For years, Star Wars fans had only their imaginations to tell them what stories an Episode VII would tell. Would it be set in the Old Republic, or follow the events of the original saga? And what about a female protagonist? Now a reality, Episode VII's script has already been completed, with Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: Days of Future Past) having been brought on to oversee and consult for the near future.
Unsurprisingly, the pair are optimistic about J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) agreeing to direct the film, and in a recent interview confessed that the excitement for Episodes VII-IX isn't felt by fans alone.
With the Disney purchase and immediate greenlighting of Episode VII catching many off guard, it was the revelation that the film had already been written by Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) that proved Lucasfilm's new management meant business. And big business at that, with Han Solo and Boba Fett reportedly starring in spin-off films in between numbered 'Episodes.'
While already an Oscar winner, Arndt's role as a relative newcomer to the franchise series may have worried some. Lucasfilm put those fears to rest by announcing that Kasdan and Kinberg would act as consultants and writers for future films. That's familiar territory for Kasdan, but an entirely different experience for Kinberg, now asked to consult alongside an industry legend. Admitting to IGN that his current role is a dream come true, Kinberg doesn't put aside his affection for the franchise when thinking of the next story:
"I honestly try to approach all of these movies -- whether it’s a title like X-Men or Sherlock Holmes or Star Wars -- as a fan. I try to block out the anxiety I feel if I worry too much about the responsibility, and I just try to focus on the fun of it and the reasons why I grew up reading X-Men comics and watching Star Wars movies and reading Sherlock Holmes stories, that first time I read or watched any of those things and why they were so magical to me. I try to honor that and return to that as I would a fan. That’s the way I feel.
"I understand the interest in the movies, because I would be interested and I am interested as a pure fan. I’ve never seen a level of attention for a movie that isn’t in theaters yet as I have for Star Wars movies, and I understand why, because they are arguably the greatest stories and the biggest cultural benchmark of our time. They’re, for our generation, the movies that made many of us want to get into movies in the first place. So there is a level of passion and emotion connected to Star Wars that may be greater than other franchises... I’ve worked on movies where you have to generate excitement. This is one where the excitement is built in."
Kinberg is right about the original films inspiring many of today's filmmakers, as J.J. Abrams - the director now given the chance to make (at least) one 'Episode' of his own - is one of them. As a veteran of the industry and tending toward the 'understated' side, Kasdan wasn't quite as enthusiastic as Kinberg. But when contacted by unrelenting talent-recruiter and producer Kathleen Kennedy last fall, Kasdan was more than willing to return to the galaxy far, far away:
"I was pleased that there would be new ones, that there was a chance to capture some of the spirit of the original trilogy that I’d worked on. I thought there’s an audience out there -- my grandchildren, lots of original Star Wars people -- and there always will be. It’s only good that we try to do some more great ones.
With various insider reports over possible directions that the Star Wars films could take, Yoda being among the many rumored leading men, it's safe to say the knowledge both Kinberg and Kasdan possess at this moment would make any geek quiver. Frank Oz is interested in a return of Yoda, but when pushed about specifics Kasdan wouldn't give any more details than the following:
"They’re going to be fun. J.J. ’s a great director for the first sequel. Perfect. We’re very happy to have him. The writers I’ve been working with -- Michael Arndt, who’s going to write the sequel, and Simon Kinberg, who has, like me, been sort of consulting -- they’re great. I’ve never really collaborated a lot, and I’ve never been a room with a bunch of writers thinking, “Well, what should this thing be?” It’s fun. It’s really fun. And J.J.’s a writer. Yeah, lovely guy. I’d met him but didn’t know him. But now I’m totally enamored by him. He’s really funny and so enthusiastic."
Having confessed fans of the original trilogy being entrusted with the next chapter, it would appear that there is little cause for worry. Some concerns might appear farther down the line if Lucasfilm starts to fulfill their goal of producing 2-3 Star Wars movies a year, but we'll all cross that bridge when we get to it.
Though Kinberg acknowledges he's as excited as anyone, he did offer a piece of advice to those clamoring for every detail on the new films. Whether they're based around a younger Han Solo, a rogue band of Jedi Knights, or even the founding of a Jedi Academy, we shouldn't undervalue the element of surprise:
"This is what I would say: as a fan, I wouldn’t want to know too much. I know that’s impossible because it’s not the '70s or '80s anymore, but part of what was so exciting about A New Hope for me was I was entering into a universe I didn’t know. Even in Empire, I was surprised by a twist I never would have seen coming. But it’s different nowadays. I understand the excitement, and I’m happy that people are interested, obviously. But I’d rather people have something left to discover when they go in."
We'd have a hard time accepting that Star Wars fans won't want every piece of footage or marketing they can get their hands on, but imagining a modern-style trailer for Empire where the twist was all but ruined speaks for itself. Let's all think like Jedi and consider that maybe discretion, not a lightsaber, is the better part of valor.
Will you heed Kinberg's warning and stay away from spoilers as the new Star Wars films approach, or is that just wishful thinking in today's industry?
Star Wars: Episode VII will hit theaters in summer 2015.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.