May the fourth be with you: ‘Star Wars’ writer Simon Kinberg talks spinoff films

May 04, 2013 | 9:08 a.m.
georgelucas May the fourth be with you: Star Wars writer Simon Kinberg talks spinoff films

There are few film franchises that can claim to have affected pop culture as profoundly as "Star Wars," the brainchild of George Lucas. A new "Star Wars" trilogy is destined for theaters, but here's a look back at the franchise's big-screen offerings over the years. Click through the gallery. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

star wars May the fourth be with you: Star Wars writer Simon Kinberg talks spinoff films

"Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" (1977)
On the day "Star Wars" thundered into theaters on May 25, 1977, the film's producer Gary Kurtz appeared on a radio call-in show. Kurtz recalled: "This guy, this caller, was really enthusiastic and talking about the movie in really deep detail. ... I said, 'You know a lot abut the film.' He said, 'Yeah, yeah, I've seen it four times already.' And that was opening day. I knew something was happening." (Lucasfilm)

empirestrikesback May the fourth be with you: Star Wars writer Simon Kinberg talks spinoff films

"Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
The second "Star Wars" film, the most critically revered film in the franchise, was directed by Irvin Kershner. "I really knocked myself out," Kershner said. "I was able to go deeper into the characterization. I was doing the second act of a three-act play, or the second movement of a symphony. That's always the slower movement. I could not have a grand climax, I had to leave things ambiguous. My big climax came at the beginning of the film, with the battle in the snow, then I told the story of the people." (Lucasfilm)

returnofthejedi May the fourth be with you: Star Wars writer Simon Kinberg talks spinoff films

"Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi" (1983)
The original series came to a close with "Return of the Jedi" -- a welcome ending for Lucas, who said at the time, "There hasn't really been one day in the last 10 years that I haven't had to wake up in the morning and say, 'God, I've got to worry about this movie. ... If I had to do it all over again, I'd have to think about it, especially if I knew what I was going to have to give up in order to get it."

star wars menace1 May the fourth be with you: Star Wars writer Simon Kinberg talks spinoff films

"Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" (1999)
Sixteen years after the original trilogy wrapped up, "The Phantom Menace" began a new prequel trilogy based on Darth Vader's origin story. "Phantom Menace," which introduced new characters like Darth Maul (above right) and the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks, marked the first time a fully digital movie was shown to the public. It was the only "Star Wars" film to earn more than $1 billion at the box office. (Lucasfilm)

attackoftheclones May the fourth be with you: Star Wars writer Simon Kinberg talks spinoff films

"Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" (2002)
Anakin Skywalker's transformation from a precocious, pod-racing kid to the ultimate villain Darth Vader continued in "Attack of the Clones," in which Hayden Christensen portrayed the sullen young Jedi, and Natalie Portman played his lady-love, Padme. (Lucasfilm)

revengeofthesith2 May the fourth be with you: Star Wars writer Simon Kinberg talks spinoff films

"Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2005)
"Revenge of the Sith" opened 28 years after the original "Star Wars" and was the first to receive a PG-13 rating, due to several violent scenes as Anakin turns to the Dark Side. "I had to turn him into a monster," Lucas said at the time. "It's a tough story. You can't make a guy evil without having him do evil things." (Lucasfilm)

clonewars May the fourth be with you: Star Wars writer Simon Kinberg talks spinoff films

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (2008)
The Star Wars universe found its way to the big screen again in 2008, albeit in animated form. "The Clone Wars" centered on the wartime tales of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi and featured Padme Amidala, Mace Windu, Count Dooku and other characters from the prequel trilogy. The film paved the way for the award-winning cartoon series of the same name. "I am amazed at how it continues," Lucas said at the time. "It’s not something I expected to happen, and not something we spend a lot of time thinking about trying to expand. This was created because I wanted to stimulate kids' imaginations, inspire them to be creative and to think outside the box." (Lucasfilm)

“Star Wars” fans have dubbed May 4 as “‘Star Wars’ Day” (as in “May the fourth be with you…”), and Hero Complex is celebrating with a look to the future of pop culture’s favorite space saga.

