This is how Lucasfilm convinced J.J. Abrams to direct Star Wars

On December 26 J.J. Abrams announced himself out of the race for the director’s chair of Star Wars Episode VII. He said he was too much of a fan to actually direct the film and that he’d want to sit back and watch.

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A month later he agreed to direct Star Wars Episode VII. How did he change his mind? In a feature on new Lucasfilm head honcho Kathleen Kennedy, The Hollywood Reporter breaks down how she did: simply.

Kennedy first called Abrams’ agent and asked to speak to meet with him. She was told that he was really busy and committed to post production on Star Trek Into Darkness and that he was preparing for his new TV projects. Abrams is a busy guy. And he didn’t even want to consider the project. He decided to meet with Kennedy anyway.

On Dec. 14, almost two weeks before publicly turning down the job, Abrams met with Kennedy at Bad Robot HQ in Santa Monica. She made her pitch: “Please do Star Wars.” A simple request. The quick thing you need to know about Kennedy: she’s a 35-year veteran of the film industry and has done extensive work with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Clint Eastwood, David Fincher and Robert Zemeckis. She’s known Abrams since he was 14.

Never again.

Never again.

She followed up her simple pitch with two bombshells. Oscar winner Michael Arndt and Star Wars legend Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on Return of the Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back, were working on the new trilogy. Arndt was writing the screenplay while Kasdan was consulting. Kennedy told THR that Abrams “was flipping out when he found out that Michael and Larry were on the movie already.”

Abrams told THR how Kennedy seduced him into Star Wars.

“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.”

Five days later Abrams met with Kennedy again, this time with screenwriter Arndt and consultant Kasdan, for three hours. Kennedy told THR that when she left the meeting that “J.J. was just about on the ceiling when I walked out the door.”

Abrams still had doubts though. First, he was worried about the impact shooting away from Los Angeles would have on his wife and three kids. Second, the enormity of the franchise was daunting. So Kennedy went to work again, putting Abrams at ease.

“We spent a lot of time talking about how meaningful Star Wars is and the depth of the mythology that George has created and how we carry that into the next chapter.”

On January 25th, after what THR calls a day of “furious negotiation,” Abrams agreed to direct Star Wars Episode VII. Now the real work begins for Kennedy and Abrams.

“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.”

That means that a 2015 isn’t set in stone. That’s fine by me. Obviously, Kennedy has assembled a team that not only cares about Star Wars, but cares about the story they’re going to tell. And best of all, there’s a brain trust of four people working on this thing. The downfall of the prequels was that one man was doing everything and everyone was afraid to tell him no. That won’t happen in this trilogy. And that’s why this is a brand new hope for Star Wars. You can head over to The Hollywood Reporter to check out the rest of their fantastic profile. [THR]

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