The Download: 'Star Wars: Episode VII' Encountering Some Turbulence; No One Wants to See 'Diana'

Posted 10:15 AM November 3rd, 2013 by Binh Ngo
Star Wars

This week on The Download, the MWB crew discuss the reason why J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan were brought on to write the script for Star Wars: Episode VII and touch upon why Naoimi Watts' Diana may be the biopic no one wants to see.

Binh: Uh-oh, looks like now we know why J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan were brought onboard to work on the Episode VII script. According to The Hollywood Reporter story, after Michael Arndt dropped out, Kathleen Kennedy went to Disney's top brass Robert Iger and asked him to delay the movie until 2016. The request was denied and that's why Abrams and Kasdan have to step in. We still don't know why Arndt dropped out, but the THR report suggests he got sick of working on the project.

I remember one of the conditions for Abram to accept the directorship is that he’s not held to the 2015 release date, but it looks like Disney broke that promise. How big of a disturbance in the Force are we looking at here?

Sara: My (new) hope for the force is that for every production delay I'll gain that much more patience for the final product. Time adds quality and I can't help thinking with a project this massive deadlines are arbitrary. I mean, unless someone comes out and declares Disney's facing bankruptcy unless Episode VII streets by 2015 why should anyone rush? And I realize a year+ is hardly rushing but we're talking about something massive. Plus, personally, I'd like more time to spread casting rumors...Lawrence Kasdan has a coterie to employ (Kevin Kline, Kevin Costner, JoBeth Williams).

Is anyone excited about the Oscars yet? I'm most into the darkhorses! Buzz on Kill your Darlings, Blue is the Warmest Color and (of all things) World War Z!

Jeff: I'm with Sara, and I don't really understand the studio's (rumored) fixation on 2015. It isn't like it it won't already be overcrowded with high-profile releases, right?

You both know how I feel about awards shows. I have the sinking feeling that I'm going to be dragooned into watching these Oscars with you guys, and I'm stocking up on alcohol in advance.

Binh: The reason Disney need to keep the 2015 date is because shifting Episode VII's release date will affect all the other Episodes and spin-offs. The company will have to revise its earnings projections and such. This is about placating the shareholders, really.

What's is there to talk about in regards to the Oscars? Can any movie beat Gravity or 12 Years a Slave? World War Z? Only if the voters got a hold of Jeff's alcohol stash.

Sara: Putting the shareholder above the product is its own purgatory. Eh, let them split cake.

World War Z is super unlikely to place (hence darkhorse) but the foreign list is short and steamy (get it? Blue is the Warmest Color...anybody?) and provides surprises in a new place, no? Usually we expect surprises from the Doc category (still true) but this season still has a lot of fodder for fun prognostication. There's way more on the list than Gravity and 12 Years a Slave! Especially now that Cormac McCarthy fully axed himself from the best screenwriter list with The Counselor.

Jeff: True story: I know someone who publicly called The Counselor "a masterpiece." My eyebrows hurt from the raising.

Sara: What KIND of masterpiece? I mean, people un-ironically drop the m-bomb on Plan 9 From Outerspace, too.

Jeff: I felt something snap in my brain, and then everything went dark. I do not recall.

Binh: Who knows, 50 years down the road The Counselor may be regarded as a masterpiece and that person will have the last laugh. Wait, was that person drinking when s/he said that?

On paper, The Counselor ought to be better regarded than it actually is. We have Cormac McCarthy doing the script and Ridley Scott directing an all-star cast. Do you buy the premise that Ridley Scott had his brother’s death on his mind when making the movie and that affected the final outcome?

Jeff: I don't know what I buy at this point. I just know, like everyone else, that a movie with that kind of pedigree should be amazing. In a good way.

Sara: Oh, that's dark! I'm not comfortable with that...I mean, I didn't see the film but Andrew O'Heir's review tidily summed up the reality that despite the means and the talent these people made the film they wanted to and the film was bad. Extra bad for that last reason there --i t sounds like a mass phone-in by like-minded olympian actors.

I saw a gif that involved Cameron Diaz, a sportscar and a leopard print dress that I mistook for gymnastics until I was VERY STRIDENTLY CORRECTED. I'm glad to know little, if for no better reason than there's so much good stuff to deal with.

Naomi Watts is racking up the attention with major parts in pictures big and small. She's a two time nominee at present but I wonder if she's in anything "important enough" to finally get a statuette. I'm fascinated by those kind of Oscar contenders because often when they're awarded it feels like an emeritus gift, even if everyone clearly earned their stripes and just had to wait out a fickle voting group.

Democracy is wonderful but when there are between 5-10 awesome options, often it looks a little haphazard. Meryl Streep's been nominated like a gazillion times and won, what? once? She's our biggest American actress and yet, none too many prizes.

