Any little shiver of news on the latest Star Wars movie seems bound to break the internet simply because of the fact that, as of this writing, there’s so little actually known about J.J. Abrams’ seventh entry in the classic franchise. That said, it’s no small bit of news (confirmed by StarWars.com) that the film will now be written by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, with original screenwriter Michael Arndt dropping out of the project.
Kasdan, of course, co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back (the film that marked the first credited screenplay) and Return of the Jedi before earning Academy Award nominations for The Big Chill and The Accidental Tourist in the 1980s; he has been serving as consultant for the current feature, which is in the midst of pre-production. There’s not yet official word as to why Arndt, Oscar-winning screenwriter for Little Miss Sunshine and scribe of both Toy Story 3 and the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, is out, but Gawker’s sci-fi focused io9 is among multiple sources who have heard that Abrams was not thrilled by Arndt’s most recent draft of the screenplay, and threatened to walk out. Arndt is reportedly still working on treatments of the remaining two Star Wars films in the upcoming trilogy, refining an outline which George Lucas originally penned prior to Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm.
Producer Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, delivered the company’s official word:
I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and J.J. working on the script. There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a Star Wars story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen. J.J. of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing filmmaking and design team in place already prepping for production.
That ‘fundamental understanding’ may go a long way in soothing the rabid – and since the prequel trilogy, largely disillusioned – Star Wars fanbase, but it hardly alleviates all concern. Pre-production has been in full swing for some time now, working (presumably) off of Lucas’s original outline and Arndt’s treatment, but it seems that could be all for naught. We don’t have much corroboration at the moment, but Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci is saying that the “story has changed in a big way, that it’s a whole new set of characters being followed than in the Arndt script.” Which may mean that, regardless of the any validity in the casting rumors we’ve heard so far, the production might have just pushed a bit reset button.
It’s now been nearly a year since a new slate of Star Wars movies were announced and Abrams was set at the helm, with a slow but constant stream of competing rumors emerging since. It looks like we’re in for quite a lot more of that until the bloody thing arrives in theaters (or at least actually goes in to production), but even those dates seem less certain now. The production start date is now being listed as “Spring 2014″ rather than January, and despite evidence earlier this week that Disney was still targeting a May 2015 release, the long rumored December 2015 or even May 2016 release window is now looking more likely.
(Michael Ladonia contributed to this story.)