Artwork courtesy of Joshua Stolte
Welcome back to the Star Wars HoloNet Digest, a weekly feature where I bring you a recap of the latest news from the world of Star Wars. Whether it’s an Episode VII announcement or a noteworthy author interview, you’ll find it here. Let’s check the HoloNet and see what happened in the past two weeks.
Begun, production has. On Friday, May 16, Bad Robot Productions and Lucasfilm announced that filming had commenced on Star Wars Episode VII. Bad Robot tweeted a picture of the first clapperboard, while the Star Wars Twitter account showed us Pinewood Studios in the UK decked out for Episode VII. Lucasfilm is working with production company twofour54 in Abu Dhabi, where principal photography is now underway.
J.J. Abrams marked the start of filming with a note to the cast and crew that read, in part, “The world awaits this film.” Abrams went on to say that their goal should be to “give ‘em something great.” Star Wars Episode VII actors have embraced Twitter as a way to share brief, spoiler-free glimpses of their work. Actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyega have been tweeting from Abu Dhabi, although mostly we’ve just seen camels so far. Still, it’s amazing to think that Ridley, Boyega, and their fellow actors are in the thick of production on the first Star Wars sequel.
And speaking of production…how would you –– yes, you! –– like to join Abrams, Ridley, and Boyega on set for a role in the movie? Lucasfilm is offering one lucky fan the chance to do just that. The company has partnered with the excellent charity UNICEF for a promotion called Star Wars: Force for Change. Fans can donate money to the campaign, which will all go to UNICEF, and receive rewards like Episode VII concept art, advance screenings of the film, and, for the grand prize, a role in the movie. J.J. Abrams announced Force for Change in a video posted on the Star Wars YouTube channel and embedded below. The opportunity to be in the film is surely the experience of a lifetime, but what set the Internet on fire after the video debuted was the appearance of the film’s first new character: a bizarre, grunting alien carrying a backpack contraption filled with smaller aliens. This movie is really happening, folks.
Another movie that is really happening is the first of three planned Star Wars spinoff films. On May 22, Lucasfilm announced that Gareth Edwards would direct this standalone film based on a script by Gary Whitta. Edwards’ latest big project was the new Godzilla film, while Whitta is best known for writing the script for the Hughes brothers’ film The Book of Eli. Lucasfilm also revealed that the movie will be released on December 16, 2016, slightly less than a year after Episode VII premieres.
In the last week, Star Wars: The Clone Wars fans have been excitedly discussing comments made by a writer for the now-canceled series about the content of the unaired seventh and eighth seasons. Series writer Brent Friedman described in general terms a story arc that he wrote centered on Captain Rex and ARC Trooper Echo. (You may remember that Echo was presumed dead after sacrificing himself in the episode “Counterattack,” but in March, Dave Filoni revealed that Echo had survived.) According to Friedman, Rex would have led “a highly unorthodox clone commando unit” in Friedman’s four-episode story arc. The unit would have been called “The Batch.” Friedman also revealed that Seasons 7 and 8 were fully written, that they would have included a bounty hunter arc with Cad Bane and Boba Fett, and that the series would have explored Anakin’s reaction to Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order. You can check out all of Friedman’s comments here. Just don’t get your hopes up that we’ll ever see any of what he discusses.
Del Rey isn’t the only company with a slate of upcoming Star Wars books. Disney Publishing Worldwide is planning to publish four books based on the original trilogy and aimed at young fans. The books will be written by a quartet of well-known children’s book authors. The first book on the release calendar is The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight, which retells the entire trilogy using Ralph McQuarrie concept artwork. Author Tony DiTerlizzi has given a few interviews about his Star Wars fandom, his career, and his new book. One of those conversations was with the Los Angeles Times. DiTerlizzi also spoke to me and my co-host on The ForceCast, and you can check out that interview right here. The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight will be released this October.
Do you enjoy running marathons? Do you enjoy Star Wars and Disney? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you should check out the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, January 15-18, 2015, at the Disneyland Resort. This event will include several different races for adults and kids as well as a “Wookiee Welcome Party.” Registration opens at noon ET on June 4. Head over to the marathon website for information about the different races, including the Star Wars Half Marathon (which is the marquee event), the Star Wars Rebel Challenge, and the Star Wars 5K and 10K races.
Eric Geller is a journalist from the Washington, D.C. area. He co-hosts The ForceCast podcast and manages social media for Star Wars fan sites TheForce.Net and Rebelscum.com. He also contributes to The Official Star Wars Blog and Star Wars Insider.