Disney’s Maker Studios Purchase Threatened By Ex-CEO’s Legal Action

By | Thursday April 10, 2014 @ 1:37pm PDT

DJP LEGAL BADGEDisney’s proposed $500 million plus purchase of Maker Studios may have a problem from the past. The former CEO of the multichannel YouTube network wants a California judge to issue a temporary restring order against the planned vote next week on the big ticket merger. “Permitting the April 15, 2014 vote on the Merger to proceed without requiring additional disclosures would makerstudios__140311194353-275x177irreparably harm Plaintiffs, as well as Maker shareholders, because it would deprive them of the opportunity to make an informed vote in the Merger,” says the redacted and previously sealed application, filed yesterday in LA Superior Court by co-founder Danny Zapplin and three other former Maker execs. The TRO application alleges that something has to be done before it “will be too late” because current Maker execs are “skimming tens of millions of dollars for themselves by kicking back to the other stock adverse to the common shareholder.” The application to Judge Elihu Berle became public today. Disney is not named as a defendant in the matter.
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British Newcomer Eyed For ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Role

By | Wednesday April 9, 2014 @ 8:50pm PDT

Maisie Richardson SellersThe producers have their eye on Maisie Richardson-Sellers, an Oxford-trained actress whose credits seem to range from local stage plays to, well, more local stage plays. With the scarcity of real Star Wars: Episode VII casting news, any hints from the London set have fans and media making the jump to light speed. Six weeks ago, the rumor star-wars-logo__130325012712-200x144mill had Adam Driver out front for a lead villain role. And with production set to start next month on the Disney/Lucasfilm tentpole, it’s high time for some facts. But not tonight. Well, at least R2-D2 is confirmed. Meanwhile, the franchise pic is due to touch down in theaters December 18, 2015.

Related: Darth Vader Selfie Inaugurates ‘Episode VII’ Instagram Page

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CinemaCon: Disney’s Alan Horn Says ‘Million Dollar Arm’ Is Highest Testing Movie He’s Ever Had

By | Wednesday March 26, 2014 @ 5:16pm PDT
Pete Hammond

CinemaCon2014_badgeAlthough Disney devoted a good chunk of its CinemaCon presentation today to talk of Star Wars and The Avengers and clips of upcoming movies including first looks at the live-action re-telling of Cinderella and Pixar’s Inside Out, theater owners left the near three-hour session really singing the praises of one of the lesser-known films on the slate: the May 16 release Million Dollar Arm. It stars Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, who received the convention’s Excellence In Acting award from studio Chairman Alan Horn just before a full screening of the movie, which Horn told the crowd has scored higher than any movie he has ever tested Jon Hamm Alan Horn handshakeat Disney, or Warner Bros before that. “And that includes the first Harry Potter, which was so highly anticipated,” he said. Judging from the reaction in the Caesars Palace Colosseum theater and comments afterward, those test scores would seem to be justified. This is the kind of increasingly rare non-animated family film that should play across the board. “It’s comical, it’s emotional, it has great music” was what one exhibitor was heard saying as he walked out. That music, by the way, is from two-time Oscar winner A.R. Rahman, who scored Slumdog Millionaire.

Related: Hot Trailer: Jon Hamm In ‘Million Dollar Arm’

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Tiya Sircar Lands Vacant Lead Role In CBS’ ‘How I Met Your Dad’ Pilot

By | Wednesday March 26, 2014 @ 1:31pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

circar copyTiya Sircar has been cast as one of the leads in CBS’ How I Met Your Mother spinoff How I Met Your Dad, replacing Krysta Rodriguez. In the vein of the original series, HIMYD tells the story from a female point of view, that of Sally (Greta Gerwig), and revolves around a new group of friends in New York. Sircar will play Juliet, Sally’s sexy and flamboyant best friend. The recasting, done after the pilot’s table read, was accompanied by some tweaking of the character, including giving Juliet a new workplace. Sircar, repped by TalentWorks and Elevate Entertainment, was on CBS and 20th TV’s radar as she just wrapped an arc on the network and the studio’s freshman comedy series The Crazy Ones, playing Sarah Michelle Gellar’s assistant and Hamish Linklater’s love interest. She also had a lead role in last summer’s feature comedy The Internship, did arcs on Lifetime’s The Witches Of East End and Amazon’s Betas, plays new character Sabine on LucasFilm/Disney animated series Rebels and is the lead in indie comedy Miss India America.

How I Met Your Dad‘s three male leads opposite Gerwig and Sircar are played by Drew Tarver, Nick D’Agosto and Andrew Santino. The pilot, from 20th TV, was written by Emily Spivey and HIMYM creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. Rob Greenberg is directing.

