Disney's announcement last fall that they had acquired Lucasfilm and all of its intellectual properties was coupled with the exciting revelation that the Star Wars saga would continue in summer 2015 with Star Wars: Episode VII. J.J. Abrams was tapped to direct the project which was since been slightly delayed to December 18th, 2015.
Abrams is currently re-working the Episode 7 script by Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) with the help of Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) while also hosting auditions for any and every actor you can think of. No official casting confirmations on the talent front have been made by Lucasilm or its parent company, but multiple reports put the big three (Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill) from the original trilogy as locks for return appearances.
With the extra few months of production time, Abrams promises the result will be a better final product for fans. For moviegoers disappointed in the style of the prequels, the key for the next trilogy is getting the tone right. Abrams himself acknowledges the importance of the new Star Wars movies feeling "real" again, and from a visual standpoint, that means creating environments and starships that are practical and gritty. The epitome of dirty design in space travel is of course the iconic Millenium Falcon, a part of the Star Wars universe that absolutely must return alongside the franchise.
According to Yahoo's inside sources, Han Solo's always unreliable "fastest ship in the galaxy" is already built and sitting ready for when production moves to London's Pinewood Studios early next year.
"A full-scale 1:1 Millennium Falcon has been built as well as the interiors of the ship for filming. The Falcon is done - inside and out. The sets were built off-site, ready to move when Lucasfilm/Bad Robot were ready to move into Pinewood."
As we recently discussed on the site in regards to Marvel's Ant-Man having to pull out the very same production facilities - where Disney and Marvel have already shot three other films - Pinewood and its Shepperton Studios are at capacity, so the crew building asset off-site does make sense. We've also already seen a behind-the-scenes photo featuring everyone's favorite three-wheeler droid so it's likely a lot of the sets are currently being built.
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has gone on record discussing the internal conversations at Lucasfilm about practical vs. CGI and re-discovering what made the original trilogy so special. They've also done extensive research on locations. Combining this early info with cinematographer Daniel Mindel confirming that Episode VII will not be shot digitally, we can hope for and expect a return to form for the live-action Star Wars series.
As for the Falcon, building a life-size replica for shooting is the coolest thing ever. Hopefully, the highly customized Corellian YT-1300 freighter has an important part to play in the next Star Wars trilogy. But even if it doesn't, it's a must for the Han Solo spinoff film.
Let's hope they build a hangar full of lifesize X-Wings and maybe even the Jedi Academy too - that is, if Luke Skywalker builds one in the films like he does in the extended fiction. What locations and ships do you want to see return or be introduced in the next trilogy?
Star Wars: Episode VII hits theaters December 18, 2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.
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