One of the more curious developments in the course of how a new series of Star Wars films came to be made is the involvement of Lawrence Kasdan. He is, of course, the screenwriter behind Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as a slew of other films from Raiders of the Lost Ark to The Big Chill, but Lucasfilm’s decision to bring Kasdan into the fold to help develop these new films was a fascinating one. After handing the Lucasfilm reigns over to president Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas stepped back from the franchise he created, but it’s interesting to see that the strongest piece of “connective tissue” that will link the future of the franchise with the past is Kasdan.
In a fantastic new Q&A with Wired magazine, Kasdan reveals exactly how he came to be a part of the new Star Wars franchise in the first place, and it started well before Lucasfilm was sold to Disney:
“It was completely out of the blue. I was really surprised. I hadn’t had anything to do with it since Jedi. George and I had stayed in touch, and I would see him occasionally, but we weren’t close. And then Kathy Kennedy called. This is before Disney was in the picture at all. She said, ‘we’re going to make more Star Wars movies. Will you come up and talk to George and me?’”
The scribe continued by confirming screenwriter Michael Arndt was already working on the script at the time as well, but Kasdan needed some convincing:
“I had a lot of hesitation. I went up to the ranch not at all convinced I would do it. I was happy to see George again, and Kathy and I have never been out of touch, because we have a lot of connections. And they said, ‘look, we have hired Michael Arndt to write the next one, but there are these other ideas, and you can take your pick.’ I said, ‘the only one I really want to do here is Han Solo, because Han is my favorite character.’ And they said OK. That got me over my hesitation. We made a deal for me to write Han, and a deal to come on and help Michael and with some other people develop what would be the next Star Wars. I did that as a kind of consultant at the same time I was starting to write Han. It went on for months, and it was quite a large brain trust.”
That brain trust was made up of Kasdan, Arndt, and producer/writer Simon Kinberg, who together broke the story for what would become a new series of Star Wars films. Kasdan goes on to reveal that he was enlisted to woo J.J. Abrams to the director’s chair:
“Weeks after that meeting, Disney bought the company, and I was involved in trying to get J.J. Abrams to direct what would become Force Awakens. When he agreed to do the movie it got very exciting. He and George are so different, but they’re the same in that they’re both very funny and both brilliant. He and I hit it off right away, even before we were officially writing the script, when we were just helping Michael. We all worked on the story for a long time, and it was a struggle. Then they decided the script wasn’t coming along fast enough. There were people being hired and money being spent, and Michael stepped away.”
Indeed, Abrams and Kasdan continued to work on the story, moving in a new direction that would eventually become Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But they were under pressure from the studio to have the film ready for release in 2015, and Kasdan equated it to his experience on Empire Strikes Back where he was under a similar time crunch:
“By the time J.J. and I came on to write the script, again, just like Empire, there was enormous time pressure, and there were people on payroll in England. It was very intense. But our reaction to it was to be very free. We felt liberated. We had only one goal, which was to delight, to have as much delight in the movie as possible.
We started walking around recording into an iPhone breaking the story, and we walked for miles through Santa Monica and Manhattan and eventually Paris and London. It was the most fun experience I’ve ever had in terms of breaking a story and shaping it up, walking through some of the most amazing cities in the world and talking to a guy who loves it and is gonna direct it, and you know he’s gonna direct it great. You’re elated by the whole thing. We had a first draft in about six weeks, and then we continued to write it for another two years. We were shooting it and cutting it and there were still little changes being made.”
Now that the film is complete, what does Kasdan think about the finished product?
“On the first day, I said, ‘look, delight, that’s the word. In every scene, that should be the criteria we’re using. Does it delight? Is it fun?’ I look at the movie now, and I’m feeling very good about that. What J.J. did with it is so great. You take all of J.J.’s gifts, the dynamism of his camera and his sense of humor and feeling of momentum, his ideas of story, and I feel like we were able to achieve that delight. It’s an unusual feeling even for me. When I look at the movie, I can’t resist it. It just tickles me.”
Well that’s certainly promising. Kasdan’s tenure with Star Wars is likely at an end, though, as he recently revealed that the script he co-wrote with his son Jake Kasdan for the Han Solo spinoff—which Phil Lord and Chris Miller are directing—will be his last work on Star Wars. The story he helped break for the new trilogy, however, will hopefully endure.
The full interview is well worth a read, as Kasdan also reflects on his relationship with Lucas and his time on the original trilogy. Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters on December 18th.
For more of our Star Wars coverage, peruse the recent links below:
- ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens': Six New Empire Covers Profile Heroes and Villains
- ‘Star Wars': Disney Chief Tries to Temper Box Office Expectations
- J.J. Abrams Nearly Done with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Final Touches
- ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: Rey and Finn Run through the Desert in the First Clip
- New ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Footage Premieres at the American Music Awards