Late today, official word came from Lucasfilm that Michael Arndt is the screenwriter for Episode VII. The string of events over the last few months highlights how a publicly traded company like Disney is going to affect Lucasfilm, which has been solely owned by George Lucas and not responsible to stockholders.
On May the Fourth – Star Wars Day – The Hollywood Reporter reported that Arndt was in “talks to rewrite Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire.”
Kathleen Kennedy joined Lucasfilm as Lucas’ successor on June 1st.
Pablo Hidalgo revealed on the official Star Wars Blog that he had learned there would be Episodes VII, VIII and IX on June 29th. (Admittedly I saw this tweet at the time and thought, “They must be doing the Boba Fett movie Joe Johnston mentioned.” The possibility of a Sequel Trilogy never crossed my mind.)
Pablo Hidalgo’s “On the Brink of the Future”:
In short order, I met with some of Kathleen Kennedy’s key staffers who were now aboard with Lucasfilm. I introduced myself to her expanding story development team, and offered what insight I could given my long history with Star Wars and my deep knowledge of the saga. I’ve been fortunate to become known as one of the guys who knows Star Wars inside and out within the company. As George Lucas began preparing his treatments for future films, I’d get random requests for research from his office, and helped prepare documents, primers and writer guides for the next generation of Star Wars filmmakers, whoever they may be.
On August 24th, the Catching Fire cast headed to Atlanta to start filming. (via Examiner)
On October 1st, Danny Strong was announced as the screenwriter for the two Mockingjay movies. It’s unclear whether Arndt planned on continuing with Hunger Games’ third and fourth movies, or whether Lionsgate wanted to continue with Arndt, or if he received an even higher profile and more desirable offer.
In secret, on October 19th George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy record a video on “The Future of Star Wars,” subsequently released in segments on StarWars.com, beginning on the day the acquisition is announced, October 30th.
Vulture’s piece hits the web on November 8th at 3:44 p.m. EST, suggesting Michael Arndt, Oscar winner and screenwriter for Toy Story 3, has written an extensive treatment for Episode VII and may also be in line to write the script.
Disney holds its Q4 2012 Earnings Call for shareholders on November 8th at 5:00 p.m. EST.
On November 9th, StarWars.com confirms “Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas have begun story conferences with Arndt.”
While Disney’s aquisition of Lucasfilm seems like a good purchase, Bob Iger still had to justify to stockholders why $4 billion is a reasonable price. The prospect of making more Star Wars movies might not have been enough of a selling point, though, even if Lucas was on board as creative consultant. The reception of Red Tails and the Prequel Trilogy definitely weighed into the equation. It’s quite likely the lengthy treatment was needed to seal the deal. It’s interesting that the Vulture piece didn’t just break the news, but went into detail about Arndt’s Star Wars credentials:
At these talks, Arndt always tells attendees that Star Wars’ enduring appeal has to do with resolving its protagonists goals’ nearly simultaneously, at the climax of the movie. In the comments section of a discussion about a Star Wars talk Arndt gave at the Austin Film Festival in 2010, one attendee of the seminar notes, “Arndt stated that if a writer could resolve the story’s arcs (internal, external, philosophical) immediately after the Moment of Despair at the climax, he or she would deliver the Insanely Great Ending and put the audience in a euphoric state. The faster it could happen, the better. By [Arndt’s] reckoning, George Lucas hit those three marks at the climax of Star Wars within a space of 22 seconds.”
Indeed, in the third act of Star Wars, as Arndt explained to his young screenwriting Padawans at the 2009 Hawaii Writers Conference, its central characters’ main goals all are met on pages 89 through 91 of the original Lucas script: At the crescendo of Star Wars, a spectral Obi Wan urges, “Use the Force, Luke,” and he does, thus reaching his inner goal (fighting self-doubt to become a hero). Han Solo reappears (meeting the philosophical goal of overcoming selfishness with altruism) to shoot down Darth Vader, which allows Luke to use the Force to mentally guide his shot and blow up the Death Star (outer goal and inner goals simultaneously met).
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