that ring very close to Kennedy’s search criteria: “Certainly, no specifics about what’s going on behind the scenes in the selection of that person. I think that I can speak as a Star Wars fan, which is important to me. Whoever does do this movie, I think, just needs to have a fundamental understanding of why it’s important to us. We come from a generation who grew up with this as children, to us it’s almost a belief system. It’s harder for people who are older or who were already teenagers when the movie came out to understand how deeply it is our mythology. And there are a bunch of incredible directors who are up for this job… I think whoever gets it will have that fundamental understanding of why Star Wars matters so much to a billion people. It’s just incredible. So that’s all I can say about that. I’m equally excited about it. … that’s all you’re gonna get!
  • Jon Favreau (Iron Man and Cowboys and Aliens) – Spoke with Hollywood Life and expressed his excitement, though it’s unclear whether or not he’d actually be willing to helm the film. In his response, Favreau touts previous endeavors with Lucasfilm – indicating that he might be trying to remind moviegoers (or Disney executives) of his established Star Wars connections: “I think both J.J. and I come from a generation of people who formed our whole creative persona around what we experienced as kids from watching those films, and I have had the good fortune of working with George [Lucas] and around George, and whether it is doing a voice on Clone Wars, or being at the Skywalker Ranch mixing Iron Man – so I have been very happy and lucky to just experience the culture that Lucas has created, both in my own life growing up as a kid and professional – whether it was interviewing him at film festivals on stage, he is just a really wonderful, talented gifted guy who has changed the business so much, so I am just giddy, first and foremost as a fan, to see what happens with it. I think there is a lot of question marks of how they are going to do it, and who they are going to do it with, and what the story is going to be about; but to say that I am not excited about it is definitely an understatement. We’ll see.

Other directors who have been mentioned in passing but have not officially commented (or been debunked) include:

Director Joseph Kosinski
  • Neill Blomkamp (District 9 and Elysium) – Blomkamp could be a fitting candidate – given the Star Wars influence in his other films. With Elysium post-production wrapping up, it’s possible that Blomkamp could be on the shortlist.
  • Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy and Oblivion) – While Tron: Legacy delivered underwhelming box office numbers, Kosinski already enjoys a strong relationship with Disney. It’s possible that they could tap the director for Star Wars – especially since they already  had him on-deck for their remake of The Black Hole.
  • Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises and Inception)  – Plenty of fans have name-dropped Nolan as one of their choices and, while he doesn’t currently have an announced directing gig lined-up, there is no indication he’s in talks for the film. Additionally, the director hasn’t helmed a film that he didn’t also co-write since Insomnia (2002) – and, as mentioned, Michael Arndt is a lock for the Star Wars script. Previous comments from the filmmaker suggest that he’s interested in projects with a lot of creative control – creative control that Lucasfilm is not likely to give whoever is preparing to helm their Star Wars relaunch. While a Star Wars film from Nolan would be interesting, it’s very unlikely that he’s in consideration for the job.

At this point there’s an interesting batch of names still in circulation – directors that would likely result in very different Star Wars: Episode 7 experiences. While it might be fun to think that Lucasfilm will step out on a limb with a less conventional filmmaker (like Blomkamp or Trevorrow), it’s much more likely that (for a brand as big as Star Wars) Disney will push for a more conventional helmer (like Kosinski or Vaughn) – guys who are already aware that they’re not just setting out to make a new Star Wars film, they’re relaunching a mega-movie brand where t-shirts, toys, and lunch boxes, are (when it comes to return on investment) as important as a creative film experience.

That said, whoever Lucasfilm elects for the position had better be able to carry the new (albeit cautious) excitement surrounding the future of franchise otherwise the Internet might not be able to handle the soul-sucking wave of disappointment: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.

Obviously, this isn’t an all-inclusive list. Who would you like to see helm Star Wars: Episode 7?

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future updates on Star Wars Episode 7, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Star Wars Episode 7 is set for release in 2015.

Sources: MTVAccess HollywoodLA TimesHollywood LifeEWFanhattan,