The last few months has been like geek Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza and of course Festivus (For the rest of us!) all rolled up into one, with announcement after announcement about more Star Wars movies.
One of these geek slobber inducing announcements was the fact that Lucasfilm was bringing back veteran Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark), and teaming him up with more modern writer Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: Days of Future Past) to do… well something. Consultants, I believe was the term used.
Kasdan was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Final Draft Big Break screenwriting awards, and IGN managed to catch up with the pair there.
Kasdan revealed that he only became involved in the new Star Wars movies when he got a call from Kathleen Kennedy in the third quarter of last year, and that he was looking forward to what is to come.
“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.”
Kasdan elaborated a bit more on what their “consultants” job entails as he also gave out some assurances to fans that may still be a bit skeptical about this while project:
“They’re going to be fun. J.J. (Abrams)’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.”
That writer’s room is even more of a big deal to Kinberg, as the younger of the two writers now finds himself in the enviable (or non-enviable, depending on how prone you are are to embarrassing geek outs) position of working closely with his idol.
“It’s an amazingly surreal thing, to imagine Larry as a colleague, because he has been my idol my whole life. It’s like, if you grew up wanting to play basketball, and suddenly you’re on the team with Michael Jordan. Larry’s mind for screenwriting is sharper than anybody’s I’ve met. He’s the guy that wrote Raiders and Jedi and Body Heat and The Big Chill and Silverado — he just has an innate understanding of storytelling, an essential understanding, unlike anything I’ve seen. … It’s so very surreal for me to spend time with Larry and for Larry to know my name. Every time he says my name, I’m a little surprised and it feels like a thrill. So yeah, I’ve asked him questions, and he is great at telling stories about the process of making those movies that were the classics of our time and the bedrocks for us growing up.”
But working with your hero may not be the only pressure that Kinberg faces. As the younger more recent writer, with box office hits like Mr and Mrs Smith and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, his work will easily be the more recognizable of the two to the new generation of moviegoers. As such, does he he feel that extra burden of responsibility to deliver something for the new kids?
“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. When I wake up in the morning and I’m working on an X-Men movie, it’s insane for me every day because I’m so excited to get to work.”
One aspect though that Lawrence Kasdan never had to deal with when he was writing on the original Star Wars trilogy was the internet generation wanting to know every detail about the films before they were ever released. And with a project that’s been as big a deal as this, when those details appear, no matter how tiny, fans leap on them and blow them into a big thing that may not have a shred of fact to be found anywhere.
“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 try to not worry about speculation about the movies. I just think it’s great that there’s excitement about the movies. I’ve worked on movies where you have to generate excitement. This is one where the excitement is built in.”
JJ Abrams is one of the few remaining Hollywood directors who still keeps their movie cards pretty close to their chest, and Kasdan and Kinberg are following suit, not wanting to give you any real details on the plots of the films, or event the full extent of their involvement. But there’s a good reason for that, as Kinberg explains.
“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.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. If there’s one part of this gig that I hate, it’s that I constantly get exposed to so much of a particular film before its released, spoilers included. I enjoy the speculation parts, but I’d rather not know intimate details of scripts before I step into the cinema.
Well, except maybe this whole “Is Benedict Cumberbatch Khan or not?” Star Trek thing. C’mon JJ, it’s driving me insane!