Disney is now the official owner of Lucasfilm and has newly-appointed president Kathleen Kennedy concentrating all her efforts on getting Star Wars: Episode VII into theaters. That includes postponing 3D re-releases for previous installments and hiring top-notch talent in Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Oblivion) as screenwriter and J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8) to direct.
Abrams' confirmation for the Episode VII directing job came as a shock, due to his ongoing commitment to the Star Trek franchise and previous comments about not wanting the burden of picking up Star Wars from where George Lucas had left it. So how, exactly, did Kennedy go about changing Abrams' mind?
THR has unveiled an in-depth profile on Kennedy, spanning her career as an eight-time Oscar-nominated producer and Steven Spielberg's go-to collaborator over the past 30 years. Indeed, insiders are claiming that Spielberg was instrumental in the task of convincing Kennedy to pursue Abrams for Episode VII, which she eventually did:
Kennedy already had called Beth Swofford, Abrams' CAA agent, and been told Abrams was too deeply engaged in the next Star Trek movie and other obligations at Paramount -- not to mention innumerable television projects -- to consider the job. Nonetheless, Abrams agreed to meet with Kennedy on Dec. 14 at his Bad Robot offices in Santa Monica. Famously plain-spoken, she summarizes her pitch like this: "Please do Star Wars."
By that point, Arndt has already been recruited as screenwriter and Lawrence Kasdan - co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi - had come aboard as consultant, with Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past) soon to follow. Kennedy, Arndt, Kasdan and Abrams got together five days, where the trio spent three hours attempting to win the Trek filmmaker over; that is, despite his concerns about obligations to Paramount's rebooted Star Trek series and Mission: Impossible franchise, as well as a slew of ongoing TV series and upcoming pilots. Kennedy then spent another month convincing Abrams to join the
Dark Side new Star Wars installment:
"We spent a lot of time talking about how meaningful Star Wars is and the depth of the mythology that George has created and how we carry that into the next chapter," she says. Finally, after a day of furious negotiation, the deal closed the afternoon of Jan. 25.
Abrams, it turns out, is not committed to the 2015 release date target Disney originally announced for Episode VII, meaning the film could end up pushed back to 2016 in order to accommodate the demands of Abrams' creative process (similar to what happened on his sequel Star Trek Into Darkness). Kennedy is refraining from weighing in on that matter, beyond saying that:
"Our goal is to move as quickly as we can, and we'll see what happens. The timetable we care about is getting the story."
More on Star Wars: Episode VII as the story develops.