‘Star Wars’ writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to ‘start fresh’

Feb. 09, 2013 | 12:47 p.m.
kasdan finaldraft2 Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

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)

1980 empire Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

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)

1981raiders Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

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)

1981bodyheat warnerbros Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

Kasdan made his directorial debut in 1981 with the steamy noir film "Body Heat."(Warner Bros.)

1983 bigchill Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

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)

1985 silverado Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

Kasdan wrote and directed 1985's "Silverado," about a band of misfit cowboys. (Columbia Pictures)

1988accidentaltourist Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

Kasdan earned two more Academy Award nominations for the 1988 drama "The Accidental Tourist," for best picture and best screenplay. (Warner Bros.)

1991 grandcanyon Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

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)

1999mumford Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

Kasdan wrote and directed the 1999 dramedy "Mumford," about a psychologist with a questionable past who moves into a small town. (Touchstone Pictures)

2003 dreamcatcher Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

Kasdan wrote and directed the 2003 supernatural thriller "Dreamcatcher," based on the novel by Steven King. (Warner Bros.)

2012 darlingcompanion Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

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)

kasdan finaldraft1 Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to start fresh

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)

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.

Director Larry Kasdan on the set of "Dreamcatcher." (Warner Bros.)

Director Larry Kasdan on the set of “Dreamcatcher.” (Warner Bros.)

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.”

George Lucas, R2-D2 and Jake Lloyd on the set of "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace." (Keith Hamshere / Lucasfilm)

George Lucas, R2-D2 and Jake Lloyd on the set of “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.” (Keith Hamshere / Lucasfilm)

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.”

A scene from "The Empire Strikes Back." (Lucasfilm)

Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in “The Empire Strikes Back.” (Lucasfilm)

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


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22 Responses to ‘Star Wars’ writer Lawrence Kasdan wants spinoff film to ‘start fresh’

  1. KennyB says:

    Wow! It's so exciting to think we have the writer of the great on working on these movies! I can not WAIT to see what's in store for us. What a great time to be a movie lover!

    • @dybbukpress says:

      He's an older and more mature writer and I can see him bringing a lot of his experiences to the new Star Wars movie.

      Particularly the butt weasels from Dream Catcher. I totally want to see butt weasels in my Star Wars movies (anything is better than Jar Jar)

  2. PWK says:

    Kasdan co-wrote "Empire". The late great Leigh Brackett was the original screenwriter. And that was 30 years ago. His last feature film was "Dreamcatchers", an abomination that is still one of the worst movies in recent memory. I'll temper my excitement about his involvement until more details emerge.

  3. vva says:

    Nothing was used of Leigh Brackett's screenplay. Lucas kept her name as co-writer as respect since she died shortly afterwards. Kasdan is really the sole screenwriter.

  4. Chris N. says:

    "oft-maligned"? By some, yes, but praised by many others. Revenge of the Sith was acclaimed by critics and fans alike, Return of the Jedi and The Empire Strikes back were "oft-maligned" when they came out with mediocre reviews.

    The only bad news I see here is the lack of George's involvment though.

    • Leland P. says:

      Yeah, because they were both compared to the original part IV and that was a HUGE success. Irvin K. always said "it can't be as good as the first one or top it". Well, what he did not realize at the time was that IV was just the first part of it, or the first part of a three act movie. I liked all of them, but I and II are my least favorite out of the six.

  5. Lawrence Chow says:

    Let's not forget Lawrence Kasdan not only wrote 'Empire's screenplay. He also wrote "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (based on Lucas' ideas).

  6. Saying that George Lucas will "be there if you need him" is like saying Typhoid Mary will be there is you need help boosting your immune system. He needs to stay "fa far away" from these new installments.

    • Allen says:

      I agree totally! We need a fresh new vision and someone to bring back the fun. I'm so glad Kasdan is coming back.

  7. Tom says:

    Great news!! Let's hope he uses ALL the elements of a great story and creates interesting characters (they can worry about the visual effects later).

  8. Rorshach says:

    The original Trilogy was about how a small group of people ultimately shaped events, the prequel Trilogy was about how an equally small amount of people were shaped BY events… at least that's how I always saw them.

  9. Welshy says:

    Well, the Expanded Universe is screwed…

  10. MarkYoung says:

    Whilst Episodes 4 and 5 were always my favourites, I have managed to find something exciting about all the six episodes. It's a widely held opinion that the original movies had a better character dynamic, yet I remember the thrill I felt when I first heard that we'd be able to see how Darth Vader became the evil tyrant we loved to hate. I would have liked to have seen more of his exploits post Revenge and pre New Hope.

  11. Danny says:

    Well, looks like a lot of people have wasted years of their life writing Expanded Universe books and comics that will all be wiped out by all these new movies. Including me for reading them. This is sad. I see no way these things are going to be good for Star Wars.

    • CrimsonBaroness says:

      I felt the same way. I loved the first 3 Thrawn books and always thought those stories finished the saga of perfectly. How will J.J. be able to make an original story when so many books, comics, games and cartoons have done pretty much every angle already ? Time travel is about the only way left to go ?

    • John Meyers says:

      I don't want any of that expanded universe nonsense anywhere near the new Star Wars movies. That's what the books and comics are THERE for, so you can cover every single backstory of every single character, and their kids, and their kids' kids. I tried reading some (the Zahn books, that Shadows of the Empire book, a few comics) and they were horribly lame. Everyone kept telling me how awesome they were and they weren't. I wouldn't say any are better than a 6/10 compared to good sci-fi but people buy them.

      Star Wars is best on film- I want to see the actors, the special effects, the scenery, and I want to hear the music.

      What the new Star Wars main movie series desperately needs is a fresh start, and to finally move the story forward without knowing what will happen. No prequels, no adaptations of Thrawn and all of the one-dimensional fan fiction that's been around.

  12. heather says:

    who cares. when is lawrence kasdan going to do a “return to silverado”

  13. Sean says:

    What about Leigh Brackett? It's a shame that she isn't properly acknowledged as the co-writer of "The Empire Strikes Back." Lucas and others downplay her contribution, but then why is that film so much better than the other two installments of the original trilogy? If Kasdan deserves the credit for Empire then why isn't "Return of the Jedi," which he wrote alone, as good? I think it's because of the experience and talent that Brackett brought to the job. She had worked for 30 years in Hollywood. She wrote "The Big Sleep" screenplay with William Faulkner, and "Rio Bravo" for John Wayne. Besides her screen work, though, she had a celebrated career as a science fiction and fantasy writer. The stories she was writing in the 1940s and 1950s were exactly what inspired the Star Wars franchise! And yet we're supposed to believe she didn't bring something valuable to the writing of "The Empire Strikes Back" that elevated the quality? It's easy for Lucas and Kasdan to take all the credit when she's not alive to tell the truth.

    • Rieekan says:

      Bravo, Sean. Couldn’t agree more. They can claim all they want to that Brackett’s screenplay was shelved, but they’ll never convince me, either.

  14. Leland P. says:

    Well, for one thing, this is either going to be a huge success in 2015 or one of the worst flops in movie history. I think it will be good as long as we stay completely away from all the political bs we are forced to deal with everyday thanks to this current Admin we have in the White House at the moment. Bring back the original feeling we all loved in IV,V,VI. No politics or PC.

  15. scott says:

    I hate how everyone rips on George anymore.For crying out loud ,its all his baby. I want this movie to do great but suspect it may just be another Star wars movie.There will only be one first time.I was 9 in 1977 and like some people who were in Dallas in 1963 ,I can say I was there.

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