Jeff: I feel like Naomi Watts has earned herself an Oscar vacation thanks to the piñata-in-biopic's-clothing known as Diana -- that picture is getting stomped like a NARC at a biker rally, and I can't imagine anyone wanting to hand her any hardware until the stench stops lingering.

Sara: Yes, it deserves batting, but people who loved Diana will find things to love. It reminded me a lot of a subject I wrote a paper about in college: After the death of another matriarch for the people, Eva Peron, the first lady's attendants and PR sent out notes "from her" saying how lovely the world looks peering down from the clouds, and such.

Naturally Brits aren't into that kind of metaphysical malarkey but "the world's most famous woman" had a lot of people fantasizing about her gilded cage and tragic regal romance--now it's time for high-fashion wish fulfillment. It has hopes of being one of those bloated international export pieces that always feels like a low-grade TV movie despite all the expense doled out. I must say, though, she really nailed Diana's "nod."

Jeff: I just feel bad for Naveen Andrews.

Sara: Because he's trapped in The English Patient like it's Lost?

Jeff: Yes, exactly!

Sara: He throws out some dumb-zingers, don't worry. No one's pure here.

Jeff: Oh, sure. I just mean that he's talented, but he needs to take paycheck gigs like this (and whatever the hell he's doing on that Once Upon a Time show) in order to pay the rent, while I'd like to think Watts can afford to pick and choose her projects. Diana must have looked like a terrific acting challenge as well as a prestige picture. Oops.

Sara: Watts was just in Sunlight Jr. (out 11/15) and she's pretty fantastic. Her character has an abortion and it's VERY UPSETTING. VERY UPSETTING. Jeff, Binh, it's very upsetting. Anyway the director said she lured Watts with a part she hadn't played before and wow that's true. But let's be realistic: no one knows this film is coming out. Sunlight Jr. is the kind of movie people see in a Netflix queue and ask "Matt Dillon? Naomi Watts? When did this come out?" No mounting damns all.

Jeff: The direct-to-video space is so much more prestigious than it was back when Richard Grieco and Shannon Tweed were taking all the scripts. Most of the time, I think that's a good thing.

Binh: Really, can a good movie be made out of Princess Diana's life? Besides being a royal, was she that interesting a person?

Jeff: Maybe she was, behind the scenes, but no one's ever going to be able to put together a well-sourced script that proves it. So why do this at all? Well, because she's Diana. Maybe it's because I don't care about the royals, but I had no interest in watching this no matter how well-reviewed it was. Did either of you?

Binh: I think the interest in Princess Diana is really on the level of celebrity gawking and not because she's this great person by deed. In that sense, a movie that go into that level of detail about her is not wanted by anyone besides the most diehard fans, and I don't count myself among them.

Sara: I wonder -- there's also the clothes, which are EPIC. So diehard fans, fashionistas. She's like the only royal to divorce or something. But her big thing was the humanitarian stuff. That's why she was important. I mean, she giggled at church and all these social things deemed inappropriate but it wasn't until her man left her for another woman that she took the reins (pun!) and started being the icon of international benevolence. The tough thing is all that apparently happened at the same time she was having romances and the romances might be fetching for a box office but they bore me to tears. Let the princess be ballsy and walk across possibly unexploded landmines to prove she's got conviction but I don't need to see her swoony. I just don't.

She did use her position for something, and that's generally interesting material. Plus she had that smirk that always suggesting she knew something was up.

Jeff: Totally true. But I don't think that's enough for a movie, and I doubt that's what prompted the signing of the checks, either. People have always just been interested in her, but you're never going to get an "official" Diana movie that justifies the interest. In my opinion, anyway.

Sara: In fairness, I don't understand how anyone can get an "official" movie out of it at all. The film was based on a Kate Snell book called Diana Her Last Love, and I haven't read the book but unless it's mostly written by the lover she left after her passing, I can't imagine the research for it warrants the level of intimacy the film provided.

Binh: All this talk about Diana is interesting and all, but I think it's time to wrap this up.

Last question, are you excited about Indiana Jones 5? Apparently, Harrison Ford attached a rider to his Star Wars contract that stipulates he'll get another Indy movie.

Sara: Yes, and I think it owes us all a new phrase for "nuke the fridge."

Jeff: If someone can make sure Indy 5 is done in the same spirit as Star Wars VII seems to be made in -- practical effects, respect for the past, etc. -- then I'm absolutely in for it. And I think I'm also okay with that being the last Harrison Ford movie I ever pay to watch, too.

Binh: Unless there's an Indy 6, right? Thanks again, everyone. See you next week.

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