Star Wars Episode VII

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Star Wars Episode VII
Directed by J. J. Abrams
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by George Lucas[1]
Starring
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Daniel Mindel
Edited by
Production
  company
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date(s)
  • December 18, 2015 (2015-12-18)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $200 million[2]

Star Wars Episode VII is an upcoming American epic space opera film,[3][4] produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm, and Bad Robot Productions,[5][6] and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is intended to be the seventh installment in the Star Wars film series. The film stars John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong'o, and Gwendoline Christie, with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker reprising their roles from previous films. It is planned to be the first of the third trilogy of Star Wars films,[4] following chronologically in the series approximately 30 years after Return of the Jedi.[7] J. J. Abrams is directing the film from a screenplay he co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan, who acted as co-writer on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. They replaced Michael Arndt, who left the project after initially being attached to pen the screenplay and previously writing the story treatment.[8][9]

After The Walt Disney Company acquired ownership of Lucasfilm in 2012, plans for a sequel trilogy to the Star Wars films were announced. Episode VII will be the first film to be produced since the acquisition.[4] The film is produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams, and Abrams' long-time collaborator Bryan Burk.[4][5] Star Wars creator George Lucas will act as creative consultant on Episode VII and other new Star Wars films.[10] Second-unit filming began in April 2014 in Abu Dhabi and Iceland,[11] with principal photography beginning on May 16, 2014, in Abu Dhabi, and will be primarily based at Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, UK.

The film is scheduled for release on December 18, 2015.

Premise

Set approximately thirty years after Return of the Jedi and the demise of Darth Vader, the plot centers around a trio of young leads, along with characters from the previous installments.[7]

Cast

Lupita Nyong'o, Gwendoline Christie, Crystal Clarke, Pip Anderson, and Christina Chong have also been cast in unspecified roles.[12][13][14]

Production

Background and writing

George Lucas turned over the story treatment for Episode VII (as well as for VIII and IX) to Disney chairman Bob Iger around the time Lucasfilm was sold to Disney.[15] The treatment was written by Michael Arndt,[16][17] who was also hired to write the screenplay.[18] Brad Bird was considered as a director and had even been approached, but he was already committed to Tomorrowland.[19] J. J. Abrams was announced in January 2013 as the director of Star Wars Episode VII, with Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg as project consultants.[5][20] The production announced the exit of Arndt from the project on October 24, 2013, and script duties were taken over by Kasdan and Abrams.[21] Abrams cited time concerns over the change of writers.[22] Abrams expressed relief that the release date was announced for December 2015 instead of the earlier spoken about Summer release time period.[23] He said that the key to moving forward with the film would be for it to return to the roots of the first film and be based more on emotion than in explanation.[24]

As creative consultant on the film, George Lucas' involvement includes attending story meetings. "I mostly say, 'You can't do this. You can do that,'” he told Bloomberg Businessweek. "You know, 'The cars don't have wheels. They fly with antigravity.' There’s a million little pieces. Or I can say, 'He doesn’t have the power to do that, or he has to do this.' I know all that stuff."[15]

In January 2014, Abrams confirmed that the script was complete.[25] In April 2014, Lucasfilm clarified that Episodes VIIIX will not feature any of the storylines from the Expanded Universe, though other elements could be included as with Star Wars Rebels.[26]

Pre-production

In May 2013, it was confirmed that the production of Episode VII would take place in the United Kingdom.[27] Representatives from Lucasfilm met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne to agree to produce Episode VII in the U.K.[27] Beginning in September 2013, production spaces at the Bad Robot facility were converted for shooting of Episode VII, for the benefit of shooting a minor portion of the film in the United States.[28]

Costume designer Michael Kaplan, who worked with Abrams on his Star Trek films, will be working on Episode VII.[29] Film editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, also long-term collaborators with Abrams, have also been signed for Episode VII.[30] After several off-hand remarks on returning,[31][32] John Williams was confirmed to compose the score for Episode VII.[33]

In August 2013, it was announced that cinematographer Daniel Mindel will be shooting the film on 35 mm film (specifically Kodak 5219),[34] and that the film would rely on the employment of real locations and scale models over computer-generated imagery, in order to make the film aesthetically similar to the original Star Wars trilogy.[35]

In October 2013, other crew members were confirmed, including sound designer Ben Burtt, director of photography Daniel Mindel, production designers Rick Carter and Darren Gilford, costume designer Michael Kaplan, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, re-recording mixer Gary Rydstrom, supervising sound editor Matthew Wood, visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, and executive producers Tommy Harper and Jason McGatlin.[36][37][38][39]

Casting

Casting began around August 2013, with Abrams meeting with potential actors for meet and greets, script readings and screen tests. Open auditions were held in the U.K., Ireland, and the U.S. in November 2013 for the roles of "Rachel" and "Thomas".[40][41][42] Casting began in earnest in January 2014, due to changes to the script by Kasdan and Abrams.[43] Screen tests with actors continued until at least three weeks before the official announcement on April 29, 2014, with final casting decisions being made only a few weeks prior. Actors testing had strict non-disclosure agreements, preventing them, or their agents and publicist, from commenting on their potential involvement with the film.[44]

Though Lucas intimated that previous cast members Fisher, Ford, and Hamill would return for the new film as early as March 2013,[15] their casting was not confirmed until over a year later. Casting for new character roles was the subject of much speculation since the film's announcement. Saoirse Ronan,[45] Michael B. Jordan,[46] and Lupita Nyong'o[47] each auditioned for the film. Industry publications also reported Jesse Plemons was being considered for possibly Luke Skywalker's son;[48] Adam Driver for an unnamed villain;[49] and Maisie Richardson-Sellers for an unknown character.[50] In March 2014, actor Dominic Monaghan said during an interview that Abrams was looking for three unknown actors to play the leads in Episode VII and that rumors of bigger name stars were untrue.[51]

