Star Wars sequel trilogy
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The Star Wars title card/logo, as seen in all films
The Star Wars sequel trilogy is the upcoming third film trilogy in the American space opera franchise Star Wars, created by George Lucas. It is being produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. and is to be the first films in the saga not to be distributed by 20th Century Fox. The trilogy will consist of episodes VII through IX and will follow after Return of the Jedi (1983) in the saga's chronology. Lucas originally conceived the idea for a sequel trilogy in 1978 during development of The Empire Strikes Back, but later abandoned the concept during the 1990s to focus on the prequel trilogy. In 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm and scheduled production for a third trilogy.
The first installment, Star Wars Episode VII, began pre-production on October 30, 2012 and is scheduled for release in December 2015. The film will be directed by J. J. Abrams with Lucas as creative consultant. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are returning, reprising their roles from the original trilogy.
Development: the initial vision of nine or twelve Star Wars films
Mark Hamill has stated that Lucas told him in 1976, while filming the first film in Tunisia, that four Star Wars trilogies were planned. Lucas suggested Hamill could have a cameo role in Episode IX, which might be filmed in 2011. A Time magazine story in March 1978, quoting Lucas, also contained the assertion there would be 10 further Star Wars films after The Empire Strikes Back. Gary Kurtz was also aware of proposed story elements for Episode VII to IX before 1980.
In 1980, at the time of the release of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas was saying there were seven further Star Wars films he wanted to make. He said he had "twelve-page outlines" for those films. In an interview with Steranko in Prevue magazine published in late 1980, Lucas described how the expansive scope of Star Wars had started with an overlong screenplay:
"So, I took the screenplay and divided it into three stories, and rewrote the first one. As I was writing, I came up with some ideas for a film about robots, with no humans in it. When I got to working on the Wookiee, I thought of a film just about Wookiees, nothing else. So, for a time, I had a couple of odd movies with just those characters. Then, I had the other two films, which were essentially split into three parts each, two trilogies. When the smoke cleared, I said, 'This is really great. I'll do another trilogy that takes place after this.' I had three trilogies of nine films, and then another couple of odd films. Essentially, there were twelve films."
He then added that he had
"eliminated the odd movies, because they really don't have anything to do with the Star Wars saga. ... I'm just going to keep it pure. It's a nine-part saga that has a beginning, a middle and an end. It progresses over a period of about fifty or sixty years with about twenty years between trilogies, each trilogy taking about six or seven years."
In this interview, Lucas also stated that he had "titles and ten-page story outlines for each of" the nine episodes. In an interview with Gary Kurtz in the same magazine, Kurtz said,
"[w]hether or not all nine or twelve films actually get made depends on how George feels as time goes along. The series may happen the way he originally planned or may completely change. As the films are made, each of the stories develops. As each is finished, I think the direction of the saga may change a bit."
In an interview with Starlog magazine published in September 1981, Lucas confirmed that he had the nine film series plotted, cautioning
"but it's a long way from the plot to the script. I've just gone through that with Return of the Jedi, and what seems like a great idea when it's described in three sentences doesn't hold together when you try to make five or six scenes out of it. So plots change a lot when they start getting into script form."
Plan to abandon sequel trilogy after six films
From 1997 to mid-2012, Lucas frequently stated that he had no plans to make the sequel trilogy, and said he would not allow others to do so either. He gave various explanations for the apparent abandonment of plans to film the sequel trilogy.
In August 1999, at a press conference in New York City to discuss The Phantom Menace, Lucas described the "nine year commitment" required to make a Star Wars trilogy. In 2002, he said: "Basically what I said as a joke was, 'Maybe when Harrison and Carrie are in their 70s, we'll come back and do another version.' The thing I didn't realize then, and that I do realize now very clearly, is that not only would they be in their 70s, but I would be in my 70s too." In 2007, Lucas described making the films at that age as "an idea that seemed amusing at the time, but doesn't seem realistic now", and suggested that 'off-the-cuff' comments he had made in earlier years had been misconstrued as absolute statements.
At a 1997 "Special Edition" press conference, Lucas said: "Everyone said, 'Well, are you going to do sequels to the first three?' But that was an afterthought; I don't have scripts on those stories. The only notion on that was, wouldn't it be fun to get all the actors to come back when they're 60 or 70 years old and make three more about them as old people." In a 1997 issue of Star Wars Insider, he said: "The whole story has six episodes.... If I ever went beyond that, it would be something that was made up. I really don't have any notion other than, 'Gee, it would be interesting to do Luke Skywalker later on.' It wouldn't be part of the main story, but a sequel to this thing."
In an interview published in the February 1999 issue of Vanity Fair, Lucas said: "When you see it in six parts, you'll understand. It really ends at part six. I never had a story for the sequels, for the later ones." In 2008, after all six films had been released, Lucas said: "The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that's where that story ends."
In 1999, when asked about the possibility of someone else making Star Wars films, Lucas said, "Probably not, it's my thing." In a 2008 interview in Total Film, Lucas ruled out anybody else making Star Wars films. Asked if he was happy for new Star Wars films to made after his death, he said: "I've left pretty explicit instructions for there not to be any more features. There will definitely be no Episodes VII–IX. That's because there isn't any story. I mean, I never thought of anything. And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn't at all what I would have done with it. The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn't come back to life, the Emperor doesn't get cloned and Luke doesn't get married..."
