May 21, 2015

The crazy tale of how JJ and MR came to meet SS and KK

There’s a tale from Vanity Fair magazine that has been told before but I’m not that it’s ever been recalled so succinctly before by Kathleen Kennedy.

It’s the tale of how Steven Spielberg’s long lost home movies came to be found which lead to one of the greatest leg ups in film history – how Spielberg and Kennedy helped foster the film making careers of Matt Reeves and JJ Abrams.

Here’s the tale from VF:

Interviewer Bruce Handy: I understand you and J.J. go way back, almost thirty years. Tell me about how you first met him.

Kathleen Kennedy: It was funny. I was working with Steven, and I got a phone call one day. And this man was living in a house up on Lookout Mountain [in Arizona]. He’d been down in his basement, and he found this box covered in dust. And he said to me, “These are all home movies, and I think they belong to Steven Spielberg.” Now, my first cynical thought, unfortunately, was, you know, this is just somebody trying to get money.

And so I’m going to not act overly excited about this. I just said, “Well, you know, great. If you don’t mind, we’re on the Universal lot. Maybe you could just swing by and drop the box off, and we’ll take a look and see if in fact they belong to Steven.” So I hang up the phone. The first thing I say to Steven is, “Did you ever live on Lookout Mountain?”

He goes, “Yes, I did.” Now I’m thinking, Okay, this guy’s not making this up. So I said, “Well, somebody thinks they found your home movies.” He goes, “Oh, my God, you’re kidding!” And he had just assumed all these early Super 8 films he had made when he was 15, 16 years old were long gone. He’d lost them; he didn’t know where they were.

 So this man arrives. Here’s the box. He couldn’t have been sweeter, couldn’t have been nicer. Drops off this box. Sure enough, Steven’s beside himself because here are all his old movies that he made. So ironically, I had picked up the L.A. Times that morning and read about these two kids who had won this film award, and their movies were being shown at the Nuart Theatre [in Los Angeles]. And I said to Steven, “You know what would be really great? Why don’t you hire these two kids who just won this film award, who would probably give anything to meet you, and they could clean up your movies and transfer them to tape so that we never run the risk of these movies disappearing again?” 

And those two kids were J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, who just did Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
And they came in. They were 15, 16 years old. And they ended up doing exactly that, cleaning up the Super 8 movies, and we’ve all stayed great friends ever since. All our kids went to the same elementary school. We followed J.J.’s career, so when he committed to Star Wars, it was this kind of fantastic coincidence of fate, I guess—preordained destiny or something.’


We love how things came full circle – eventually Speilberg produced JJ’s Super 8 film! 

Thirteen Lucky ways to celebrate May the Fourth Star Wars Day (and Revenge of the 5ith if you’re really keen)

Thirteen lucky ways to celebrate May the Fourth Star Wars Day (and Revenge of the 5ith if you’re really keen)!

May the 4th has become a popular day to celebrate the fun and wholesomeness that is Star Wars - here's some ideas you might want to try. 
  1. Get a tattoo.
  2. Host a Star Wars film night.
  3. Read or re-read a Star Wars novel. Canon or non-canon, doesn’t matter!
  4. Dress up as your favourite character but please do better than this...
  5. Teach your child the ways of the Force.
  6. Read the Star Wars Ring Theory website.
  7. Finally start that re-watch of The Clone Wars.
  8. Watch the Harmy de-specialised versions of the Original Trilogy.
  9. Watch something George Lucas made that isn’t Star Wars related. Indiana Jones, Willow or American Graffiti!
  10. Spend your day slipping in Yoda quotes into your conversations. Finish every line with “hee hee hee”.
  11. Watch a 'making of" Star Wars documentary.
  12. And of course, you can simply watch the movies! 
  13. Or even watch them with the commentary turned on!

May 19, 2015

So what happened when Kasdan took over VII's writing duties?

Star Wars fans who have been following the development of The Force Awakens will know that its gestation has taken a long time. And while good things come to those who wait, it was Micheal Ardnt who was announced very on in the piece as being the one to carry the baby – i.e. write the script. 

Last year a big change was announced that director JJ Abrams and Jedi/Empire writerLawrence Kasdan were formally taking over writing duties for the seventh Star Wars film.