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Is Latest ‘Star Wars’ Casting Rumor Actually True?

By | Wednesday February 26, 2014 @ 1:17pm PST

USA-'Look Back In Anger' Meet & GreetAfter pretty much every name in Hollywood has been mentioned in connection with the new Star Wars movie being directed by JJ Abrams, we’re hearing that Girls star Adam Driver is actually, really truly in the mix to play the main villain in the franchise pic from Disney and Lucasfilm. Nothing is imminent, we’re told, which means the only casting that’s official so far remains R2-D2. The production has set up offices  for Star Wars: Episode VII at the UK’s Pinewood studios ahead of its December 18, 2015 release date. Looks like our pals at Variety got to this one first.

Related: Best Box Office Ever? Biggest Hollywood Franchises In 2015 Collision Course

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Disney To Film Marvel Series For Netflix In New York As Part Of Multimillion-Dollar Incentive Package

By | Wednesday February 26, 2014 @ 11:28am EST

New York was “our first choice” to film four NYC-based Marvel “Defenders” series and a miniseries planned for Netflix beginning in 2015, Disney CEO Bob Iger said today during a press event in NY announcing the deal.disney-logo__130110173452-200x133 But the Empire State’s taxpayers had to help seal the deal for what officials say is the biggest film or TV production commitment ever for New York: The state provided the entertainment giant with undisclosed breaks and incentives estimated at $4M for MarvelNYCthe project that’s projected to create 3,000 jobs including 400 full time ones in the Big Apple. They’ll work on 52 one-hour live action episodes and a miniseries built around Marvel characters Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage in what Disney calls “the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York.” Taxpayers had to sweeten the terms for Disney because there was “a lot of competition from different cities” to land the production, Iger says. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the commitment is “exciting,” and a win for his efforts to broaden the economic base which heavily depends on financial institutions. The economic downturn in 2008 “was a wake-up call for the state of New York…you have to diversify,” he said at announcement with Iger. The Disney chief says that no decision has been made with Netflix about whether the series’ episodes will be released all at once or individually.

Here’s the release from Disney and New York state: Read More »

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Disney Movies Anywhere Launches On iTunes With 400 Disney, Pixar & Marvel Titles In The Cloud

By | Tuesday February 25, 2014 @ 5:00am PST

browseall-webThe same day that Disney launches its mega-hit Frozen in the digital realm, the company is announcing a cloud-based purchase and storage service for its films. In a new deal with Apple, Disney Movies Anywhere goes live today exclusively through iTunes, kicking off with more than 400 Disney, Pixar and Marvel titles such as Iron Man 3, Finding Nemo and Mary Poppins. The service allows users to browse, buy, manage and watch movies on PCs and iOS devices using an app or website. The move comes 15 months after the company announced it was pulling the plug on Disney Movies Online, its barely-known and costly Internet pic service.

Not that DMA is without precedent.

In many ways, DMA is Disney’s answer to UltraViolet. While the House of Mickey has not been a part of the UltraViolet gang, the cloud-based digital rights library has been backed by many of the other major studios as well as Lionsgate, DreamWorks Animation and HBO, among others. With two such systems now on the movie market, there undoubtedly will be concerns about consumer confusion over DMA and UltraViolet, which debuted in 2011. The latter’s backers want the service to be the industry standard and to provide consumers with a single digital locker for their movies. A desire the new DMA now challenges.

PrintAdditionally, the tie-up with Apple is key for Disney. Right now UltraViolet titles can be played on Apple devices, with the help of an app, but don’t show up in iTunes. DMA is powered by KeyChest, Disney’s adaptable technology that can integrate with any existing distribution partner as well as work with new ones to enable access to digital content. DMA bolsters the companies’ ties with Apple. Last year, the Disney Channel app was made available on Apple TV. Read More »

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Sixth & Final Season Of ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ To Stream On Netflix

