When J J Abrams was announced as the director of Star Wars: Episode VII late last week, the question that seemed to be on everyone’s lips was, “Wow, how did Disney manage to pull Abrams away from the Star Trek franchise over at Paramount?”
The answer comes down to the determination of the woman who George Lucas left in charge of his film empire Lucasfilm prior to his selling it to House of Mouse last fall – longtime producer Kathleen Kennedy.
The Hollywood Reporter has just published an in-depth profile of Kennedy, during which she addresses the process in which she changed Abrams’ mind about jumping ship from one iconic franchise to another after he had initially declined. First she dangled the fact that Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt was working on the project and that The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders Of The Lost Ark scripter Lawrence Kasdan was consulting on the project. That produced the desired result – ”
Kennedy, Abrams and the writers met secretly for about three hours Dec. 19, and “J.J. was just on the ceiling when I walked out the door,” she recalls. But still, she says, Abrams had “very genuine concerns” about his obligations elsewhere and the impact on his wife and three kids, given the likelihood that the film would not be shot in Los Angeles. And then there was the unique nature of the franchise. “If there was any pause on J.J.’s part, it was the same pause everybody has — including myself — stepping into this,” she says. “Which is, it’s daunting.”
So daunting, the Kennedy indicates that she would be willing to sacrifice Disney’s announced release window of 2015 in order to make sure that everything is done right, not done by a certain deadline.
She is less clear that the first film in the new trilogy will be ready by 2015. “Our goal is to move as quickly as we can, and we’ll see what happens,” says Kennedy. “The timetable we care about is getting the story.”
One thing that the story, in fact none of the stories about Abrams’ hiring that I’ve seen, fails to do is elaborate more on Abrams contract, specifically, is he contracted for just the first film or will he be directing or otherwise involved in some capacity with the following two films? I’m sure we’ll find out at some point.