There's been a great disturbance in the Force.
Lucasfilm announced on Thursday that Toy Story 3 scribe Michael Arndt is exiting Star Wars: Episode VII and handing over screenwriting duties to Lawrence Kasdan and the sequel's director, J.J. Abrams.
No doubt the move will please the series' hardcore fan base.
That's because Kasdan, of course, was responsible for co-writing two films in the original Star Wars trilogy—1980's The Empire Strikes Back, arguably the best in the canon, and 1983's Return of the Jedi. And then there's the script he penned for Raiders of the Lost Ark before going on to a successful career of his own as an acclaimed writer-director.
Kasdan had originally been brought on board to serve as a consultant on the Disney-led revival of George Lucas beloved franchise. He was also hired to write a spinoff film involving one of the characters set within the Lucas-created universe.
Now he'll be teaming with Abrams who, before creating seminal TV series such as Lost and Alias, started in the business as the screenwriter of such box office hits as Regarding Henry and Forever Young. Other writing credits include Armageddon, Mission: Impossible 3, Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, and Super 8.
"I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and J.J. working on the script," Lucasfilm honcho Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement on the Star Wars website. "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."
Arndt, who won an Oscar for his Little Miss Sunshine screenplay, had initially written a 40-to-50 page outline for the latest Star Wars installment as well as the first draft.
No reason was given for his departure, but Kennedy had nothing but praise for his contributions.
"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," she added.
If all goes well, Star Wars: Episode VII could start filming as early as next spring in time for it to make its targeted 2015 release.
However it's worth noting that film site Badass Digest poured cold water on that plan, quoting insiders as saying the story has changed significantly to focus on "a whole new set of characters being followed than in the Arndt script." The site went on to report that Abrams wasn't satisfied with the screenplay as a result and wanted to overhaul it.
Purported internal turmoil having to do with the movie's direction prompted gossip that Abrams was leaving himself, but Lucasfilm took a light saber to that rumor, saying the filmmaker was having a "great time" working on it.
If the script needs a lot more work however, it could make a 2016 release more likely.