Auditions are currently taking place in the UK for the new Star Wars trilogy – we look at what fanatics can expect.
The Star Wars franchise is now owned by Disney after the media empire bought George Lucas’s Lucasfilm for Dhs14.7 billion last year, and producer Kathleen Kennedy has affirmed that the decision to shoot three new films in Britain, where the original trilogy was shot between 1977 and 1983, marks a back to basics approach, returning the films to their scruffy ’70s roots. The UK (and, more specifically, Elstree Studios just outside London) is the series’ spiritual home. Although Lucas brought his team back for bits of the prequels in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we like to think that the decision to shift base to Australia
was one of the reasons those films went so far off the rails.
But now the team will return to the UK in the Spring of 2014 (to Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire). JJ Abrams is also embracing this old-school attitude behind the lens: the new trilogy won’t be shot digitally, but on 35mm analogue film, like the original trilogy.
A planet that looks like Scotland
It has been reported in the UK media that some scenes for the new Star Wars will be shot on location on islands in Scotland. While confirmation has been slow in coming, we reckon that the desolate Hebridean landscape could make for an impressively alien and unforgiving backdrop. Several recent blockbusters – including troubled Brad Pitt vehicle World War Z – have been based in Glasgow.
While rumours grow about whether the original cast will feature (mainly actors Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher), it appears one character has already been confirmed by JJ Abrams’ production company Bad Robot. It tweeted an image of boisterous droid R2-D2 on November 15 titled, ‘hi from the workshop! #StarWarsVII’. Another person returning is multiple Academy Award-winning composer John Williams, whom has written the music for all six Star Wars movies.
Ford more than any of the cast members has been repeatedly asked if he’ll return as Han Solo, and has said he’d ‘not quite made the choice’, on a UK BBC talk show in October. Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker, has apparently been training for the role, according to his former room-mate Robert Englund, who played Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare On Elm Street movies. Hamill has hinted he met original trilogy director Lucas about the new movies before Disney bought the rights to make them.
There was a chorus of fanboy relief when Star Trek director JJ Abrams was announced as the man in charge of the new Star Wars movie. Sure, there’s a fair amount of friction between the two franchises, but Abrams is a competent director with a string of nerd favourites, including TV’s Lost and Fringe, behind him (and besides, the choice could’ve been so much worse). But that was before the release of Abrams’s Star Trek: Into Darkness, a glib sequel which, it was widely agreed, tried far too hard to upend fans’ expectations instead of telling its own unique story (it was even voted Worst Stark Trek Movie Ever at a fan convention last year).
If Abrams pulls the same trick again, we’ll end up with a Star Wars movie full of snarky in-jokes, but lacking any heart. Original script-writer for the new movie Michael Arndt (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Oblivion) has since been relieved of his duties and replaced by Abrams himself and Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote the best of the six films: The Empire Strikes Back. This could go some way to appeasing sci-fi nerds all over the globe. ‘It became clear that given the time frame and given the process and the way the thing was going that working with Larry in this way was going to get us where we need to be and when we needed to be,’ said Abrams.
As if a new trilogy wasn’t enough, Disney has confirmed it will release several more films set in a galaxy far, far away and they’ll be origins stories, with characters such as bounty hunter Boba Fett and Han Solo tipped to get the prequel treatment. Disney says Kasdan and Sherlock Holmes’ scribe Simon Kinberg will write two of these standalone films. In the meantime, we’ll be waiting with baited breath.
Star Wars Episode VII will be released worldwide in cinemas on December 18 2015.