Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The secret to Disney snagging J.J. Abrams for 'Star Wars: Episode VII' was saying 'please'

How did Disney convince J.J. Abrams to helm "Star Wars: Episode VII" after he initially turned them down? They asked nicely, and said please, a report said Wednesday.

That's not a joke. It is, in fact, true that Abrams first turned the offer down. However, Kathleen Kennedy, who was named the co-chair of Lucasfilm when it was acquired by Disney last year, as well as the go-to producer of the company for at least the next five years, badly wanted Abrams for the job.

The fact that he brought "Star Trek" back to life didn't hurt matters. However, Abrams' agent said he was too deeply enmeshed in the "Star Trek" franchise and about humerous TV projects to even consider doing "Star Wars: Episode VII."

Still, Abrams agreed to meet with Kennedy at Bad Robot on Dec. 14. Kennedy said her pitch was very soft-pedaled, simply saying "Please do 'Star Wars." Despite hsi reservations, Abrams apparently "flipped out" when he learned that Michael Arndt ("Little Miss Sunshine") was scripting the film and that Lawrence Kasdan (who inked both "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi") had signed on as a consultant.

On Dec. 19, Kennedy and Arndt met secretly with Abrams for a three-hour discussion about "Star Wars." What's interesting is that it was later in the month that Abrams denied any involvement with "Episode VII" and that he had turned it down.

Abrams spoke of Kennedy's persuasiveness. He said, "I learned firsthand how incredible and persuasive she is. The thing about any pre-existing franchise -- I'd sort of done that. But when I met with Kathy, it was suddenly very tantalizing."

It took more than a month for Abrams to officially commit to "Star Wars," and during that period, he continued to tell his associates that he was not signed to the project. Finally, he signed to the movie on Jan. 25, after a day of what was called "furious negotiation."

What about a timeline? It took Abrams four years to make a sequel to the rebooted 2009 "Star Trek" film. "Episode VII" has been scheduled -- loosely -- for 2015. Kennedy said, "Our goal is to move as quickly as we can, and we'll see what happens. The timetable we care about is getting the story."

If it sounds a lot like video game companies like Blizzard, who target a game release for when it is ready, it is. "Star Wars: Episode VII" is still slated for 2015. Abrams' latest film, "Star Trek Into Darkness" opens on May 17.

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