With George Lucas now completely gone from the Star Wars franchise, Lucasfilm has a unique opportunity in front of them. The studio is crafting a new trilogy and several spinoff films set in the Star Wars universe, sure, but for the first time in the series’ history, there’s no one filmmaker who’s lording over all the movies and crafting their individual stories. Under the direction of president Kathleen Kennedy, Star Wars is somewhat taking a page out of Marvel’s book by hiring various filmmakers and screenwriters to bring their unique sensibilities to stories that are separate from one another, yet take place within the same universe.
However, while the Star Wars franchise is about to go in various directions at once, this new era did begin with some semblance of continuity, as a brain trust made up of Lawrence Kasdan, Simon Kinberg, and Michael Arndt hashed out the outlines for this new trilogy plus various standalone features, like the young Han Solo movie (co-written by Kasdan) and Rogue One, which takes place in the months leading up to A New Hope.
So there was a foundation with which Lucasfilm began this journey, but no doubt J.J. Abrams further honed the story for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and made that film his own. And Abrams wasn’t tasked with lording over Star Wars: Episode VIII to make sure that film was in line with the trilogy that he’s beginning—he’s a producer on Episode VIII, but that movie is very much the creative fruit of writer/director Rian Johnson.
In a new Q&A with the LA Times, Kasdan spoke a bit about the Star Wars franchise going forward, stressing how each film will feel very much like a part of a whole, but also its own separate thing:
“These movies will all be so different. [Episode VIII director] Rian Johnson is a friend of mine — he’s going to make some weird thing. If you’ve seen Rian’s work, you know it’s not going be like anything that’s ever been in Star Wars. You couldn’t have three more different people than J.J., Rian and [Episode IX director] Colin [Trevorrow]. Those movies will have the Star Wars saga as their basis, but everything else will be different. Then Phil Lord and Chris Miller are going to make the Han Solo film and I can’t guess what that will be like — and I’m writing it!”
That’s actually really refreshing to hear. As Marvel Studios has gotten larger and larger, the role of the director in their films has come to feel more akin to a director’s role on a television series—he or she is able to stretch behind the camera to a point, but the specific story and overall style of the film has been set at the studio level.
As The Force Awakens’ release finally comes near, the question now becomes how Kennedy and Lucasfilm plan to approach their future films. Many wondered whether the next two proper sequels, directed by Johnson and Jurassic World helmer Colin Trevorrow would be coloring in the lines of what Abrams began, but Kasdan seems to suggest that there’s a significant degree of creative freedom on these features, and that’s exciting.
That also extends to the standalones, and two somewhat unlikely filmmakers—The LEGO Movie and 21/22 Jump Street helmer Phil Lord and Chris Miller—are busy putting together an origin story movie for one of the most iconic characters in film history, Han Solo. Kasdan co-wrote the film with his son, Jon Kasdan, and he spoke briefly about the difference between young Han and the Han we meet in A New Hope:
“You know, he’s younger in this [spinoff] movie and that’s fun because you have to imagine him 10 years earlier in his early 20s. What was he like before he hardened up? Before he had some setbacks? Before he put on this cynical coat? What got him there?”
Production on that picture doesn’t begin for some time, but we learned a few days ago that the monumental casting search has begun as Lord and Miller are meeting with pretty much every young male actor working today. While it’ll be some time before we find out what we can expect from the picture, according to Kasdan it’ll be very much Lord and Miller’s film. Regardless your thoughts on a Han Solo origin film in the first place, a filmmaker-driven approach to the Star Wars saga is something we can all get excited about.