Close to one year after being hired to write "Star Wars: Episode VII," Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt has departed the project. The news was announced by Lucasfilm on Thursday in a post on the Star Wars website heralding the "master filmmaking team" in place for "Star Wars: Episode VII."
As 'Episode VII' continues pre-production, Lawrence Kasdan and director J.J. Abrams have assumed screenwriting duties for the film. Kasdan, who has been serving as a consultant on the film, is a veteran of several classic Lucasfilm productions, writing the screenplay for 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and serving as co-screenwriter for 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Return of the Jedi.' Acclaimed director and screenwriter Abrams' credits include 'Super 8,' 'Mission: Impossible III,' 'Fringe,' and 'Lost.'
Arndt was brought on for "Episode VII" on Nov. 9 of last year. He's an Oscar winner for his "Little Miss Sunshine" script, and was nominated for his screenplay to "Toy Story 3."
"It's funny because I have admired the screenwriter, Michael Arndt , from 'Little Miss Sunshine,'" Abrams said to the French edition of Metro back in June of this year (translation via Google). "And in recent months, I asked him to work with me, every time he would say, 'I can't, I'm on something.' And then one morning I read that it was 'Star Wars' and I understood."
For its part, Lucasfilm had nothing but kind words for Arndt.
"I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and J.J. working on the script," Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said in a press release announcing the news. "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."
According to the website Badass Digest, Abrams and Kasdan will completely rework Arndt's script from square one. "This isn't a rewrite, this is a completely different movie with different main characters," wrote the site's editor, Devin Faraci, citing sources with knowledge of the situation.
Funny enough, Funny or Die made a video April that mocked the difficult time Arndt was having with his "Episode VII" script duties.
According to Lucasfilm, "Star Wars: Episode VII" is still set for release in 2015. No further time frame was provided by the company at this time. Production on the film will begin next spring.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post identified Arndt as the person in the Funny or Die video. That's an actor, and not the Oscar winner.