By | Thursday February 13, 2014 @ 3:00am PST
Nellie Andreeva

Star-Wars-The-Clone-Wars_S6_EN_US_V5After resurrecting The Killing for a final season after its cancellation by AMC, Netflix is doing the same for Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The streaming service will debut a 13-episode sixth and final installment of the animated series on March 7. Titled The Lost Missions, the season promises to reveal “some of the deepest mysteries of the conflict between the light and the dark sides of the Force leading to a series finale.” An intrepid clone trooper discovers a shocking secret, Anakin Skywalker’s closest relationship is tested to its limits, and what Master Yoda discovers while investigating the disappearance of a Jedi could forever change the balance of power in the galaxy. Under the multi-year deal with Disney/ABC TV Group, Netflix will be the exclusive subscription service for the entire Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, including several director’s cut episodes never seen on TV, as well as the 2008 feature film. This marks the first time any Star Wars content has been available on Netflix. It also expands the fast growing relationship between Netflix and Lucasfilm parent Disney. A year ago, the two companies signed a groundbreaking output movie deal, the first time a major movie studio had chosen streaming vs. pay cable for its features. And recently, the companies sealed another unprecedented pact for four series and a miniseries from another marquee Disney label, Marvel. “The Clone Wars marks an important moment as Netflix welcomes … Read More »

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Disney Unveils Plan To Coach And Invest In Startups

By | Wednesday February 12, 2014 @ 1:30pm EST

If you have a fledgling consumer media or entertainment product company, then this is for you: The Walt Disney Company logoThe media giant says its new Los Angeles-based program —  called Disney Accelerator — will pick 10 companies to receive $120,000 in investment capital and three months of mentoring help from execs including CEO Bob Iger. The initiative will be “powered by” Techstars, which runs similar programs to identify investment opportunities at companies including Barclays, Nike, and Sprint. Disney has an April 16 deadline for applications to its program (check here), which begins June 30, and ends in September with an Investor Demo Day where teams introduce themselves to industry leaders and investors. “Disney Accelerator offers a unique collaboration between some of the best creative minds in the entertainment industry and the modern-day visionaries who are starting businesses on the strength of exciting new ideas,” says Disney EVP of Corporate Strategy and Business Development Kevin Mayer. Innovation SVP Michael Abrams will oversee the program. In addition to Iger, Disney’s mentoring team will include execs from Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ESPN and Walt Disney Imagineering.

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Barry Jossen Joins A+E Studios As EVP

By | Thursday February 6, 2014 @ 9:30am PST
Nellie Andreeva

barry jossenFormer ABC Studios head Barry Jossen has been tapped for another top studio executive job. The veteran executive/producer has been named EVP for recently formed A+E Studios, the in-house production arm of A+E Networks. He will be based in the company’s Los Angeles offices, reporting to A+E Networks’ Bob DeBitetto, President of Brand Strategy, Business Development and A+E Studios.

A&E NetworksIn his role, Jossen will oversee the building of A+E Studios’ scripted programming operations, managing all areas, including development and and production, under DeBitetto’s supervision. “Barry’s unparalleled reputation, expertise and track record will be instrumental to the rapid growth of A+E Studios and to the achievement of its business and creative mission,” said DeBitetto. DeBitetto and A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc reached out to Jossen shortly after his abrupt exit from ABC Studios last summer. The three had an existing relationship — under Jossen, ABC Studios took over production for drama pilot Occult at A&E, then run by DeBitetto. Jossen also oversaw ABC Studios’ long-running drama series for Lifetime Army Wives and spearheaded the sale of Devious Maids to the female-centered cable network overseen by Dubuc. Jossen continued conversations with Dubuc and DeBitetto over the past six months, while working as a ABC Studios-based producer, resulting in his appointment to run A+E Studios. At ABC Studios, producer of such series as Grey’s Anatomy and … Read More »

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George Lucas Unveils New ‘Sandcrawler’ Digital Production HQ In Singapore: Video

Filmmaker George Lucas welcomes Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the opening of Lucasfilms' new animation production facility in SingaporeGeorge Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiled Lucasfilm‘s new regional headquarters today in the Southeast Asian city-state. The Sandcrawler building sits on a 22,500 square meter campus, which features a Yoda fountain, a 100-seat theater and state-of-the-art digital production capabilities, CNBC reported locally. Lucasfilm originally set up shop in Singapore in 2005 to produce digital animated content for film and television, VFX for feature films and multi-platform games. The studio houses the local divisions for Industrial Light & Magic, LucasArts and Lucasfilm Animation. The Sandcrawler will also be Disney and ESPN’s new regional HQ. According to The Straits Times, Kennedy said the facility is working on such films as Avengers 2, Jurassic World and Transformers: Age Of Extinction, among others. She noted, “When we first opened our Singapore studio in 2005, the local digital production landscape looked very different. It was relatively small, with a limited talent pool and virtually no visual effects work being done. By investing in local talent, we’ve been able to significantly grow our Singapore studio into a world-class digital production facility.” (Other digital media companies with a base in the growing hub include Electronic Arts, Double Negative and Ubisoft.) There are about 360 employees now at Lucasfilm Singapore, which also operates … Read More »

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Deadline’s Best Film Stories Of The Week

Catch up on Deadline’s best film stories of the week:

wonder womanEmerging Star Gal Gadot Set To Play Wonder Woman In ‘Batman Vs. Superman’
By Mike Fleming Jr. – Warner Bros and Zack Snyder have found their Wonder Woman. They’ve cast Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot in the iconic role and she will be part of Batman Vs. Superman, the film that will see Henry Cavill square off with Ben Affleck.

