LucasFilm via Everett Collection
It might seem like Disney is taking some big risks with its most precious property, the Star Wars universe. Gareth Edwards — slated to direct a yet unspecified standalone character feature for the franchise — turned in an exceptional Godzilla movie, but still only has one additional directing credit to his name. Chronicle's Josh Trank, recently saddled with a similar gig, was an even more surprising choice for the studio. And now, the coup de gracie: Rian Johnson, one of the most interesting filmmakers playing the genre game these days, will take on writing and directing duties for Star Wars: Episode VIII and Star Wars: Episode IX (per Deadline). It's the biggest task that Disney has yet to bestow upon any of its Star Wars folk, with sci-fi frontman J.J. Abrams only earning the one film, but perhaps the lowest risk of the bunch. If you take a look at Johnson's complete filmography, you'll see what we mean.
Johnson's debut feature — a pitch black neo-noir mystery that follows a pre-resurgence Joseph Gordon-Levitt around the underbelly of his high school community looking for the answers to a spiraling mystery. The biggest strength of Brick, beyond some dynamite performances all around (Gordon-Levitt most of all) is a script that reads practically like music. Compare Harrison Ford bemoaning George Lucas' 1977 Star Wars dialogue ("George, you can type this s**t, but you sure as hell can't say it!") with JGL singing the praises of Johnson's poetry ("Brick was a good script just to read. It was like, 'Oh my God, these words feel so good in my mouth.' A lot of movies try to set up a world with cool sets, costumes, camera work. In Brick, the world is born from the words.") and you'll see that maybe a talented wordsmith is exactly what the franchise needs.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
Johnson reteamed with Gordon-Levitt in 2012 for his first science fiction feature, and perhaps the first of his movies to earn something close to widespread recognition. Admittedly, Looper got its share of flack for "time travel problems," as any movie that plays fast and loose with the rules of such a delicate sci-fi staple is bound to. But Looper isn't a bastardization of the tradition, it's a celebration of it: of what makes it fun, interesting, a valuable storytelling device, and worth watching a movie about. Instead of being didactic to the impossible logic of timeline continuity, Johnson was devoted chiefly to the spirit of time travel. This is what we want in a Star Wars director — someone who loves that galaxy far, far away but won't let it arrest his imagination.
Johnson directed three episodes of Breaking Bad, each a memorable entry in the series' five season run. The first was "Fly" (represented above, as even those unfamiliar might have guessed), Breaking Bad's take on the small screen tradition of the bottle episode, trapping Walter White literally inside of his laboratory and figuratively inside of his decaying mind. Two years later, Johnson helmed "Fifty-One," famous primarily for the climactic scene in which Skyler attempts suicide by jumping into the family's swimming pool. And finally, "Ozymandias," the third-to-last episode of the series and top contender for most celebrated Breaking Bad episode of all.
The director exemplifies such completely different strengths in "Fly" and "Ozymandias" that you'd have to be startled upon learning they were brought to screen by the same artist. In the former, Walt's turmoil reaches out from in, poisoning him (and Jesse) slowly and steadily over the course of the 45-minute ep. "Ozymandias," on the other hand, is a deep dish of adrenaline. From minute one, things are edge-of-your-seat tense, incurring shoot-outs, killings, high speed chases, kidnappings, domestic chaos, the works.
Both sorts of dramatic expertise are needed for any good adventure piece. Johnson can handle subdued tension, internalized drama, and psychological horror. But he also knows what he's doing when it comes to action, adrenaline, and guttural excitement. If nothing else has convinced you that he's a shoe-in for a good Star Wars picture, Breaking Bad has got to do the trick.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
LucasFilm via Everett Collection
J.J. Abrams has the shutters on Star Wars: Episode VII closed tight, but rumors continue to seep through the cracks. This time, a new rumor from the mega-fans at Making Star Wars (via Cinemablend) claims that the main villains of Abrams' sequel will be a group of "Jedi Hunters," fearsome warriors clad in black and wielding, you guessed it, lightsabers as their weapon of choice. Furthermore, the site reports that this group has been hunting down Luke Skywalker and his comrades for the past couple decades, and the seasoned Jedi has become tired and weary of fighting back his pursuers (we're hoping for at least one "I'm gettin' too old for this Bantha s**t"), and needs some help. It's an intriguing premise with a lot of possibilities going forward. But as exciting a prospect as this rumor may be, it leaves us with more questions than answers. Foremost: Who are the Jedi Hunters?
The idea of the Jedi being hunted down and killed isn't an idea new to Star Wars. Emperor Palpatine's infamous Order 66 was responsible for the deaths of a large portion of the Jedi order in Revenge of the Sith. It was this same order that sent Yoda into hiding in the swamps of Dagobah and Obi-Wan to the desolate sands of Tatooine. Additionally, the Expanded Universe has toyed around with he idea of "Jedi Hunters" frequently throughout its history (there's even a whole Wookieepedia page dedicated to the concept). But we're still left guessing as to the nature of these new villains. One inescapable theory: they're members of the Sith.
