Because we can never hear enough news about J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII, and because at times it feels like we’ll never know anything, it’s nice to finally have something pretty solid to report. Disney chairman Alan Horn recently ventured to London and dropped a few bits of news about shooting, casting, the budget, and potential future release dates.
It was Horn himself who, a few weeks ago, surprised the world by saying that the film has already started filming, and now, in an interview with Bloomberg, he offered up a few more details. Principal photography hasn’t started, which we all sort of figured, but the second unit has in fact been shooting in Abu Dhabi. We recently learned that the island nation-state will serve as the new stand-in for the traditional Skywalker home world of Tatooine—it was Tunisia in previous films. Horn also confirms that in addition to this location, the bulk of the shoot will take place at Pinewood Studios in London, England.
On the casting front, most of the work is done and the bulk of the actors are locked in place, something else that Horn confirmed. Most of us suspected as much; if the film is close enough to start shooting, even second unit stuff, things must be pretty close to done. Horn says that the process is “almost complete. We’re not prepared to announce it yet, but we will be very shortly.” What “shortly” means remains to be seen, but at least we know that we will hear something at some point. We figured that would happen eventually, but there have been times we weren’t always so sure. It will be interesting to see which of the myriad casting rumors that we’ve heard over the previous months actually pan out.
One of the few concrete things we do know about Episode VII, that we have known for a while, is that the film will be released on December 18, 2015. This is departure from protocol since all the previous Star Wars movies have had May releases. The general belief was that the filmmakers wanted more time to fully flesh out the script—which sounded especially plausible after Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took over the writing duties from Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine).
Again, Horn confirmed as much, but he also said that it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the franchise to return to the pattern of May releases. This includes the episode movies, as well as the standalone films that have been announced. The francise has, after all, had a solid run in that slot, but then again, we’re talking about Star Wars, and any Star Wars movie will be a massive hit, no matter when it is released. When the movies come out will depend on their readiness, specifically when it comes to how finished the scripts are. That’s reassuring to hear, and makes it sound like Disney and Lucasfilm are more interested in making good movies than just throwing half-baked crap into the theater to make a quick buck.