Michael Arndt, eh?
There are dream jobs that certain writers book that I genuinely envy, and I’ll admit it. There are storytelling opportunities that I wish were mine instead of someone else’s. And while I think it will eventually be a great job to sign up and do a “Star Wars” movie, I don’t think “Episode VII” is going to be the moment I’d want to handle, if only because we have never seen expectations like the ones that will fall on whoever is brought in to write and direct this movie.
Michael Arndt won the Academy Award for his script for “Little Miss Sunshine,” and he was one of the writers on Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,” so you certainly can’t fault Kathleen Kennedy for reaching out to him to help craft an outline that is evidently going to be used as the road map for “Star Wars – Episode VII.”
What’s really surprising about today’s story that appears to be breaking in waves, starting at Vulture, continuing at Hollywood Reporter, and eventually cresting over at Deadline, is that there must have been extraordinary measures in place to keep this secret. There are not many things that are genuinely kept quiet in Hollywood today, but Arndt was evidently hired months ago to write a treatment that would cover the entire trilogy of films that Disney is gearing up to make. That treatment was evidently part of what gave Disney the confidence to close the deal and announce the release date for the first film. It sounds from all of these stories like Arndt is in the running to write the script, and I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t end up with the job. If the treatment was strong enough to help secure the $4 billion sale price, then he deserves at least a crack at the script. I know Lucasfilm was having conversations with other writers at one point in this process, but maybe Arndt has it pinned down now if sources are feeling confident about going on the record.
Arndt has been working with Pete Docter on “The Untilted Pixar Film That Takes You Inside The Mind,” a project that sounds very promising, and Arndt also wrote the script for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” While Francis Lawrence will move from that film directly into working on the two-part conclusion of that series, Danny Strong was hired to write the scripts for those final two movies. Now it seems apparent that Strong was brought in because Arndt had moved on to the “Star Wars” gig, and I wouldn’t blame him for making the jump.
But I wouldn’t want to be in that position. Here’s hoping he turns in something that is so good, so fun, such a pure and simple reminder of what it was that we all fell in love with about “Star Wars” in the first place, that it kicks off a new age of fandom that even manages to woo back those who have gone so sour on the series as a whole. If he’s off, though, and if the films don’t work, everyone involved is going to take such heat. It’s a microscope that would make it hard to do your best work, I would imagine. Maybe it’s good that Arndt has already written the treatment before there was any scrutiny at all, before anyone even knew this was a possibility.
There is no document in Hollywood that is being more closely guarded than his treatment, I would imagine. And if this were 1998, I would give it four hours before it leaked widely today. But so far, Lucasfilm and Disney have played this one incredibly well. Today’s “break” feels more like an orchestrated leak on Disney’s part, a way of rolling out the news, and I would warn them that when the treatment hits talent agencies, that’s when they’ll lose control of it. If they really want to keep this whole thing under wraps, they need to keep it in physical form only at the Lucasfilm offices and not send it out, not even to the giant A-list names they’re said to be chasing for the film.
Buckle up, everyone. This thing’s not hitting theaters until 2015, and we’re already seeing a media blitz on a massive scale. I have a feeling we’ve got a lot of words to write about all things “Star Wars” between now and the eventual release date.