They certainly fit the description. The Sith are also warriors garbed in black who battle Jedi with lightsabers. It wouldn't be a leap to predict that a third-act twist in the film might be that these Jedi Hunters are really Sith warriors in disguise. The Sith, in some form or another, have been a mainstay in the Star Wars universe. They are the yang to the Jedi's yin. The dark counterbalance that levels out the force. It's hard to imagine a canonical Star Wars film that doesn't feature the Sith rearing its ugly head in some form or fashion, but that may be the franchise's biggest problem.
The Sith have been a part of every live-action Star Wars film to date. Even if they weren't known by name until 1999's The Phantom Menace, the dark order has been pulling the strings of the universe ever since the series' first opening crawl. Maybe it's time for the franchise to start a change of pace. Star Wars is a universe so steeped in customs, rules, codes, and prophecies, that going against established ideas may feel sacrilegious, but change can be a good thing. Having a Star Wars film without the Sith would be a bold move for the franchise that might pump some much needed novelty into its veins. George Lucas' previous films have hinted at a rich and diverse universe at the periphery of the main narrative, but have almost stubbornly stuck to telling the same old story of Sith vs. Jedi. Having a new group rise up to fight the Jedi, perhaps with completely different set of reasons for fighting, divorced from the same old prophecies, would be a good move for the Jedi. It may be time to leave the dark side of the force alone for a while.
Actress Calista Flockhart has jetted to England to be by her husband Harrison Ford's side as he recovers from an ankle injury. The 71-year-old movie star was airlifted to John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford earlier this week (ends13Jun14) after breaking his ankle while filming on the set of the new Star Wars sequel at Pinewood Studios.
Reports suggest Ford was crushed by the door of the Millennium Falcon, the spacecraft which his character Hans Solo pilots.
A spokesman for Ally McBeal star Flockhart has confirmed the actress is en route to the U.K., but insists she was already planning to travel there to visit her husband.
Star Wars bosses insist filming on Episode VII will not be affected by Ford's injury.
The actor is among a group of stars from the original Star Wars trilogy appearing in director J.J. Abrams' new film - Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Peter Mayhew are also filming scenes in the U.K.
"I was cast two weeks ago. I'm glad it's out." Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o is relieved she no longer has to keep her role in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode Vii a secret following producers' casting announcement on Monday (02Jun14). She joins Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac and Andy Serkis and original franchise stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford in the new sequel, which began shooting in the U.K. on 16 May (14).
Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o has been added to the cast of the new Star Wars movie. The 12 Years A Slave star joins Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, John Boyega and original franchise stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker in Episode VII, which began shooting at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England on 16 May (14).
Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie will also join the cast for the much-anticipated film, which is set to hit theatres in December, 2015.
Announcing the new casting news on Monday (02Jun14), producer Kathleen Kennedy says, "I could not be more excited about Lupita and Gwendoline joining the cast of Episode VII. It's thrilling to see this extraordinarily talented ensemble taking shape."
Actress Carrie Fisher has reportedly lost 35 pounds (15.8 kilograms) so she will look her best as Princess Leia in the new Star Wars movie. The veteran, who was a teenager when she first played Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, will join former castmates Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford in J.J. Abrams' Episode VII, which recently started shooting in London, and she's going all out to slim down for the role.
A source tells Closer magazine, "She eats five small meals a day. There was a deal struck. No hard sugar at all for nine months. In exchange, she could have two drinks a night.
"She had to work slowly to build muscle and shed fat. She once tipped the scales at 170 (pounds). Now she's down to 135!"
Fisher also began working with a trainer six times a week using a method called Pace Express.
Carrie Fisher is determined to get her Star Wars heroine Princess Leia "right this time" when she reprises the character for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII. The actress has regrouped with Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill for the film in Britain, and, speaking at the Hay Festival in Wales on Saturday (24May14), she told the BBC she's determined to correct errors she made in her previous Star Wars movies.
She hopes to make the aged Leia "less British", adding, "I looked a little pretentious faking the accent." And she admits that, at 57, she looks a lot different to the character she first played in the mid-1970s, when she was a teenager. She jokes, "We all look a little melted." But she's excited to be a part of new film, adding, "It is good to have us all in a room because it's unique. I mean, I don't suppose they have reunions for the Gone With The Wind gang. "I think people should be forced to do it 30 years on, classic films that they had, either to make another film or put together an anecdote."
Filmmaker J.J. Abrams is throwing his support behind a global charity by raffling off a cameo role in Star Wars: Episode Vii. Organisers behind the Star Wars: Force for Change campaign have joined forces with the makers of the film to raise awareness and funds for the United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF) Innovation Labs, which works to help the world's most vulnerable children.
The winner will be flown to London to meet the cast, before making their debut in the movie.
In a video announcement for the initiative, Abram says, "We're so grateful to all the Star Wars fans out there for their support and their patience, that we would like you to be part of the fun. We want to put you in the movie...
"But the greatest part is you'll get to help us launch something else, Star Wars: Force For Change. It's a brand new initiative that is dedicated to finding greater solutions to the world's biggest problems..."
