Study Guide

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Screenwriter

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Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt

For 35 years, Star Wars was associated (for better or worse) with George Lucas, who created it in the first place and directed and wrote the screenplays for four of the first six films.

And while the guy's a bona fide genius, screenwriting really isn't the man's strong suit.

That's why, when Disney bought the rights to the property and announced that they were going to be making a whole new slew of films, there was this huge combination of anxiety and hope. Would the scripts be better than those of Episodes I-III? And, more importantly, would they still feel like Star Wars?

Frankly speaking, we didn't know the answer until the film actually opened, but looking at the caliber of the screenwriting team, we had every reason to be confident. It started with Michael Arndt, who won an Oscar for his first screenplay, Little Miss Sunshine, in 2007. From there, he hitched his wagon to the Pixar train, penning the script for Toy Story 3 as well as helping out on 2015's Inside Out. He has science fiction chops, too, writing the screenplays for the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion and the second Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire.

Arndt couldn't nail down the final version of the script for this one, but he did hit upon a number of key concepts, such as keeping Luke Skywalker out of the film until the end:

It just felt like every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over. Suddenly you didn't care about your main character anymore because, "Oh f–k, Luke Skywalker's here. I want to see what he's going to do. (Source)

With that as a foundation, he turned things over to a second team, consisting of director J.J. Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan. Abrams had done the whole screenwriting thing himself (and he's covered over in the "Director" section), but Kasdan was the name that made most Star Wars fans do the Snoopy dance.

Why? Well, he was the guy who wrote the screenplays for the two Star Wars films that Lucas didn't write: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. You know, the two that are widely regarded as the best written.

Kasdan trained in poetry and intended to teach it before screenwriting came along. In addition to those earlier Star Wars films, he penned the script for Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as became an accomplished director in his own right with the likes of Grand Canyon and Silverado. His training in poetry gives his dialogue an elegance and an ease of pronunciation that Lucas simply couldn't manage, and with two of the most beloved Star Wars movies under his belt, he knows this universe like no one else.

Along with Abrams, Kasdan and Arndt hit the right notes for the film: something a little retro and nostalgic, but pointing the way to future movies that will stand proudly on their own. Doing all that and still making a great stand-alone movie can take a lot, but this particular trio of musketeers seems to keep it all in hand.

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