Disney CEO Robert Iger confirmed on CNBC just now that Lawrence Kasdan (THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) and Simon Kinberg (SHERLOCK HOLMES, X-MAN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST) are indeed developing/writing ‘stand alone’ spin-off STAR WARS movies based on characters in the saga but independent of the next STAR WARS trilogy beginning with Episode VII in 2015.
UPDATED with Iger’s direct quote:
“There’s been speculation about some stand alone films that are in development, and I can confirm to you today that in fact we are working on a few stand alone films. Larry Kasdan and Simon Kinberg are both working on films derived from great STAR WARS characters that are not part of the overall saga. So we still plan to make STAR WARS 7, 8 and 9 roughly over a six-year period of time starting in 2015, but there are going to be a few other films released in that period of time, too. I guess it is big news, there’s been a fair amount of speculation out there, and I thought we’d take the opportunity today, here on CNBC as a matter of fact, to confirm that.”
UPDATED with official data from a StarWars.com release:
The Star Wars cinematic galaxy is about to experience a Big Bang. Lucasfilm is officially announcing new spinoff films that will expand the mythos and depths of the Star Wars universe in previously unexplored ways.
One of the standalone films will be written by Lawrence Kasdan, screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and co-writer of Return of the Jedi while the other will be penned by Simon Kinberg, writer of Sherlock Holmes and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The movies will be separate from the upcoming Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, on which Kasdan and Kinberg are also consulting, and are expected to be released sometime after Episode VII. Each standalone film will focus on a specific character, and two spinoff films are currently confirmed.
In a call to investors, Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, revealed while the original focus was on the highly-anticipated sequel trilogy, the idea of spinoff films was bandied about early and the additional films are now becoming a reality. “We are in development of a few standalone films,” he said, “that are not part of the Star Wars saga…there are now creative entities working on developing scripts for what would be those standalone films.”
I’m certainly encouraged by Kasdan’s presence, though I was hoping he’d be writing one of the new trilogy films of the saga given that THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK remains my favorite and the best (for me) film of the entire saga. I’m still hoping Kasdan will sneak in later and write Episode VIII to nail that mid-trilogy chapter, which is always the toughest to pull off successfully. Kinberg set the tone for a successful jump start to the Robert Downey Jr.-starring SHERLOCK HOLMES feature franchise in 2009, and penned the superhero franchise follow-up X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST that hits theaters next year. Unconfirmed rumors broke today (via AICN) that Yoda may be a potential lead character in one of these stand alone STAR WARS films, though Harry mentions no specifics or source for this claim beyond speculation.
We expect more news soon as Iger announces more real data on Disney’s 1Q performance and perhaps where the company intends to take STAR WARS in the near and extended future. One of the most tantalizing aspects of the Disney-Lucasfilm deal was how the Mouse might apply the Force in its theme parks here and around the world. As FilmEdge argued recently, Disney can only get the most out of STAR WARS if they prioritize the creation of new stories and films rather than retreading existing films into stale products. Doubling up to produce a new STAR WARS trilogy and developing spin-off character films of equally high quality are wise steps in that profitable direction — and fans can only hope that the Kathleen Kennedy era at Lucasfilm stresses quality storytelling along with great visual effects to make new STAR WARS a highly worthwhile effort to make and watch for fans old and new. Stay tuned for more news on these stand along films soon.
Iger also confirmed that both writers are consulting with J.J. Abrams, recently confirmed as director of STAR WARS: Episode VIII, on that film’s current development.
Watch Disney CEO Bob Iger discussing the company’s 1Q gains and breaking the STAR WARS spin-off films news: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000146063&startTime=385&endTime=615