However, speaking after Disney's 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm, Lucas (sitting alongside new Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy), said: "I always said I wasn't going to do any more, and that's true, because I'm not going to do any more. But that doesn't mean I'm unwilling to turn it over to Kathy to do more."
Sequel trilogy story and themes
Lucas had story treatments for episodes VII, VIII and IX which he turned over to Disney chairman Bob Iger around the time Lucasfilm was sold to Disney. No information about these has been released; however, during the previous 35 years Lucas had given many hints about the content of the sequel trilogy, including the following (sometimes contradictory) possibilities:
- Episode VII would begin roughly 20 (or perhaps 30-40) years after the end of Return of the Jedi (according to Lucas in 1980 and 1982).
- R2-D2 and C-3PO would be the only characters who might continue through all nine films (Lucas in 1980, 1981 and 1983).
- The trilogy would deal with the rebuilding of the Republic (Lucas in 1980).
- "It's like a saga, the story of a group of people, a family" (Lucas in 1980).
- The focus would be on Luke Skywalker's journey to becoming the premier Jedi knight, with Luke's sister (who was not Leia) appearing in Episode VIII, and the first appearance of the Emperor, and Luke's ultimate confrontation with him, in Episode IX (a storyline as planned pre-1980, according to A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz).
- Luke would have a romantic relationship with a female love interest (Lucas in 1988).
- The main theme of the trilogy would be moral and philosophical problems, such as the necessity for moral choices and the wisdom needed to distinguish right from wrong, justice, confrontation, and passing on what you have learned (Lucas in 1983 and 1989).
- The key actors, Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Ford as Han Solo, and Fisher as Princess Leia, would appear, in their 60s or 70s (Lucas in 1983).
- In Episode IX, Hamill would cameo, "like Obi-Wan handing the lightsaber down to the next new hope" (according to Hamill, in 2004).
- "The other one — what happens to Luke afterward — is much more ethereal. I have a tiny notebook full of notes on that. If I’m really ambitious, I could proceed to figure out what would have happened to Luke" (Lucas in 1980).
Interviewed in 2012 after the announcement of the new trilogy, Lucas biographer Dale Pollock said that he had, in the 1980s, read the outlines to 12 Star Wars episodes planned by Lucas, but had been required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Pollock said:
- "The three most exciting stories were 7, 8 and 9. They had propulsive action, really interesting new worlds, new characters. I remember thinking, 'I want to see these 3 movies.'"
- The next series film would "involve Luke Skywalker in his 30s and 40s."
- That Disney would probably use Lucas's outlines as the basis for the sequel trilogy. "That’s in part what Disney bought."
Author Timothy Zahn, whose Star Wars novel series, the Thrawn Trilogy, is set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, was also interviewed in 2012. Zahn confirmed the sequel trilogy would not be based on the Thrawn novels, but said he had been briefed years before on Lucas's plans for the sequels (Zahn had discussions with Lucas before the first Thrawn novel was published in 1991). Zahn said,
"The original idea as I understood it—and Lucas changes his mind off and on, so it may not be what he’s thinking right now—but it was going to be three generations. You’d have the original trilogy, then go back to Luke’s father and find out what happened to him, and if there was another seventh, eighth, or ninth film, it would be Luke's children."
Episode VII is to take place approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi and will revolve around a younger cast of actors together with characters from the original trilogy, including Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia along with C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca, who have been confirmed to return. The film began pre-production on October 30, 2012. Production began in April 2014; it is to be released in December 2015. Episode VII will be directed by J. J. Abrams with Lucas as creative consultant. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are returning, reprising their roles from the original trilogy. Episode VII—along with the following two films—are not to be based on storylines from the expanded universe. On June 20, 2014, Rian Johnson was announced to direct Episode VIII and write Episode IX.
Future stand-alone Star Wars films
In February 2013, Iger confirmed in an interview with CNBC that Disney-Lucasfilm were working on a "few stand-alone" films. He said Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg were both working on films derived from Star Wars characters. The dates of the films' releases have not been announced, though some commentators have interpreted a speech by Disney chairman Alan Horn (at the annual CinemaCon convention of cinema chain owners) in April 2013 to mean that Disney is planning to release the first two spin-off movies in 2016 and 2018, the gap years between the new trilogy films.
Kasdan was reported in the Los Angeles Times to have said that he was focusing neither on his previous scripts or the extended Star Wars universe in his approach to writing a new Star Wars film. "I’m trying to start fresh," he said. "There are certain pleasures that we think the saga can bring to people that they’ve been missing, and we’re hoping to bring them that, and at the same time, have them feel that it’s all new."
On May 7, 2014, Disney chairman, Bob Iger further confirmed that three stand-alone films would be happening within the next ten years. Iger didn't confirm which characters the films would be based on however said that the original plan was to release new core films every two years from 2015 with a spin-off in between. Although unconfirmed, writer Lawrence Kasdan is said to be working on a Boba Fett spin-off while Simon Kinberg is working on Han Solo spin-off script. Yoda and Darth Maul have also been rumored to be the focus of the third spinoff film. On May 22, 2014, The Hollywood Reporter has reported that Gareth Edwards will direct one of the spin off films with Gary Whitta writing the film and a December 16, 2016 released date. On June 4, 2014, the official Star Wars website announced that Josh Trank will direct one of the standalone films that's beyond episodes VIII and IX. On June 10, 2014, Schmoes Know has reported that Kasdan will be writing the Boba Fett film which Edwards may direct for a 2016 release date.
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