Posted on Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 by Germain Lussier
Note: Until it’s announced on StarWars.com, the news of Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg writing Star Wars Episodes VIII and IX can’t be considered official, but when two Hollywood trades report on it, that’s pretty close, so this article is assuming that it’s true.
For decades, film has been considered a directors medium. (Before the ’60s, it was usually thought of as a producer’s game.) Ask anyone now to name titans of the industry, and they’re going to list directors: Ford, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Scorsese, Spielberg. And so, when the news of a new set of Star Wars movies was announced, the conversation immediately turned to directors. Who could possibly shepherd our unrealistic expectations of a sequel to Return of the Jedi?
At the only place that counts, LucasFilm, it seems they feel writers are more important than the director. While hiring Michael Arndt to write Star Wars Episode VII before hiring a director made complete sense (most directors would never commit to a project without a script), hiring Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg to write Star Wars Episodes VIII and XI before any directors are attached at all speaks volumes to how this trilogy is being handled. It seems to suggest that story is king and that’s a good thing.
Think about this. If everything falls into place and we get a new Star Wars movie every two years from 2015 on, either Kasdan or Kinberg (it has yet to be revealed which is doing which film, just that they’re each doing one) is working on a movie no one will see for over seven years. Usually that kind of window is reserved for passion projects with no chance of being made. That’s not the case here.
So why take a project that’s destined to sit on the shelf for so long? Taking the words “Star Wars” out of the equation (because who wouldn’t want to write a Star Wars film?) it boils down to two things. First is logistics. Making a movie every other year means that while one film is in post-production, the next has to be shooting while the third is in pre-production. Having completed scripts up front will make that go smoother.
Second is consistency. If each screenwriter is writing his movie at the same time, even the briefest communication will help them keep things in line. Plot teases, character arcs, character introductions, deaths. Knowledge of what happens before and after your story is invaluable when writing a chapter. A lot of times when sequels are written long after the original film, things have already occurred that back a screenwriter into a hole. On the flip side, something could happen in a sequel that would have easily been teased and set up in the original, if only everyone knew. It’s called good storytelling. With three screenplays happening congruently, it’s more likely that this will be one smooth story, perfectly defined for three movies.
Writers rarely get so much power in Hollywood. That’s why so many of today’s auteurs prefer to only direct their own material. All that Arndt, Kasdan and Kinberg are getting here are major story beats and those all come from a great source: George Lucas. While most of us now immediately think down on the man because of his work on the Star Wars prequels, don’t forget he created the stories to the originals, the Indiana Jones films and more. The guy may not know dialogue or subtlety (or casting, or camera movement), but he knows story. And his former company has hired real, talented writers to tell those stories.
Eventually directors will be hired, though likely not in a single clip like this. And they’ll be incredibly important to the success to each of these films in the sequel trilogy. But a talented filmmaker, working off a strong script, is already way ahead of the game.
Hiring screenwriters this early, even if you aren’t a fan of theirs, is the best possible Star Wars news imaginable.