Disney announced last month it will release a new “Star Wars” film every year beginning in 2015 with “Episode VII,” the first installment in a planned trilogy. In between those movies, Disney is releasing two standalone “Star Wars” films not part of the overall saga, penned by Simon Kinberg and “The Empire Strikes Back” scribe Lawrence Kasdan.

“I’m trying to start fresh,” Kasdan told Hero Complex in February. “There are certain pleasures that we think the saga can bring to people that they’ve been missing, and we’re hoping to bring them that, and at the same time, have them feel that it’s all new.”

“Star Wars” may be familiar territory for Kasdan, but it’s Kinberg’s first foray into the world of the Wookiees.

Kinberg broke onto the scene with his original screenplay for “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the 2005 action comedy starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. He wrote the scripts for “X-Men: The Last Stand” and Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sherlock Holmes.” More recently, he penned “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and produced Neill Blomkamp’s upcoming “Elysium.”

Hero Complex sat down with Kinberg earlier this year to talk about his “Star Wars” visions and memories.

HC: What’s it like to be bundled in the same category as Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt?

SK: I’m not in the same category as Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt. It’s great to have a chance to work with those guys. Larry is really an idol of mine. He is, as much as anybody, the reason I wanted to get into screenwriting when I was a kid. “Raiders” and “Empire Strikes Back” were the two things that I saw when I was younger that I wanted to one day somehow emulate. So having the opportunity to be around him is as exciting as any aspect of the “Star Wars” process.

Screenwriter Simon Kinberg in 2005. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Screenwriter Simon Kinberg in 2005. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

HC: Is it intimidating to work with iconic characters in a universe that’s already so fleshed out?

SK: Well, I’ve worked in franchises where they have a long legacy, like the X-Men, or like Sherlock Holmes even, where you have a big fan base, and you have a lot of material to draw from. But I haven’t worked in anything like “Star Wars.” It’s definitely like the cultural referent for our generation. So it’s daunting and exciting.

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HC: So how do you approach it? Do you incorporate the extended universe or start fresh or go back to 30 years ago? Where do you start?

SK: We’re really at the early phases of figuring out the details, but the spirit of the original movie is the thing I fell in love with, so it’s the spirit of that that I think will guide us.

HC: Larry Kasdan said that what sets the original movies apart is that they’re more about people than the films that followed. Do you plan to take this new film back in that direction?

SK: Completely. I think what worked so well in all of the “Star Wars” movies is the characters. I think the reason that they’re different than other science fiction or other genre movies is because George [Lucas] created a universe of people that you wanted to go back and see over and over again, and that’s why it’s spanned and spawned so many different mediums, so many different generations, every different language. You want to go back and see those characters, like I did when I was a kid. “Empire Strikes Back” was the first movie I saw in a movie theater more than once. And I went back 10, 15 times in the theater, and I’ve seen it probably over a 100 times since. But I saw it that many times in the theater because I loved those characters. I loved Han, I loved Leia, I loved Luke, I was right at the age when I was old enough to start to understand the nuance of that movie. I think I was too young for “New Hope” when it came out in the theater, although I loved it and it was my favorite film until “Empire.” And then really, that changed my life, that movie.

HC: Which of those memorable characters is your favorite?

SK: There’s so many that I love and for different reasons. I really love Han Solo. He does that thing that Larry does so well. He’s really human and real, but also really fun and banter-y and larger than life. And when I was a kid, I wanted to be Han Solo.

— Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark


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14 Responses to May the fourth be with you: ‘Star Wars’ writer Simon Kinberg talks spinoff films

  1. Tommy Amundsen says:

    For the love of god give us Jaina solo, ALOT of fans want to see her, also make a small ref to Mara also one of the most beloved EU characters if you get to work in that timeline. Nice interview btw.

    • vva says:

      Nobody cares about the EU but a very small percentage. Bring on new more exciting characters.

      • Chris says:

        You are so far in the minority it's not even funny. That's like saying comic fans don't care if the movies don't include newly made up characters rather than established ones. Get a clue.

      • John W. says:

        What do you know about the "minority"? Comic book fans have little or no influence in the Star Wars juggernaut. I am in complete agreement with vva.

      • Jason Ward says:

        A very small number of people, in the hundred thousands range, read most of the novels. Constraining your 150 million dollar movies something experienced by so few would be sort of weird.