Paul Walker’s Manager Matt Luber Looks Back On 18 Years Growing Up Together
By Mike Fleming Jr.EXCLUSIVE: When they help build a Hollywood star career, agents and managers know it can all end in a moment. That usually comes in the form of a phone call, informing them that client has dropped them for another rep. While that is hard to bear, I have been imagining how much worse it has been for Luber Rocklin Entertainment’s Matt Luber. His 18-year run with Paul Walker ended with a Saturday phone call as Luber and his daughter were leaving a sports bar to attend a college football game in Phoenix. That is when Luber learned that Walker had died instantly at age 40 in a tragic car crash.

affleckBen Affleck On Playing Batman, And How Not To Accept An Academy Award
By Mike Fleming Jr. – For Playboy’s 60th anniversary issue, the magazine needed an iconic subject for the Playboy Interview, and I hit the lottery. I got to talk with actor-writer-director-producer Ben Affleck about his life and the remarkable second act that he wrote for himself as writer-director of Gone Baby Gone and The Town, which culminated in the Best Picture Oscar for Argo. Read More »

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Disney Gets Full Rights To Future ‘Indiana Jones’ Pics In Deal With Paramount

By | Friday December 6, 2013 @ 2:32pm PST

urlWalt Disney Studios and Paramount Pictures said today that they’ve reached a marketing and distribution deal for the Indiana Jones franchise. Among other things, this agreement removes the last hurdle for Disney in moving forward with future Indiana Jones movies, which the company acquired when it purchased Lucasfilm in a multibillion-dollar deal late last year. The new deal gives Disney marketing and distribution rights to future films as well as retaining Lucasfilm’s ownership rights — which basically means they’ve got the whole shebang now. Paramount, on the other hand, isn’t left in the cold: The studio will continue to have distribution rights to the first four films. While details of the deal are unknown, Paramount also will receive financial rewards on any future Indiana Jones films that are produced and released by Disney. Moving ahead with a new Star Wars movie coming out in December 2015 and with two more in the pipeline, the studio has not confirmed that a fifth Indiana Jones has the green light. However, with today’s news and star Harrison Ford’s previous expressed interest in returning to the role, one would have to say it’s looking likely.

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‘Star Wars: Episode VII’: Darth Vader Selfie Inaugurates Official Instagram Page

By | Tuesday December 3, 2013 @ 4:37am PST

Even Darth Vader is now snapping selfies. The official Star Wars site tweeted last night that it has joined the Instagram bandwagon. Saying “It is useless to resist,” the tweet urged fans to follow the account (72,000+ already are). Lucasfilm has set up its production offices for Star Wars: Episode VII at the UK’s Pinewood where it will start shooting next year for a December 18, 2015 release. The production unveiled its first photo last month and confirmed that R2-D2 will be in the new movie. Does the one below mean that Darth Vader is the next character from the previous Star Wars films that will appear (resurrected? in flashback?)? Here’s the erstwhile Anakin Skywalker taking the first Instagram snap:

star wars selfie

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Annie Award Nominations Unveiled

By | Monday December 2, 2013 @ 8:15am PST

The slate of nominations for Best Animated Features this year are A Letter To Momo (GKIDS), annieDespicable Me 2 (Universal Pictures), Ernest & Celestine (GKIDS), Frozen (Walt Disney Animation Studios), Monsters University (Pixar Animation Studios), The Croods (DreamWorks Animations), and The Wind Rises (Studio Ghibli and The Walt Disney Studios). Winners will be announced during the 41st Annual Annie Awards ceremony February 1 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The full list of nominees follows: Read More »

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Pinewood Earnings Grow Amid UK Studio Capacity Crunch; Whither Expansion?

