There’s very little we’ve been able to confirm about Star Wars: Episode VII, but two things have been sort of clear: the original trilogy leads of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) would be involved in some small, supporting way and that this new trilogy would be led by the next generation of youngsters, the on-screen offspring of the aforementioned trio.
But according to a new report from THR, the script just got flipped.
[Just a warning: As is hinted at by that massively long headline, there’s a lot of news to cover here, and I have been known to posses the ability to talk about Star Wars a lot, so I would get comfy and perhaps even have a bathroom break before going on, if I were you]
You may recall that last year it was revealed that Oscar-nominated screenwriter Michael Arndt was stepping aside from penning the script to the highly anticipated new film to allow director JJ Abrams and veteran Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan to take their own crack at it. Well, said “crack” may just be the sound of the internet breaking if these recently revealed changes turn out to be real.
According to THR’s sources, the reason for Arndt’s departure was not due to the film’s creeping deadline as originally reported, but due to a disagreement between him and JJ Abrams/Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy about which characters the new film should be focusing on. Star Wars creator and ex-Lucasfilm head honcho George Lucas apparently also weighed in on the debate (Arndt had written the script, based on Lucas’ ideas, before Lucas had sold his company to Disney), but in the end Lucas and (probably begrudgingly) Arndt acquiesced to Abrams and Kennedy.
Which is why now, reportedly, in Abrams and Kasdan’s new draft the focus has shifted dramatically, with Luke, Leia and Han now taking centre stage to give fans “one more chance to enjoy them before a fitting send-off”, while the young offspring would be relegated to supporting roles initially, before taking the lead in Episodes VII and IX. Several characters that were in Arndt’s draft have apparently also been axed – like Mud star Tye Sheridan’s rumoured role – or changed significantly. One 20-year old male lead character is apparently now being rewritten as a 40-year old male, while Abrams and Lucasfilm have started looking for ” a 20-something female actress who is either of mixed race or black” which according to rumour could be a previously unknown daughter/granddaughter of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.
This news broke yesterday morning, just one day after it was revealed by The Wrap that 25-year old Breaking Bad and Friday Night Lights star Jesse Plemons (who bears a suspiciously telling resemblance to a young Mark Hamill) was meeting with Abrams about a significant role in the new films, after his videotaped audition was received very favourably. THR confirms Plemons’ involvement, stating that he’s scheduled to meet Abrams this coming week, but reveal that his is actually only one name of several on a list of actors and actresses that Abrams is apparently considering to fit into the newly reworked script.
So who are the other names rumoured to be on that list? Well according to multiple sources, Abrams is said to be “casting a wide, wide net and meeting with ‘everyone.'” One actor he is apparently eyeing for a role is Girls star Adam Driver, but there are two much bigger names on the list that he’s apparently already met with. Golden Globe nominated actor Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Shame, Twelve Years a Slave) apparently already had talks with Abrams in December 2013 for an unspecified role, while according to sources, Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Cloud Atlas) has also already met Abrams about a role as an “Imperial Commander”.
I have to admit these changes elicit some mixed reactions in me. Personally, based on their advanced years, I was perfectly fine with keeping the original trio of Hamill, Fisher and Ford resigned to just supporting roles and having the torch being firmly passed on to a set of fresh hands. And yes I know that according to these reports this will still be happening, just one movie further down the timeline than we expected, but I sort of get the feeling that Abrams, Kennedy and co may be going down this route for the simple reason of trying to placate fans who are fearing that this may be the prequel trilogy fiasco all over again. A case of “Look, here are the three characters you all love and not some new cliche spewing little boy/whiny, angst-ridden teenage future dark lord, so stop worrying and typing in all caps on the internet because clearly we know fully 100% exactly what we’re doing!”, if you will, instead of just “We have this really great story to tell about Luke, Leia and Han”.
That being said though, they had me at Michael Fassbender and Hugo Weaving.
But that also wasn’t all the Star Wars news though. Four paragraphs up you may have noticed that I mentioned a casting search for Obi-Wan Kenobi’s daughter/granddaughter. In the Star Wars Expanded Universe – the collection of interlocking TV series, comics, novels and videogames that detail the stories before, during and after the 6 feature films – there has never been any mention of Obi-Wan having a mixed race granddaughter. Now Lucasfilm have previously stated that the new trilogy will not be adapting any of these EU stories, but there isn’t room in the existing EU timeline to slot in some new adventure with Luke, Leia and Han at their current ages (although there is some uncovered story ground for the younger generation).
These factors help to strengthen the rumblings that began on Twitter last week that Disney are planning to do some heavy duty pruning to the EU. Whereas previously, it was all considered to be official canon (well, at least according to a set hierarchical structure, whereby the movies, and subsequently the Clone Wars TV series, took precedent in any situation where a story element was conflicting with established continuity), now a lot of those stories may just be given the chop, with only a select few stories and their characters still being regarded as canon.
According to the tweets of Lucasfilm employee Leland Chee – who currently is in charge of maintaining Lucasfilm’s internal story database – in light of the new movies and the newly signed deal that sees Marvel now publishing all Star Wars comics again after Dark Horse had held the licence for the last two decade, “Star Wars Canon is now determined by the Lucasfilm Story Group,” which he and fellow Lucasfilm employee Pablo Hidalgo is a part of. Chee explained that this newly formed “Story Group has a hand in all facets of Star Wars storytelling, including movies, TV, games, and publishing”, and he added that “more so than ever, the canon field will serve us internally simply for classification rather than setting hierarchy.”
What this seems to mean, at least to me, is that previously, whereas technically EVERYTHING was canon, despite some elements in a story taking precedent over others in another story, now only those stories that this story group officially deem as cannon will be considered as such. This means that EU stories that follow on immediately after Return of the Jedi, like Truce at Bakura or the X-Wing series, that would have occupied the time era where the new movies theoretically take place, could just be classified as non-canon and swept under the rug. Clearly, this could feasibly be an even bigger headache to keep track of (not to mention upsetting a lot of fans of those discarded stories, myself included), as certain newly considered non-canon elements of one story, could have been relied upon by elements of another canon story. This is why I suspect all the major stories/characters – like Hand of Thrawn, the Yuuzan Vong, Mara Jade, etc – will still be kept canon, while the smaller ones get pushed aside leaving massive gaps for the new movies/comics to fill in. Or, Lucasfilm could simply be doing an about-face and now finally deciding to adhere to George Lucas’ view, which is that nothing outside of the movies he wrote is canon.
If the latter is the case, it gives Abrams and co complete creative freedom to come up with new stories that can totally surprise us. It will also vehemently piss off a whole lot of their most ardent fans.
Last Updated: January 13, 2014