Since the project's early days, the screenwriter for Star Wars: Episode VII was pegged as Toy Story 3's Michael Arndt. The Star Wars website has announced this is no longer the case, and that the film will now be written by director J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan. Fans of the saga know Kasdan's name well; he was one of the writers on The Empire Strikes Back as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark, and had previously been earmarked as a writer and consultant for other new films in the Star Wars saga. Abrams, of course, started as a writer, with credits like Lost, Fringe, Alias, and Super 8 to his name.
The blog post also announced the majority of the behind-the-scenes crew for Episode VII. Working on the film will be Abrams' director of photography Dan Mindel (Star Trek Into Darkness), costume designer Michael Kaplan (Fight Club), as well as two production designers: Rick Carter (Avatar, Lincoln) and Darren Gilford (Oblivion and Tron: Legacy). Going with dual production designers isn't unheard of but it is unusual; the sheer amount of environments and design work needed for this kind of project — married with the relatively short lead time the production is facing — likely factored into the decision.
Dual production designers to realize the newest 'Star Wars' worlds
Chris Corbould (Inception) will serve as special effects supervisor, while Industrial Light & Magic's Roger Guyett — who's worked on such films as Star Trek Into Darkness and Revenge of the Sith — will be visual effects supervisor. On the sound side, the crew will include re-recording mixer Gary Rydstrom (Jurassic Park) and supervising sound editor Matthew Wood (There Will Be Blood). It had already been confirmed that John Williams will be returning to score the film.
"There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a 'Star Wars' story works like Larry."
It's not immediately clear why Arndt — a celebrated writer in his own right — is handing off the reins. Whether it's due to scheduling, creative differences, or something else entirely, the addition of Kasdan will no doubt please fans of the series (naming Abrams feels more like the codification of a collaboration that was likely already happening in the first place). "I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and J.J. working on the script," Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy writes in a statement. "There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a Star Wars story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen. J.J. of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing filmmaking and design team in place already prepping for production."
Star Wars: Episode VII is scheduled to begin shooting in Spring of next year at Pinewood Studios, with a release expected in 2015.