After approximately eleventy mabillion phone calls and emails – and that was just me tapping my Lucasfilm and Disney contacts for the official word – the formalities have been wrapped up, the word is out, and nerdgasms can commence.
J.J. Abrams – of previous Star Trek acclaim – will direct Star Wars: Episode VII, the first of a new series of Star Wars films to come from Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy.
Abrams, his longtime producing partner Bryan Burk, and Bad Robot will produce along with Kennedy under the Disney | Lucasfilm banner.
“To be a part of the next chapter of the Star Wars saga, to collaborate with Kathy Kennedy and this remarkable group of people, is an absolute honor,” J.J. Abrams said. “I may be even more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid.”
Academy Award-winning writer Michael Arndt will write the screenplay.
“It’s very exciting to have J.J. aboard leading the charge as we set off to make a new Star Wars movie,” said Kennedy. “J.J. is the perfect director to helm this. Beyond having such great instincts as a filmmaker, he has an intuitive understanding of this franchise. He understands the essence of the Star Wars experience, and will bring that talent to create an unforgettable motion picture.”
George Lucas went on to say “I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller. He’s an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.”
Also consulting on the project are Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg. Kasdan has a long history with Lucasfilm, as screenwriter on The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi.
Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Muren, ASC, whose credits include the original Star Wars trilogy as well as landmark films like E.T. and Jurassic Park, also worked with Abrams on Super 8. “He puts everything he has into his work,” he said. “He totally immerses himself. He’s got such a visual eye, which is so important to the Star Wars films. It seems that a lot of the same things that were in George when he made the first Star Wars films are also in J.J. I think he’s going to fit into the other movies perfectly… We’re kick-starting Star Wars again with dynamite. It will knock people out, including the people who get to work on it. I think it’s a great choice.”
Abrams and his production company have a proven track record – demonstrated by flicks that feature iconic heroes, complex action, and heartfelt drama, with credits like Star Trek, Super 8, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, and this year’s yet-to-be-released Star Trek Into Darkness.
Abrams has also worked with Lucasfilm’s preeminent post-production facilities, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, on all of the feature films he has directed, beginning with Mission: Impossible III. He also created or co-created acclaimed television series Felicity, Alias, Lost and Fringe.
In other words, he’s more than legit, and has the science-fiction cred to pull this off.
Past Star Wars veterans, dating back to the classic trilogy, offered words of praise having worked with him on various projects:
Ben Burtt, responsible for iconic Star Wars sounds like Darth Vader’s breathing, R2-D2’s beep boops, and the lightsaber, has worked with Abrams as sound designer and sound editor on Star Trek and Super 8. “J.J represents the next generation of filmmakers from those that were making Star Wars when I started,” he said. “When he was a teen, he was a fan of Star Wars, and a great deal of his love for movies came out of his reaction of that first Star Wars film. You feel that he’s already invested so many years in it, and he’s going to propel it forward in a new way. In other words, you’re having a fan who has grown up and developed tremendous directorial skills finding himself at the steering wheel to take the franchise into the next stage. I feel like I’m there watching history turn over from one era to another.”
Matthew Wood, who served as supervising sound editor on Super 8, also grew up as a Star Wars fan before working on the films through the prequels. “Working with him, it was so obvious to me that J.J. and I have the same nostalgic love of that era. Now we have someone from that generation who is going to be at the helm of the Star Wars franchise that I’ve known and worked on, so it’s a great circle. Just seeing what he did with Super 8 and capturing those moments, and knowing what was so special about that era, it’s going to speak to a new generation of audience as well.”
For information about Star Wars: Episode VII as it develops, keep checking StarWars.com.
Information provided by Lucasfilm Ltd.
Photo credit: Jeff Clark (@ArtooDad2)
Photo edits: All me.