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Back when Star Wars Episode VII was first announced and everyone was speculating about who would be the perfect director for the project, J.J. Abrams was one of the first filmmakers to comment. Asked if he could have an interest in making the movie, he noted that Star Wars is one of his favorite movies and that being a fan would add a burden of responsibility to the project, saying, "I am looking forward more than anyone to the next iterations of Star Wars, but I believe I will be going as a paying moviegoer!”
Then in December he he took it a step further and revealed that he had actually been approached by George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy as a candidate to direct the film- but that he turned the job down. Citing his commitment to the Star Trek universe and his desire to keep his distance simply as a fan, the filmmaker said, "I declined any involvement very early on. I'd rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them."
But something clearly changed in the last month, because just last week it was announced that Abrams will indeed be the one in charge of making Episode VII. What about the situation in January was different? How did the brass at LucasFilm get Abrams to change his mind? In the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter Kennedy has spilled all the details.
The article goes into full detail about the process of wooing Abrams, including telling him early on that both Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan would be involved with the project (which apparently was a big selling point), but ultimately what it came down to for Kennedy was making him more relaxed about the stakes and pressure that would come with making Episode VII. "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," Kennedy told the trade. From there it was all about getting him to sign on, and while Abrams kept saying that he wasn't "fully committed" to the project he finally officially signed on the dotted line on January 25th.
Clearly Kennedy and Lucas ended up getting the director that they wanted, but it could mean a shift in the timetable. When it was announced in October that the deal with Disney had been made it was said that they were aiming to have the film in theaters for 2015 - though no official release date was officially marked down. That deadline was first called into question by Abrams last week saying that he "has not committed to that release date," and a similar feeling was reiterated by Kennedy in the new interview. "Our goal is to move as quickly as we can, and we'll see what happens," she told the site. "The timetable we care about is getting the story."