Posted on Monday, February 23rd, 2015 by Peter Sciretta
Screenwriter Gary Whitta (Book of Eli, After Earth) is about to release his first novel, Abomination. To promote the pre-order of the historical fantasy novel, Whitta sat down with us for an extensive interview spanning his career thus far. Over the course of this week we will be posting all of the parts of this interview broken up into digestible thematic bites — we’re calling it “/Film’s Week Of Whitta”.
In the first installment we wanted to cut to the chase and present the meatiest Gary Whitta Star Wars comments. As you know, Whitta wrote for a year on the first Star Wars spin-off film being directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), which will hit theaters on December 16th 2016. We talked to Whitta about growing up with movies, which includes the original Star Wars trilogy. We also discuss the controversy over comments he’s made about the Star Wars prequels and special editions. (I’m not sure how the comments are controversial, considering most everyone I know shares a similar viewpoint.) And, of course, we talk to Gary about working on the upcoming Star Wars spin-off film, and while his Lucasfilm NDA prevents him from revealing any details, its worth reading. Read the Gary Whitta Star Wars interview after the jump.
Interview Part 1: Gary Whitta Star Wars
Note: The following interview has been split up into five parts. Some questions are being presented out of chronological order so that each post tackles a thematic topic.
Okay I wanted to start off by asking you about when you first fell in love with movies?
I know it sounds like a bit of a stock answer, but I think more than any other film it was Star Wars. I was five when it came out, and I remember vividly having a VHS copy of it that I had recorded from commercial television in the UK and watched so many times that the tape was noticeably starting to degrade. The other really big one for me was Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. As a kid that movie just absolutely blew me away, it was by far the most wildly imaginative thing I had ever seen in my life. This of course was many years before the internet when it was practically impossible to find screenplays for films, but Time Bandits had an illustrated script book that was published and which I studied more than anything I was supposed to be studying at school. While Star Wars was the first film that made me fall in love with movies, Time Bandits was probably the first that really sparked my interested in writing them.
What were your favorite films growing up?
Aside from the ones I just mentioned, the big ones for me were Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Last Starfighter – which to this day I maintain is a criminally under-appreciated film. It’s easy now to make fun of the cheesiness of it and the visual effects, but for me it’s right up there with the best of the sci-fi/adventure movies of the 1980s.
You were a child in the 1970’s during just the right time when Star Wars must have been seminal…
Yeah, I’m definitely of that generation for whom the original trilogy was pretty much a defining event. I cried at the end of Return of the Jedi, not just because it was such a perfect emotional ending to the saga but because I knew that the story was over. I spent every spare penny of my pocket money on the toys and action figures. I think my generation was really fortunate to have Star Wars when they were growing up, it’s certainly no accident that it inspired so many of today’s biggest film-makers and storytellers. I know there’s been a thousand books and articles written about it but I really think it’s impossible to truly gauge just how big an influence those movies have had.