Disney XD animated series Star Wars Rebels wraps up its first season with tonight’s episode, “Fire Across the Galaxy”; more and more rumors about Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens continue to pop up ahead of the second trailer launch for director J.J. Abrams’ movie; and right now, screenwriter Chris Weitz is actively revising the script for the first Star Wars spinoff movie arriving in 2016. Suffice it to say, it’s a busy time in a galaxy far, far away.
Weitz is working from a screenplay draft for the first Star Wars “stand-alone” feature put together by Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli, After Earth), with the popular claim being that, plot-wise, the project revolves around a team of bounty hunters recruited to steal the original Death Star’s plans. It sounds as though the story constructed by Whitta – whatever it might be – won’t be all that different after Weitz has completed his own script draft, judging by what the writer/director has said on the subject.
Gareth Edwards (Godzilla (2014)) is directing the first Star Wars spinoff and is gearing up to start production later this year, while Whitta formally completed his work on the project less than two weeks into 2015. That means Weitz has already spent a fair amount of time getting the script ready for shooting – and will spend even more time on it, before cameras actually begin rolling. Even so, Weitz informed /Film that the interviewer was correct in their earlier impression that Whitta’s script is the “core” of the film:
Well I think it still is the core. But in terms of…in a weird way, it was like meeting for any assignment. Go in, talk about how you work and talk about the idea, but of course there was A) A huge security component to it. I wasn’t able to see the script until kind of after I was brought on board. And B) I saw Star Wars when I was 7 and it was a formative experience in my life, let alone in the notion of filmmaking. I’m probably only working on this stuff because I did have that experience then. But it completely possessed me when I was a child and it was a huge part of my kind of emotional make up. So I tried to be as cool as possible in these meetings while still being aware if I got the assignment I was going to be able to work on something I’ve been dreaming of doing.
Star Wars, now that George Lucas has stepped down as the chief creative force on the franchise, is now in the hands of filmmakers who grew up as fans of the property, as illustrated by Weitz’ comments about his experience of being hired to work on the script for the first spinoff movie. Weitz, when asked to compare the experience of writing a Star Wars movie versus penning the script for Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (which Weitz is currently promoting), indicated that he’s not really approaching Edwards’ film differently that he would any other project (his history as a fan aside):
Um…I mean it all eventually comes down to understanding the nature of what a given film is and making the characters people who you want to be as invested in as possible. I think in this case I’m not working from a whole cloth, right? So there’s a very strong structure from Gary’s work and that’s a huge advantage to me. But just like with Cinderella, it’s a director’s medium so it’s really about my making what Gareth needs to do his film.
Weitz, since his early days working on comedies American Pie and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, has alternated his efforts as a writer and/or director between grounded human stories (About a Boy, A Better Life) and more fantastical genre fare (The Golden Compass, The Twilight Saga: New Moon), so a Star Wars movie doesn’t require Weitz to work too far outside of his comfort zone(s) as a storyteller. Fingers crossed, though, Weitz’ script for the spinoff will be a step-up, quality-wise, from his efforts on previously-released tentpoles.
For now, Weitz is just keeping his head down while crafting a Star Wars film that he says fans can “expect everything” they could from such a project – and not paying so much attention to the rumor mill for the movie:
I try not to read it because I don’t know how it would help me do the job that I have to do, which is to make the very best version of this movie possible. I think it was good to know a bit of what fans are hoping for but then again, I’m a fan as well so I know what I’m hoping for and I try to sort of take that as my lead and not get my head too occupied with what’s on the Internet.
Those rumors, for those new to the conversation have focused on everything from the story (rumored to include Boba Fett) to the identity of Oscar-nominee Felicity Jones’ character in the film – and whether or not a young Han Solo will, indeed, figure into the proceedings, as we’ve been hearing for some time now. Like we said, though, it’s a busy period in the history of the Star Wars franchise, so there will be plenty to help tide fans over until the first spinoff reaches theaters next year.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens opens in U.S. theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by the first spinoff on December 16th, 2016.
“Star Wars – Invasion” Artwork by isikol @DeviantArt