Just recently Entertainment Weekly's Anthony Breznican released audio from a panel he moderated a panel at the Writer's Guild of America, West. The panel took place immediately following one of the first screenings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and featured the writers of the film, Michael Arndt, Lawrence Kasdan and (also director)J.J. Abrams. The conversation covered a variety of topics and revealed many surprising tidbits of behind the scenes info about The Force Awakens. Most interestingly, the trio talked about how the developed the plot and characters and revealed some of their initial thoughts and plans for The Force Awakens. Michael Ardnt, who was among the first to be involved with the production, and subsequently left the project before it was completed, had some especially intriguing things to say.
Arndt explains that he was approached by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in May of 2012 and was asked to write the scripts for Episodes VII, VIII and IX together, a story that was pitched as the origin story of a female Jedi. Ardnt subsequently met with Star Wars creator George Lucas, who just a few months later would sell Lucasfilm to Disney and leave the project. Later that year Ardnt was joined by Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg who began laying the groundwork for the new story.
Arndt discussed further the collaborative process of the film's production and early ideas that ended up in the finished film. He mentions that at one point Lucasfilm's vice president of development Kiri Hart suggested the idea of a Lightsaber duel in a snowy forest, which ultimately inspired the duel between Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren on Starkiller base seen in the film.
Specifically talking about the lead characters, Arndt said:
"From the very beginning we sort of settled on very quickly that we wanted the girl, Rey, to be a scavenger. We always wanted her to be the ultimate outsider and the ultimate disenfranchised person, because that person has the longest journey... And then we were struggling to figure out who the male lead was going to be. I remember we talked about pirates and merchant marines and all this stuff, and finally Larry [Kasdan] got pissed at all of us and he's just like, "You guys, you're not thinking big. What if he's a Stormtrooper that ran away?"
Ardnt, along with Abrams and Kasdan, also go on to discuss Kylo Ren's character, as well as Rey's vision, which you can read about here, and much, much more. You can listen to the full panel in Podcast form below. Although be warned, some NSFW language is included:
It's awesome to hear Arndt talk about their early ideas for the story, especially ones dating back to when George Lucas was involved. Lucas has made it clear recently that Disney ultimately decided against using his story treatments for the Sequel Trilogy. What's interesting is that Arndt refers to the original story pitch as being the "origin of a female Jedi", which might suggest Lucas' ideas weren't completely scrapped after all. Overall, it's fascinating to learn about how these characters who we've grown to love over the past month came to be.
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