Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Simon Kinberg Describes His Role in the Development Process of the Sequel Trilogy

By: Dominic Jones

Simon Kinberg is a busy man.  Not only does he work on some of the biggest superhero franchises for Fox, he is also one of the key minds behind the vision for the future of Star Wars.  Kinberg, who is a consultant on Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, and an executive producer on Star Wars Rebels, recently spoke with Entertainment Weekly about the role he played in helping map out this age for Star Wars.  He described a week that he spent at Skywalker Ranch with The Force Awakens and The Empire Strikes Back writer Lawrence Kasdan and, the first man hired to write Episode VII, Michael Arndt.  Over the course of a week, the three of them mapped out the plans for the entire sequel trilogy.

Kinberg told EW,
“Like a TV writers room, we spent a week with a whiteboard and some pens and were in a conference room all day talking about [movies] VII, VIII, and IX,” he says. “But it’s a whiteboard covered in our notes. We had a sense of what we each wanted to write. It was the most magical time because we were writing Star Wars movies. Then we would go back to the inn at Skywalker and have dinner and drink a little bit and Larry would tell me and Michael stories about the moment in his life where he wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, The Big Chill, Body Heat all in the span of, I think, five years. So we just had this crazy, magical time together.”

As for how involved he's been in The Force Awakens since those first planning meetings, Kinberg said, “I’m like a friend of the court. I consult on the movies. I worked on VII: helped break the story, read scripts, drafts at certain points, and gave my thoughts whatever they were worth.”

It would be interesting to find out how much the story of the films changed once director JJ Abrams was brought on board.  It was likely the outline that Arndt, Kasdan, and Kinberg developed that was used by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy to lured Abrams to the project, but we do know that Abrams and Kasdan spent a year re-writing the script.  My guess would be that the general thrust of Episode VII is the same as it was when Kinberg, Kasdan, and Arndt first came up with it, otherwise why would Abrams have come aboard if he didn't like the direction the film was heading in?  The Abrams/Kasdan re-write was likely focused on the specific details.

Another detail I would love to know is if they planned out the Anthology films at these meetings?  Kasdan and Kinberg were the first writers announced as having their own Anthology films, back in 2013.  Since then we've learned that Kasdan is co-writing a young Han Solo film with his son John, that's slated for a May 25th, 2018 release date and will be directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street).  Kinberg we know was writing the film that Josh Trank was working on, though that project's status is unknown since Trank departed back in April of this year.  And where does Rogue One fit in all this?  It seems it wasn't in the original plan, and that it was fast tracked when ILM Chief Creative Officer John Knoll wowed Kathleen Kennedy with his idea.  (Gareth Edwards has since been brought in to direct with Gary Whitta having written and first draft of the script and Chris Weitz writing the final screenplay).

And finally, I wonder how similar were these original outlines to what George Lucas came up with.  Lucas has gone on record a few times saying they chose to go in a different direction from his original ideas, though Kennedy has stated while they did make changes it was nothing outside of the ordinary creative process on a film.  We also know that both Kinberg and Arndt were brought in by Lucas (and it's probably safe to assume that Kasdan was as well) so they may well have had Lucas' ideas in mind when creating these outlines.

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