Lawrence Kasdan accepts the Final Draft Hall of Fame award for his career in screenwriting on Thursday in Beverly Hills. Keep clicking for a look at his prolific career as a writer and director. (Jeff Drongowski / Drongo Photo)Link
Lawrence Kasdan was recruited by George Lucas to pen 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back" -- the second film in the original "Star Wars" trilogy. The film is widely considered the best in the "Star Wars" franchise. (Lucasfilm)Link
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas recruited Kasdan to write the screenplay for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The film was a critical and box-office hit. (Lucasfilm)Link
Kasdan made his directorial debut in 1981 with the steamy noir film "Body Heat."(Warner Bros.)Link
Kasdan returned to the Star Wars universe to write 1983's "Return of the Jedi." (Lucasfilm)Link
The 1983 drama "The Big Chill" -- about a group of baby boomers who reunite after their friend's suicide -- earned Kasdan an Oscar nomination for writing. Kasdan also directed the film. (Columbia Pictures)Link
Kasdan wrote and directed 1985's "Silverado," about a band of misfit cowboys. (Columbia Pictures)Link
Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jon Kasdan on the set of "Silverado." (Columbia Pictures)Link
Kasdan earned two more Academy Award nominations for the 1988 drama "The Accidental Tourist," for best picture and best screenplay. (Warner Bros.)Link
Kasdan's 1991 film "Grand Canyon" explored issues of race and class. Kasdan directed and co-wrote the film with his wife, Meg Kasdan, earning a shared Oscar nomination for screenwriting. (20th Century Fox)Link
Kasdan wrote the script for the 1992 drama "The Bodyguard." (Warner Bros.)Link
Kasdan wrote and directed 1994's "Wyatt Earp." (Warner Bros.)Link
Kasdan directed the 1995 romantic comedy "French Kiss." (Los Angeles Times)Link
Kasdan wrote and directed the 1999 dramedy "Mumford," about a psychologist with a questionable past who moves into a small town. (Touchstone Pictures)Link
Kasdan wrote and directed the 2003 supernatural thriller "Dreamcatcher," based on the novel by Steven King. (Warner Bros.)Link
Kasdan on the set of "Dreamcatcher." (Warner Bros.)Link
Kasdan and his wife, Meg Kasdan, co-wrote "Darling Companion," a 2012 film about a woman who loves her dog more than her husband. (Sony Pictures Classics)Link
Lawrence Kasdan accepts the Final Draft Hall of Fame award for his career in screenwriting on Feb. 7, 2013 in Beverly Hills. (Jeff Drongowski / Drongo Photo)Link
Fans were relieved this week to learn that Lawrence Kasdan would be writing another “Star Wars” movie. After all, it was Kasdan who penned “The Empire Strikes Back,” the film that is almost universally regarded as the best in the series. It was partly for the fans, Kasdan said, that he decided to return to “Star Wars” — just not the fans you’d expect.
“[My] kids are looking forward to it,” Kasdan said. “It’s a movie that my grandson, who’s not even 3, is already excited about. There are not many movies like that.”
Indeed, and Kasdan wrote three of them. After 1980’s “Empire,” George Lucas recruited Kasdan to pen the “Return of the Jedi” — the final installment in the trilogy — as well as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the film that began the “Indiana Jones” franchise. What followed for Kasdan was a prolific writing and directing career, which boasts such cinematic landmarks as “Body Heat,” “The Big Chill” and “The Accidental Tourist.”
But it is his contribution 30 years ago and his upcoming return to the “Star Wars” universe that has made him the subject of intense focus in the world of fandom; Kasdan and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” scribe Simon Kinberg will each write a stand-alone “Star Wars” spinoff movie for Lucasfilm and its new corporate parent Disney, it was confirmed Tuesday. The spinoffs will follow the J.J. Abrams-directed “Episode VII,” the first in a planned “Star Wars” sequel trilogy.
Kasdan reflected on his career and said he was “excited” about writing another “Star Wars” film in a sit-down interview before his induction into Final Draft’s screenwriting hall of fame Thursday evening at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills.
“Hollywood’s become such a difficult place to do certain kinds of stories, and a lot of them are the kind of stories that I did all the time,” Kasdan said. “To do a big movie that Hollywood does now, that you think can be better than most of them … that’s a rare opportunity.”
Kasdan would not confirm reports that the spinoff films would center on iconic characters Han Solo, Boba Fett or Yoda, but said he wasn’t focusing on his previous scripts or on the extended “Star Wars” universe in his approach to writing the new film.
“I’m trying to start fresh,” he said. “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.”
Kasdan said he was looking forward to working with “terrific writers” Kinberg and “Episode 7” screenwriter Michael Arndt. Asked if it would be strange to work on “Star Wars” without George Lucas at the helm, Kasdan was quick to point out that it was Lucas who recruited him to the project last fall.
“George sort of brought me into this part of it, and he’s stepping back from the company,” he said. “He’s sort of given his blessing to everybody, and he’ll be there if you need him. I think everyone’s interested to see where this can go. It’s been some very different places over 30 years …. I think with J.J., we’ll get something entirely new.”
It’s well-trodden territory. Since the original trilogy three decades ago, “Star Wars” has expanded to include novels, comics, video games, the critically praised animated TV series “The Clone Wars,” and the oft-maligned prequel trilogy, beginning with 1999’s “The Phantom Menace.” But the first three films stand apart, Kasdan said.
“The ones I worked on were a long time ago, and they had a slightly different feeling than the ones that followed,” he said. “The first three, ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Empire’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’ are all sort of more about people than the ones that followed. ‘Empire’ appeals to people, I think, because it’s the second act of a three-act play, and everything sort of goes to hell during the movie. And when you leave, everyone is in trouble, and that is the best part of the story to write. And people responded to it. Irvin Kershner was a completely different kind of director than George, so the movie’s much darker than the first ‘Star Wars.’ It’s more edgy.”
Despite its popularity and acclaim, “Empire” is not his favorite installment in the series.
“I must say, I think that the great, great film is the first ‘Star Wars,’ ” he said. “I do. It’s hilarious, and it changed movies forever.”
It also had a profound effect on pop culture, inspiring a deeply devoted fan base that has only grown with the advent of the Internet. But Kasdan says that the exposure and scrutiny haven’t changed his process.
“Nothing changes, really,” he said. “I don’t read that much of it. But when it was announced that I was doing it, it was a really nice response on the Internet. People have a lot invested in ‘Star Wars,’ and I think some of them were happy that I was back.”
– Noelene Clark
RECENT AND RELATED