The producers of Star Wars Episode VII are currently a little undecided on just how closely they want to play the cards to their chests during the film's production. Recent years have seen the process of film production slowly open up more and more to the fans - whether through unofficially snapped photos during location shoots, or directors sharing teasers and hints on social media.
Even this early on in the film's gestation - with the script still being polished by screenwriter Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) - there are already quite a few details available. Legends of the franchise Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill will all be reprising their roles, though it's been suggested that they will be supporting cast rather than placed center stage, and there have been rumors that Jonathan Rhys Meyers is in talks to star in a leading role.
Speaking at the Produced By Conference, director J.J. Abrams - who initially turned down the job due to his Star Trek commitment - played it on the safe side and was naturally evasive with regards to the project, giving "no comment" responses when asked specific questions about the plot. However, ComingSoon reports that he was happy to talk in more vague terms about his hopes for the film and how he plans to approach it, with regards to the legacy left by the previous films:
"Talk about bigger than any of us. That thing is so massive and so important to so many people. I know from seeing the first film when I was 11 what that felt like. I think the key in moving forward with something like this is in honoring but not revering what came before. There's that deep feeling of infinite possibilities that I think was the ultimate thing I thought when I first saw 'Star Wars' which I would -- and probably will -- give my left arm to try and come close to again."
Abrams expressed less enthusiasm, however, over one of the major practicalities of filming Star Wars Episode VII. Whilst he confirmed that production was set to begin by early 2014, in order to hit a summer 2015 release date, the director said that he wasn't happy about having to shoot the film in London, since it will mean moving his wife and three children to a different country for the duration of production:
"When I came into it, there was already a pre-arranged thing for them to be shooting in England which, really does make me insane. I've never shot a movie outside the US or out of L.A... We are, most likely, if all goes ahead, going to be moving to London at the end of the year... There's a whole lot of stuff happening at home. It's not an easy thing... When you're 13 and 14, it's like, f--k that, I don't care what the movie is."
The decision to shoot Star Wars Episode VII in London does indeed go far over Abrams' head. In an earlier statement, Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy revealed that representatives from the company had met with Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in order to establish an agreement for shooting the film at London studios. All of the previous Star Wars films have been at least partially shot in the UK, most commonly at Shepperton, Elstree and Ealing Studios, and Osborne mentioned that UK filming has been incentivized in order to attract major studios and projects.
Despite Abrams' preference for shooting in his home town of Los Angeles (where both Star Trek films were produced), the decision to base the production in London studios is beneficial to both Osborne and Kennedy. There is a lot to be gained from inviting major production companies to film in the UK, as each production provides work for a few hundred crew members, extras and cast members, leads to significant income not only for the studios where the films are shot but also for local businesses, and in general gives a major boost to the country's film industry. Recent titles shot at London studios include Snow White and the Huntsman, X-Men: First Class, Prometheus and Disney's upcoming Sleeping Beauty prequel, Maleficent. James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy adaptation will also be produced in the UK.
Whether Kennedy arranged for Star Wars Episode VII to be shot in London purely because of her "longstanding connection," to the studios, or whether it simply worked out cheaper than shooting in LA is unclear, but let's hope that Abrams gets over his misgivings and embraces the new filming environment in time for the start of Star Wars Episode VII's production.
Star Wars Episode VII is currently scheduled for release in 2015.