Making a movie is not an easy undertaking. There’s extended development of the script, assembling the creative team, casting, the actual shooting of the film, editing, prolonged post-production work, and everything in between. In most cases, this all adds up to about two years total on any given film. In the case of something like STAR WARS bringing such a massive property to life is even more intense. One year ago, Disney announced that it had purchased Lucasfilm and was planning a new trilogy of STAR WARS films, with EPISODE VII due for release in 2015. This January, J.J. Abrams was hired to direct the pic under the stewardship of producer Kathleen Kennedy.
Official news on the EPISODE VII front has been scant in the ensuing months, and last week we learned that Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan were taking over scripting duties from Michael Arndt, thus hinting at a script that is very much still in flux. How can EPISODE VII still possibly be barreling towards a 2015 release date, then? It turns out the Star Wars team actually requested a delay to 2016, but was denied.
While no official release date for STAR WARS: EPISODE VII has been announced, Disney has reiterated over and over again that 2015 is the target date for the film. Reports have pegged an early 2014 production start-date in London, but with the script apparently going in a different direction and casting yet to be firmed up, that deadline looks to be cutting things very close.
The folks over at THR are hearing that Kennedy and “most of the film’s creative team” have asked Disney to push the release of EPISODE VII to 2016 in order to give them ample time to deliver a worthwhile effort, but Disney CEO Bob Iger is unflinching in his desire to get the film out in 2015—likely a result of shareholder pressure to have the revenue from both the film and merchandizing by the end of 2015, the date promised from the very beginning.
The report notes that Abrams is said to be “more in sync” with Iger’s 2015 target than Kennedy, with some sources saying Abrams has been taking more authoritative control over casting from Kennedy in recent months. Other sources, however, dispute this notion, saying Abrams and Kennedy have been very much working in concert on the casting sessions.
Another interesting tidbit gleaned from the THR piece is word that screenwriter Michael Arndt apparently penned a 40 to 50-page treatment of EPISODE VII before Lucasfilm was even sold to Disney, confirming that plans for a new trilogy have very much been in the works for some time. The report doesn’t spend too much time on Arndt’s departure from the project, only saying that the TOY STORY 3 scribe was “ready to move on to other projects.”
All this to say that the pressure is very much on for EPISODE VII to meet (or exceed) extremely high expectations, and all involved are working around the clock to bring the film to fruition. Whether the tension between Abrams and Kennedy is being exaggerated or is completely unfounded, the producer has plenty of experience working with very high-profile directors on very high-profile projects (Kennedy has been Steven Spielberg’s longtime producer for many years), so I imagine the collaboration between Abrams and Kennedy will be fine. Hopefully the added pressure from Disney to get the film out in 2015 doesn’t result in a rushed or half-baked finished product. Whatever the case, expect to hear official word regarding STAR WARS: EPISODE VII before the holidays or after the New Year, assuming the early 2014 production start-date sticks.