Daisy Ridley was chosen for the film by February 2014, and by the end of that month a deal had been worked out with Driver, who was able to work around his Girls schedule. By March 2014, talks with Andy Serkis and Oscar Isaac began and continued into April 2014. Also in April, John Boyega began more serious talks after dropping out of a biopic on Jesse Owens.[44] Denis Lawson, who played Wedge Antilles in the original trilogy, was asked to reprise his role, but declined, stating that it would have "bored" him.[52]

On April 29, 2014, the official casting announcement was made which included a photo of the cast seated in a circle at Pinewood Studios near London for their first table read of the script.[9] In clockwise direction from the top, to the right of writer/director/producer J. J. Abrams were Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm president and producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and writer Lawrence Kasdan. Not pictured but a part of the cast were Max von Sydow and Kenny Baker. The announcement was originally planned for May 4 (Star Wars Day), however due to fears of media leaks, the studio decided to make the announcement a few days early. More casting is expected, including a major female role.[53] Official details for the new characters were unavailable with the announcement, but industry publication Variety reported that Driver would be playing a Darth Vader-esque villain role, Isaac's role would be like Han Solo, Boyega would be playing a Jedi role, and Ridley could be playing the role of the daughter of Han and Leia.[54] On June 2, 2014. Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline Christie were announced in the cast.[12]

To prepare for the role, Hamill grew out his own beard,[55] and was assigned a personal trainer and a nutritionist at the request of the producers, who wanted him to closely resemble the older version of Luke.[56] Fisher was also assigned a personal trainer and a nutritionist to prepare for the role.[56] In May 2014, Fisher's mother, Debbie Reynolds, stated that she had already lost 40 pounds in preparation for the film.[57]

From the Star Wars set in Abu Dhabi, Abrams announced a donation contest for UNICEF by which the selected winner would visit the set, meet members of the cast, and appear in the film.[58]

Filming

In February 2014, Abrams said that filming would begin in May and last about three months.[24] Sources told Hitfix that filming would wrap in September 2014.[59] The official announcement came on March 18, when Disney and Lucasfilm announced that principal photography would commence in May and be based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England.[60] In March 2014, it was revealed that pre-production filming would be taking place in Iceland prior to the start of official filming in May, consisting of landscape shots which will then be used for scenery in the film.[61] On April 2, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn confirmed that filming had already begun,[62] filming in secret in the U.A.E. emirate of Abu Dhabi by a second-unit.[63][64] Later in the month, it was revealed that in addition to 35mm film, segments of the film are being shot in the 65mm IMAX format.[65]

In early May 2014, the studio posted a selfie taken by Iger with Chewbacca. Iger stated the photo was taken while visiting Pinewood Studios two weeks earlier to discuss the shoot "which was just about to start" with Abrams, Kennedy, and Horn: "The cast was just assembling. We were looking at costuming and there was Chew[ie] and, of course, I had my iPhone in my hand."[66] When asked about the ongoing rumors over the film's full title, Iger said "when we're ready, we'll tell everybody what the name of it is."[66]

Principal photography first began in Abu Dhabi on May 16, 2014.[67][68][69] Abrams and members of the cast went to Abu Dhabi in early May, where massive sets were built at the location, including a shuttle-like spacecraft, a large tower and a big market, and explosives have been used to create a "blast crater". Cast members have also been spotted around the location practicing driving vehicles they will use during the filming at the location.[70] Production later moved to Pinewood Studios in June.[71]

On June 12, Harrison Ford fractured a bone in his leg while filming at Pinewood after a hydraulic door fell on him, and was subsequently taken to a hospital to receive treatment. Filming was initially expected to continue as planned as Ford receives treatment,[72] though it was later revealed that production would be suspended for two weeks to accommodate Ford's injury.[73] Ford's son Ben released details on his father's injury saying that his ankle will likely need a plate and screws and that filming could be altered slightly with the crew needing to shoot Ford from the waist up for a short time until he recovers.[74] Jake Steinfeld, Harrison Ford's personal trainer, said on TMZ.com that Harrison Ford is recovering rapidly and will be in better shape than ever.[75] On July 8, 2014, Bad Robot's Twitter reported that the film will at least be partially shot on IMAX cameras.[76]

On July 29, 2014, filming took place over three days at Skellig Michael island off the coast of County Kerry in Ireland with cast including Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley.[77][78]

Production was halted for two weeks in early August 2014 so that Abrams could rework shooting in Harrison Ford's absence and resumed with a fully healed Ford in mid-August. Filming on Episode VII is expected to wrap up in late 2014.[79][80] Also in August, Adam Driver stated he did not believe George Lucas was present on set.[81] Later in the month, Rian Johnson, director of Episode VIII, reiterated that Abrams used little CGI and more practical, traditional special effects, saying, "I think people are coming back around to [practical effects]. It feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back toward it. I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick.”[82]

Release

In November 2013, the film was given a release date of December 18, 2015, which will make it the second film—following Star Wars: The Clone Wars, released in August 2008—not to be released in May, as the first six films were.[83] In March 2014, Disney confirmed that Episode VII will be released in IMAX.[84]

Sequels

On June 20, 2014, Breaking Bad director Rian Johnson was reported to be in talks to write and direct Star Wars Episode VIII and to write a treatment for Star Wars Episode IX,[85][86] and personally confirmed he would direct the film in August 2014.[82]

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