Star Wars: Episode VII, which features returning icons Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, is scheduled for release in December, 2015.
Director J.J. Abrams gave the cast of the new Star Wars film a boost on the first day of shooting the new sequel by penning handwritten notes of encouragement to each actor.
Cameras began rolling on Star Wars: Episode VII at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England on Friday (16May14), with actors Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis and John Boyega among the stars, and now a photo of a message Abrams sent to each castmember has emerged online.
The letter, written by hand on Abrams' own red personalised stationery, reads: "Dearest cast and crew. What an honour it is to work beside all of you, on Star Wars Ep VII. "I can't thank you enough, for all work past and future. Let's take good care of not just ourselves, but of each other." He concluded the note by stating, "Amazing, but true: the world awaits this film. Let's give 'em something GREAT. xo JJ".
Original Star Wars icons Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill will also be returning to the franchise's latest film, which is due for release in December, 2015.
It has begun. After what felt like an eternity of rumors, casting calls, blind hearsay, and yet even more rumors, Star Wars: Episode VII is finally finally filming. In the wee hours of the morning, Director J.J. Abrams signaled the start of filming with a tweet from the Bad Robot twitter account showing a picture of a production clapper bearing title of the sequel, along with the caption "#dayone." Like the pop of a marathon gun, the race to shoot a great Star Wars sequel is on, but now comes the hard part. Shooting a blockbuster, and especially shooting a Star Wars blockbuster, is not a task for the faint of heart, and series creator George Lucas struggled mightily to complete his epic space opera. The production of the original film was plagued with setbacks, and it's frankly a miracle that we're even celebrating the creation of a seventh Star Wars film given the barriers Lucas had to overcome to get his originall film made. Take a look at all the stumbles, issues, and setbacks involved with creating the first Star Wars.
The film was rejected twice before finding a distributorBack when the billion dollar franchise was just a few scrawled notes and a big idea, George Lucas approached United Artist with a pitch for a space opera called The Star Wars. The studio passed on the idea, and Lucas went on to make American Graffiti before returning to his Star Wars project two years later. After tinkering with the story, Lucas wrote a 13-page treatment for the project and presented it this time to Universal, who similarly rejected it, deeming it too strange and complaining that science fiction wasn't popular enough at the time to merit such an expensive film. The film was eventualy picked up by 20th Century Fox, and the rest was history.
Filming in Tunisia was a painLucas originally envisioned Tatooine as a lush jungle planet, but the idea of shooting on location in a jungle seemed more problematic than it was worth, so Lucas decided to change the home of the Skywalkers into a desert planet instead, and began filming in Tunisia. Unfortunately for Lucas, the switch in shooting locations wasn't without its own issues. Shooting fell behind schedule when the set was hit with a rare Tunisian rainstorm. The set was also plagued with electronic breakdowns and prop malfunctions, one of which injured C-3P0 actor Anthony Daniels.
And no one seemed to care about the project except for LucasBefore Star Wars began making actual dividends, the film had it's fair share of doubters, as any film would, but even the cast and crew had a hard time taking Lucas and his epic space opera seriously. Much of the crew laughed off the project as a kid's film and rarely put in their all into filming. Kenny Baker, who played R2D2, thought the film would be a massive failure. Even Harrison Ford had his doubts, remarking how weird some elements of the film were, including Princess Leia's buns and Chewbacca, who he claimed looked like a "giant in a monkey suit."
Lucasfilm Ltd. via Everett Collection
Lucas' own frustrations hampered the filmFacing a film that was grossly overbudget and well behind schedule, the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking became almost too much for Lucas. The director frequently clashed with his crew over creative differences and was largely dissatisfied with the look of costumes and sets, most of which failed to live up to his vision. He became visibly depressed and passed on his frustrations to his actors while providing little in the way of direction. Things got so bad that during post-production, the filmmaker was diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion, and was warned to slow down by doctors.
The first cut was a complete disasterAfter struggling to get his film finished on time, Lucas was disappointed to learn that the first cut of the film was, in his eyes, a "complete disaster." The first edit by film editor John Jumpson was so bad, it is said that 30 to 40 percent of the footage didn't make it to the final version of the film. Lucas ended up switching his editing team, employing his wife, Paul Hirsch, and Richard Chew to finish the job right.
The greatest directors of the time weren't crazy about itIn 1977, Lucas screened a rough cut of the film for some of his directing buddies, a list that now reads like a who's who of legendary directors, including Steven Spielberg, Brian De Pama, and John Milius. The cut was the very definition of rough. James Earl Jones signature baritone wasn't the voice behind Darth Vader, paper arrows stood in for blaster beams, and instead of a space battle between the Millennium Falcon and TIE fighters, footage of WWII dogfights was spliced in. Reaction to this early cut of the film was lukewarm at best, with Spielberg being the only one of the directors who clearly enjoyed the film. On the other hand, the studio execs greatly enjoyed the early cut of the film, with producer Gareth Wigan saying, "This is the greatest film I've ever seen."