Of all the major movie franchises circulating in the news, Star Wars might be the strangest one to write about. Disney's first installment in the revived sci-fi universe is still almost a year away and only a short teaser has yet been revealed, but already massive plans for sequels and standalones and tie-ins are taking place backstage (on the assumption that J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be one of the biggest movies of the year).
The first of the Star Wars spinoffs was set to be written by Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli), but Whitta recently revealed that he has left the project after turning in the first draft of the script. The parting seems to have been amicable and there's always a possibility that he could return to the Star Wars franchise in the future, but for the moment this leaves Gareth Edwards' Star Wars standalone movie with no writer to get the script ready for shooting.
According to a report by /Film, the writing position left empty by Whitta may be filled by Star Wars Rebels producer and writer Simon Kinberg, who last year wrote the screenplay for comic book movie success X-Men: Days of Future Past. Kinberg is already working as a consultant on The Force Awakens and /Film claims that he will now take over the writing duties for Edwards' spinoff, with the caveat that this has not yet been confirmed. Lucasfilm declined to comment on the story.
According to rumors that emerged last year, the first Star Wars spinoff will be a heist movie set prior to A New Hope, about a team of bounty hunters who intend to steal the plans for the original Death Star. The movie will reportedly feature the Millennium Falcon but not Han Solo, and the protagonist will be introduced in The Force Awakens. Assuming this is accurate, most speculation points to a younger version of Max von Sydow's character being the main character, considering his age in The Force Awakens.
As far as rumors go, this one falls into the 'extremely likely' category. Kinberg is already intimately involved with Disney's Star Wars universe and familiar with its lore and tone, which means that he could easily take Whitta's script and polish it before filming begins. The spinoff is set for release in 2016 and scheduled to start production at Pinewood once Spectre is finished with the studio space, so expect to hear concrete news about who's writing the script quite soon.
Kinberg has a few duds on his resume - many of which are movies where he was only a co-writer or was brought in later to polish scripts - but X-Men: Days of Future Past earned him enough credit to make him seem like a solid choice to work on Whitta's script... assuming this story is true.
The first Star Wars spinoff will be in theaters December 16, 2016.