There was a fair bit of scuttlebutt about what the deal was there. Was Ardnt’s script terrible? Were there creative differences and what were they?

The Vanity Fair interviews continue to prove golden with intel about the film’s production and Kasdan has spoken about the scripting process:

“With pre-production chores already well under way in London, where much of the film would be shot at Pinewood Studios, Abrams and Kasdan took over the screenwriting process, starting more or less from scratch. “We said, Blank page. Page one. What do we desperately want to see?” Abrams told me. 

Though Abrams said both men had pet ideas from the development process they wanted to incorporate, and did, Kasdan made the process sound like more of a teardown: “We didn’t have anything,” Kasdan said. “There were a thousand people waiting for answers on things, and you couldn’t tell them anything except ‘Yeah, that guy’s in it.’ That was about it. That was really all we knew.”

So what of Ardnt's work? Turns out there wasn't a massive failure on his part but he had run out of puff:

"Michael Arndt was having difficulty finishing a script within the necessary time frame. “There was a ton of ideas and outlines, a lot of cards on the wall, a lot of writing on whiteboards,” Abrams said, but no screenplay. "
Kasdan and Abrams spent the next 6 months writing the script. Product was able to continue as they were able to say to the crew – this character is in it, this ship is in it, this thing will happen here etc. 

This means that Lucas's treatments and ideas were ultimately not used. Kathleen Kennedy politely described that as being departures from ideas as “exactly the way you would in any development process.”

May 18, 2015

Kasdan suggests a certain fellow from Cloudy City is not yet done with Star Wars...

Kasdan on the set of Empir,e checking shit works
The man who has three Star Wars film writing credits to his name, Lawrence Kasdan has also done an interview with Vanity Fair magazine which follows the one JJ did. There were some very interesting things he shared with interviewer Bruce Handy. Here’s the key take-aways we err… took away.

On taking up the writing duties of The Empire Strikes Back following the death of Leigh Bracket:

“She was an amazing person. She has a credit on The Big Sleep, and she was one of the first female science-fiction pulp people. She was a big writer, important writer. [Her other screenplay credits include Howard Hawks’s Rio Bravo and Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye.] I don’t know all the things that happened [with Brackett’s draft of The Empire Strikes Back], but when George got it, it was nothing like what he wanted. It’s very hard to get into his head; I turned out to be able to get into his head a lot.

On Darth Vader being Luke’s Father after being asked if Luke’s father was originally a different character:

“I do not know. I’ve heard that. But what I know is when I came in to Empire and when I actually started to work, George said, “You know, Darth is Luke’s father.” And I said, “No shit?” So it was a total surprise to me and I thought wonderful. That to me was when the whole thing got really interesting and I thought, This thing’s going to be so much more complicated than I thought.”

It’s a matter of record that Luke’s Father and Vader where different characters. Obi Wan said so in ANH ;)

And finally, what of Lando Calrissian?

“Right now, there’s no Lando Calrissian in this movie. But Lando I don’t think is finished in any way, shape, or form.”

I would read that as Lando is a lock for Rian Johnson’s VIII!

May 10, 2015

Who is Solo Gardner and what is he doing in The Force Awakens?


The Force Awakens has a pretty cool character reference from ANH. Our band of heroes eventually find their way to Maz Katina’s castle. There, they come across an assortment of Maz’s pirate friends – including an elderly gentleman played by Solo Gardner. Eagle eyed Star Wars fans will spot that Gardener appeared in the Chalmun's Catina scene of the original movie as a character known as Trinto Duago.

Above  is a somewhat aged Gardener with a new motley crew. He is just to the left of the giant yellow fellow.

Trinto, as found in ANH
Gardner's orginal character was originally referred to on set as 'Terminal Man' but it was was the mid 1990s when he was given his formal name.

His mask was not originally designed for A New Hope but was rather made by Rick Baker (who became fairly famous in his own right) as a idea of a Frankenstein.

Salo Gardener, a veteran of the British film industry. He's made quite the career for himself doing smallish parts in big films. This included Superman II, Shaun of the Dead and Harry Potter.

There is however some speculation here that Salo did not play the original character. 

None the less, Gardner  appears for a second time in a Star Wars movie

A good old google search suggests that this fellow's character was also recycled through for an appearance in the now infamous Star Wars Holiday Special:

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