UDPATE, 2 AM WRITETHRU: With the British film and TV industry in the throes of a capacity crisis, it’s a good — if frustrating — time to be in the studio facilities business. The Pinewood Shepperton group today announced consolidated results for the six months ended September 30th with £36.6M ($59.1M) in revenues compared to £27.1M ($43.8M) in the same period last year. After-tax profit was $5.5M, up from $3.2M in 2012. The Pinewood studio is currently host to Kenneth Branagh’s lavish Cinderella, Hammer sequel The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death, and just had Ridley Scott’s Exodus on the lot which has now gone on location. Lucasfilm has also hung its shingle with the new Star Wars installment gearing up to shoot in 2014. Johnny Depp-starrer Alice In Wonderland 2 is expected to turn up, and Bond will be back with No. 24 next year. Over at nearby Shepperton, Marvel has wrapped Into The Woods and has The Avengers 2 on deck. But I hear its Ant Man had to forgo shooting in the UK due to the lack of space.

Related: Hollywood Pics Pack UK Soundstages Creating Space Crunch Read More »

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‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Gets December 18, 2015 Release Date

By | Thursday November 7, 2013 @ 1:18pm PST

It’s going to be a happy Christmas two years from now for fans of a galaxy far far away away. The new J.J. Abrams-directed Star Wars movie will open on December 18, 2015, Disney announced today as it unveiled strong fourth-quarter earnings. “We’re very excited to share the official 2015 release date for Star Wars: Episode VII, where it will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season but also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture,” Disney Studios chair Alan Horn said in a statement Thursday on StarWars.com. When Disney bought Lucasfilm in October 2012 for $4 billion, CEO Bob Iger said that three more Star Wars films would come out — with 2015 as the release date for the first new one. It’s a date Disney will now make by a hair. The new Star Wars movie is set to start filming early next year in the UK with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams, and his bad Robot partner Bryan Burk producing. Tommy Harper and Jason McGatlin will serve as EPs. The December 18, 2015 date is the same day that Warcraft, the first pic under Universal and Legendary’s new deal, and Sony’s Inferno are presently set to be released as well. 

Abrams was named as director on the first new Star Wars pic since 2005′s Episode Read More »

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Netflix Picks Up Four Marvel Live-Action Series & A Mini Featuring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage For 2015 Launch

By and | Thursday November 7, 2013 @ 9:23am EST

The companies call this an “unprecedented deal” and “Marvel‘s most ambitious foray yet into live-action TV storytelling.” Disney will provide Netflix with live action series and a miniseries featuring Marvel characters Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage set in the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Netflix has committed to at least four, 13-episode series over “multiple years,” beginning in 2015, culminating with a miniseries, The Defenders, that “reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.” The arrangement, which involves some 60 episodes produced by Marvel TV and ABC Studios, grew out of the deal that will give Netflix exclusive rights to Disney films in the premium TV window beginning in 2016. It is “unparalleled in its scope and size, and reinforces our commitment to deliver Marvel’s brand, content and characters across all platforms of storytelling,” says Marvel Entertainment President Alan Fine. Also unprecedented was the secrecy surrounding the package. As we reported last month, breaking the news of Marvel shopping the four series and mini to Netflix and a couple of other VOD and cable players, no one was allowed to breathe a word, with the seller, all potential buyers and everyone else involved allegedly bound by strict confidentiality agreements. Committing to 60 episodes off the bat is a big undertaking but would help a new to scripted programming player like Netflix that is looking to quickly build up a slate and want to capitalize on the Marvel brand. Said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, “Marvel is a known and loved brand that travels.” There had been talk of another Daredevil movie while Marvel TV first developed Jessica Jones as a series for ABC but it didn’t move past the development stage. The company’s first live-action series for Disney, ABC’s Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., premiered this fall and has been picked up for a full season. It has been a very strong performer in DVR/steaming viewing, hinting at the potential of other Marvel series on a service like Netflix. Here’s the release on the deal, brokered by CAA: Read More »

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J.J. Abrams & Lawrence Kasdan Take Over As ‘Star Wars’ Scribes

By | Thursday October 24, 2013 @ 12:21pm PDT

BREAKING…The new Star Wars movie has a new screenwriting team. It was announced online today that Episode VII director J.J. Abrams and Empire Strikes Back co-writer Lawrence Kasdan will take over as scribes for the upcoming Disney project which is set to be released in 2015. The duo are taking over from Michael Arndt. The writer, who penned the screenplay for Hunger Games: Catching Fire and won an Oscar for writing Little Miss Sunshine, was named as the sole screenwriter on the pic early last November. Arndt was also said to be working on treatments for the other two planned new Star Wars films.I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and J.J. working on the script,” states LucasFilm boss Kathleen Kennedy in a statement posted on Starwars.com Thursday. “There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a Star Wars story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen. J.J. of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing filmmaking and design team in place already prepping for production.”

Related: Are Lawrence Kasdan, Simon Kinberg Being Courted To Script ‘Star Wars’ Pics 2 & 3?
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