Last week this bombshell dropped:
The Walt Disney Co. has acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in cash and stock and announced a new Star Wars movie to be released in 2015.
That has led to frenzied speculation about the proposed Episodes VII-IX [I swear it seems like half my Twitter feed is comprised with rumors, conjecture and spoofs about this revelation].
Into the fray strides writer-director Kevin Smith with this guest column at the Hollywood Reporter. How many of you can relate to this anecdote from Smith’s past:
I grew up about a block from the river in Highlands, N.J. — a shore town recently devastated by Frankenstorm Sandy. Our house was surrounded by summer rental bungalows that served as vacation homes for an army of New Yorkers who wanted out of the city for a few weeks in favor of something more bucolic.
From Brooklyn came the King family, who’d live in a bungalow across the street from my house all summer long. I awaited their arrival with the anticipation normally reserved for Halloween and Christmas because the Kings had a son named Pete right around my age. And as children of the era, Star Wars became the cartilage in our relationship.
Sure, I had some of the toys — but my mom was a homemaker, and my dad worked at the post office. We were a lower-, lower-, lower-middle-class family who qualified for free government cheese a couple years in a row, so the purchasing of plastic trinkets that echoed one of their kids’ favorite movies was reserved for really special occasions. Pete, on the other hand, had everything in the Star Wars line of toys: every figure ever made, every vehicle, every play set. Every summer day from 1978 to 1982, you could find me and Pete in his tiny yard, building a new Hoth or Tatooine, brushing ants off our bodies as we laid belly down in the dirt, making Luke Skywalker repeatedly kiss a girl who turned out to be his sister right before they swing from dental floss over the heads of stiff-armed Stormtroopers. It shaped me as a storyteller and as a person (you can’t save the galaxy all day long without lots of junk-food consumption).
Between my two sons, we’ve dropped thousands of dollars on SWS [Star Wars Stuff]. I’ve seen both boys with their friends hunkered over Hasbro figures for hours of playtime, just like Smith and his buddy Pete.
Smith has a suggestion for Eps. VII-IX. I won’t give it away – you can click on the link above to read the column – but I will tell you his idea has something to do with a certain iconic SW bounty hunter.
Speaking of Star Wars, this was revealed yesterday:
Months before Lucasfilm was sold to Disney and plans for new Star Wars movies were announced, Toy Story 3 writer Michael Arndt was hired to write a 40-to-50-page treatment for Episode VII, sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter.
Arndt, the Oscar-winning writer of Little Miss Sunshine, has completed a treatment for the new movie and is likely to pen a draft of screenplay. The treatment also will be used by Disney/Lucasfilm to court directors for the highly-anticipated project.
If true, I think this is a terrific choice for several reasons:
* Little Miss Sunshine is a fantastic script, well-deserving of an Academy Award.
* In terms of the story, what Arndt did in association with the Pixar creative team with Toy Story 3 was incredible. We’ve seen sequels that topped the original [e.g., Godfather: Part II], but for a third installment of a movie franchise to work as well as Toy Story 3 did, providing entertainment, surprises and a hugely satisfying emotional resolution for all the characters involved is nothing short of miraculous.
* Arndt has also proved his chops with big spectacle franchises with his work on The Hunger Games series [“Catching Fire”].
But what really excites me about this apparent choice of Arndt for this gig: He is great with character. And if there’s one clear difference between the success of the fourth and fifth episodes of Star Wars [“A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back”], and one through three, for me it was characters. 4 and 5: Interesting and compelling characters. 1-3: Not so much.
This news provides me the perfect opportunity to pull together a series of posts next week on Michael Arndt. Fortunately for us, Arndt not only works as a screenwriter, he also talks about the craft and has some excellent insights, some of which I have covered previously, some of which I have not. Now’s the time to delve into Arndt’s process to see what we can learn.
After all, it’s not everyday we have the chance to get screenwriting lessons from a writer handpicked to breathe life into the Star Wars saga.
I have a ton of resources re Arndt and screenwriting. If you have any links, please feel free to post in comments. And while you’re there, what do you think of this news that he has written a 40+ page story treatment for Episodes VII-IX and is likely to write the script for VII?