| Star Wars: Episode VII|
The Force Awakens
At least $200 million (estimated)
- "It's an original story."
- ―A Lucasfilm source, speaking about the plot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens is the upcoming seventh live-action theatrical Star Wars film and the first film of the sequel trilogy. The film is directed by J.J. Abrams, written by Abrams, Michael Arndt, and Lawrence Kasdan, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Bad Robot Productions. The film, which is currently in production, will be released on December 18, 2015. (December 17, in Mexico and the rest of Latin America)
Despite initially claiming that the Star Wars story ended in Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, and spending years refuting speculation that there would be another film, George Lucas began work on the story of Episode VII in 2011 in order to increase the value of Lucasfilm Ltd. before he sold it to The Walt Disney Company. The acquisition was finalized on October 30, 2012, and Disney and Lucasfilm officially announced Episode VII the same day.
The story of Episode VII is not yet known, but it will not be based on Star Wars Legends, formerly known as the Expanded Universe. Rather, it will be an original story set after Return of the Jedi. The film stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker reprising their original roles. The original actors are joined by a host of new actors including John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Adam Driver, amongst many others.
- "I keep telling J.J. Abrams this is a $4 billion movie. We need to treat this very special. It’s an unbelievable privilege and unbelievable responsibility to take a jewel and treat it in a way that is respectful of its past but brings it into the future."
- ―Bob Iger
On October 30, 2012, The Walt Disney Company announced that it had purchased Lucasfilm Ltd., the production company behind the creation of the Star Wars franchise, from its owner, Star Wars creator George Lucas, for $4.05 billion. The acquisition came in the wake of Lucas's announced retirement on May 31, and the subsequent June 1 announcement that veteran film producer Kathleen Kennedy was succeeding Lucas as Lucasfilm's Co-Chair. As part of the merger, Disney revealed that it planned to produce a sequel trilogy of films, beginning in 2015, that would include the long-awaited Episodes VII, VIII, and IX. Lucas will remain involved as a creative consultant, with Kennedy serving as executive producer.
Star Wars Episode VII had already been in development for several months as of the Disney–Lucasfilm merger. Lucas has written the story treatments for each of the three upcoming films. Kennedy said shortly after the announcement that the development team was in the process of sitting down with writers to discuss story ideas. According to a Lucasfilm source, the basis for Star Wars Episode VII will be an original story, rather than taking inspiration from previous Expanded Universe content, such as author Timothy Zahn's The Thrawn Trilogy of novels, which chronologically follows the events of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi in the Star Wars canon. This was later confirmed on April 25, 2014, when Lucasfilm announced the creation of a new continuity that includes the previous six episodic films, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series, and all future content beginning with the forthcoming Star Wars Rebels TV series and the novel A New Dawn.
Lucasfilm confirmed on November 9 that pre-production had began on Star Wars Episode VII, and that screenwriter Michael Arndt would write the script for the film. News outlets first reported Arndt's involvement on November 8, announcing that, according to insiders, Arndt has already turned in a forty-to-fifty-page story treatment that will reportedly bring the Skywalker family saga to a close in a new trilogy. Reports first announced on January 24, 2013 that J.J. Abrams, known for his work on the television series Lost and the most recent entries in the Star Trek film series, will direct Star Wars Episode VII. StarWars.com confirmed the reports the following day, with George Lucas remarking "I've consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller. He's an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn't be in better hands".
According to reports, Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg would co-produce all three films of the upcoming sequel trilogy, and share writing responsibilities for both Star Wars Episodes VIII and IX. Kasdan originally wrote the screenplays for both Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. StarWars.com confirmed Kasdan's and Kinberg's involvement as project consultants for Star Wars Episode VII on January 25.
During a concert with the Young Musician's Foundation Debut Orchestra on February 9, composer John Williams stated that he was hoping to get the chance to write the musical scores for the entire new trilogy. Abrams made further statements on this at a Star Trek Into Darkness conference on April 29, stating, "Again, for Star Wars, it’s very early days, but I believe that, going forward, John Williams will be doing that film because he was there long before I was." On July 27, 2013, a video of Williams confirming he would score the new film was screened at Star Wars Celebration Europe II.
In May 2013, it was revealed that production of Episode VII would take place in the United Kingdom. All of the six other movies of the Star Wars franchise had been partly produced in the U.K., notably in the Elstree, Shepperton, Leavesden, Ealing and Pinewood Studios. Michael Kaplan, who designed the costumes for Abrams' Star Trek films has also signed on to costume Episode VII.
On October 24, 2013, Kasdan and Abrams were revealed to have been rewriting Arndt's script. On November 7, 2013, Lucasfilm announced that the film would be released on December 18, 2015. On November 9, 2013, it was announced that the Fox fanfare will not be in the opening of Star Wars Episode VII. On November 19, 2013, StarWars.com confirmed that R2-D2 will appear in the film. The droid model was provided and overseen by members of the R2-D2 Builders Club.
Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn revealed on December 13, 2013, that the estimated budget for Star Wars Episode VII would be at least $200 million. At a Television Critics Association press tour on January 19, 2014, Abrams announced that the script for Episode VII had been finished and that the movie was going "full steam ahead" and in "deep pre-production."
- "Part of the experience of [Star Wars] in my life was coming down from that, putting it behind me. We had a beginning, middle, and an end. And I certainly, in a million years, never expected to return. I thought, even if they do more trilogies, my story is over."