      • AnotherDan says:

        Uh…what exactly does the amount of readers of one or more books have to do with whether a story is reasonable enough to convert into a movie? Does taking an excellent book and turning it into a movie mean that an equally excellent movie will be made? Or vice versa?

        Also, do you happen to currently work at LucasBooks and know exactly how many copies of each novel they publish that they sell each year? Not picking on you, but just curious as to what exactly you're basing your comments on…

      • obi wan kenobi says:

        Nobody cares about the EU? Not only is that a generalization, but a false one at that.

        Wake up vva.

      • enderandrew says:

        Star Wars total box office revenue is 4 billion.

        Star Wars book revenue is 2 billion. Video games (another aspect of the EU) is about 3 billion.

        Yep, absolutely no one cares about the EU and Disney should alienate the fans giving them BILLIONS in non-movie revenue.

  2. A-J says:

    I think every year might be just a bit too often. As much as I love Star Wars, or maybe because I love it, I would honestly prefer to wait between films, to make sure they have time to do it right. Or as in the case of Marvel, I start to get tired of the same series all the time, even if they're good.

    • AnotherDan says:

      I've said this before on FirstShowing regarding a similar post, but it's not like they (Disney *or* Lucasfilm) will try to cram the production of the movie (from blank script to red carpet screening) into the shortest amount of time possible (i.e. 9-12 months). 2 years is reasonable turnaround on a movie, and it's more likely to be 3 years than 2 between each trilogy movie. Which they will then pad with standalone movies to fill in. Which will be written by different screenwriters. Which will be developed and produced by different groups. With Lucasfilm overseeing.

      Just because a movie has a 5 year development time, doesn't necessarily mean it will be a good movie.

      In all fairness to Lucasfilm (and I'm pretty sure this is exactly what she *will* be doing), but Kathy Kennedy needs to be doing exactly what Kevin Feige is doing for Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, because they're doing a pretty good job of it so far. Oh, and you might have noticed, but Marvel are back to releasing two movies per year with their Phase 2 movies.

  3. AnotherDan says:

    Did Lucasfilm release episodes VII-XVI and nobody told us? "…beginning in 2015 with “Episode XVII,”…". Pretty sure you mean Episode VII (7), not XVII (17).

    Besides that, I certainly agree with Kinberg that the original trilogy focussed more on the characters of Luke, Leia and Han, with the story arc that was the rebellion playing second fiddle to, and impacting upon, their own personal stories, while the prequel trilogy obviously focused more on the overall schemes of the Emperor's infiltration of the Galactic Republic, and how Obi-Wan, Anakin and Padme were affected by it. Pretty much a case of characters being driven by story, rather than characters driving story, which is how most great movies work.

    With regard to the SWEU, I personally would *like* to see the new movies (standalone *and* sequel trilogy) movies pull story ideas and characters from the EU, but I don't want to see something like the Thrawn trilogy, or another specific storyline, converted to a movie.

  4. Charles says:

    Wow, what do “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “Sherlock Holmes" all have in common? They are incredibly boring movies with stock characters running around blowing things up without purpose. I'm sorry Simon, you need to learn how to write characters that feel like real people with believable motivations. They should actually have emotional responses to the events around them. Simon, you need to up your game or your movies will be as hated as the Star Wars prequels.

  5. Julius says:

    I would like to see movies go to the beginning when the force was tapped in for power. Also I would like to see 1000 years before E4 when there were many dark jedi. The video game does a game job putting u in that universe I hope they could tie that to a movie please. Also I want a star wars game like call of duty

  6. matt says:

    having seen each movie(all 6) on the day they were released, read many of the books, played most of the games, I am driven by the story arc. Lucas has always maintained that the 6 films are about the redemption of Anakin Skywalker, with no intention of taking the story farther. The EU has a rich character base within the story arc. Example…the “Corascant Nights” series with jedi Jax Pavan and the video games, “The force unleashed” with Galen Marek aka Starkiller. Two great characters worthy of stand alone films, or reintroduced in the new sequels. Hopefully the story arc does NOT include ressurecting Vader or Anakin as his story has been told already from childhood until his death. StarWars is great storytelling and can continue that way with taking from the old and creating new. Lets hope Disney takes great care of our galaxy far, far away.

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