- ―Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill commented about the sequels in late February 2013 stating that "they are talking to us" and he is scheduled to meet with writer Michael Arndt and Kathleen Kennedy. Hamill stated that so far nobody has signed a contract though there appears to be interest in the entire cast. Hamill went on to say that George Lucas would like to get Peter Mayhew and Anthony Daniels back for the new films as well. Mark Hamill feels that he will return to be "an Obi-Wan type role."  In March 2013, Fisher confirmed she will return as Princess Leia. A day later Lucas confirmed that Hamill, Ford and Fisher were in the final stages of negotiations and that all three were in discussions to return prior to the Disney sale. Lucas then said, "Maybe I'm not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them. I won't say whether the negotiations were successful or not". On January 20, 2014, Carrie Fisher gave an interview to TV Guide and mentioned that she, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill would all be reporting to work in March or April. This was verified by Lucasfilm on April 29, 2014.
During an interview promoting the 2014 remake of RoboCop, actor Gary Oldman confirmed with Sky Movies that he was indeed approached for a role in the upcoming film. Other actors such as Ewan McGregor and Billy Dee Williams have expressed interest in returning, though no official statement has been released regarding their involvement. Alan Horn confirmed rumors of talks with Breaking Bad actor Jesse Plemons.
- "I've learned to be very careful about Star Wars. If I say, 'There will be no skateboards in Star Wars'... that gets headlines."
- ―Alan Horn, Disney Chairman
On March 17, 2014, StarWars.com announced that Episode VII would begin principal photography at Pinewood Studios in May 2014, and would be set approximately thirty years after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi. They also confirmed that the film will star a trio of young leading actors alongside "some very familiar faces." On April 5, 2014, it was revealed that filming on Star Wars Episode VII had already begun, with second unit work taking place in Iceland and Abu Dhabi.
On April 7, 2014, reports surfaced claiming that Peter Mayhew would reprise the role of Chewbacca in Star Wars Episode VII. On April 25, Lucasfilm announced their plans for a new continuity that excluded the existing Expanded Universe, and confirmed that Episode VII and its sequels will not adhere to any existing continuity. This was followed on April 29 by the official release of the cast list for the movie. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew and Anthony Daniels would return to reprise their roles as the main characters of the original trilogy, and they will be joined by a number of new actors in leading roles: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow. Denis Lawson was asked to reprise his role as Wedge Antilles from the original trilogy, but declined, stating that it would have "bored" him. The production team built a new C-3PO suit to accommodate Daniels.
On May 16, 2014, production officially began on the film at Pinewood Studios. Daniel Mindel—who had previously worked with Abrams as director of photography—returned to collaborate with the director on the film. Reportedly, one sequence was shot with IMAX cameras. On June 11, the 71-year old Harrison Ford broke his left leg when a hydraulic door at Pinewood Studios fell down and hit him, and was airlifted to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. His recovery forced him to drop out of filming for eight weeks. On June 28, actor Andy Serkis confirmed that The Imaginarium Studios will be involved with performance capture on the film, as well as all future Star Wars projects. Serkis also confirmed that the character he plays in the film will utilize performance capture. On July 6, Lucasfilm confirmed that actors Crystal Clarke and Pip Andersen were cast in the film through open casting calls in the United Kingdom. They also revealed that production would take a two-week hiatus in August to accommodate Harrison Ford's leg injury. Afterwards shooting will resume, and conclude later in the fall. Abrams, Hamill, and Daisy Ridley spent three days filming at Skellig Michael in County Kerry, Ireland.
On November 6, 2014, the official Star Wars Twitter account announced that the film had completed principal photography. The post gave the official title for the film as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and was accompanied by a title card for the new name that, like the original trilogy, excluded the "Episode" subtitle.
- "We're living in such a different age now. It's like a competition to see who can leak information faster than the next guy. I don’t get it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they don't get a copy of the script and leak the whole thing on the Internet."
- ―Mark Hamill
Following Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, its "imagineers" began developing Star Wars-themed expansions to the various Disney theme parks. However, Bob Iger halted work on these expansions until The Force Awakens and other future Star Wars films had reached a point in their development so that elements from those projects could be included.
On May 21, 2014, Disney, Lucasfilm and Bad Robot announced "Force for Change", a charity campaign "dedicated to finding creative solutions to some of the world's biggest problems"; Initially, the campaign was focused on contributing to UNICEF. Each person who donated was entered to win a set visit to and appearance in Episode VII. On August 11, Denver, Colorado resident D.C. Barns was announced as the contest's winner. JJ Abrams later released a YouTube video in which he announced that the contest had raised $4.26 million. In August 2014, several of the film's cast and crew participated in the "Ice Bucket Challenge", an internet phenomenon whereby one pours water onto one's head as a pledge to donate to the ALS association.
Abrams made a cameo on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, in which he is seen directing R2-D2 on the set of The Force Awakens. When a fish from Oliver's salmon cannon falls on the script that he's holding, Abrams gets frustrated and quits the film. An 88 second teaser trailer premiered in 30 theaters across North America and was released online on November 28, 2014. The trailer was announced via the Bad Robot Productions Twitter account, with a note from Abrams saying fans will see a "tiny peek at what we're working on." The teaser was shown in theaters around the world beginning in December 2014.
- "We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud."
- ―Director J.J. Abrams
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Notes and references
- Star Wars: A look back at Year One of the Disney regime - EW.com
- George Lucas Spent a Year Developing 'Star Wars: Episode 7' Before Lucasfilm Sale
- The Walt Disney Studios >> Press Release
- Jedi News - Latest: RUMORS: Episode VII Details From 'Entertainment Weekly' Issue 1311