"Star Wars: Episode VII" director J.J. Abrams is speaking out for the first time about the project's recent writer shake-up, telling reporters that the movie's rapidly advancing schedule was responsible for original screenwriter Michael Arndt's exit.
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Producers' anxiety over the looming 2015 release date of "Episode VII" is no secret -- Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy reportedly asked Disney to consider shifting the film to 2016, with no success -- and Abrams made veiled references to those issues in his statements.
"It became clear that given the time frame and given the process and the way the thing was going that working with Larry in this way was going to get us where we need to be and when we needed to be," Abrams said of the decision to have him and consultant (and original trilogy writer) Lawrence Kasdan take over scriptwriting duties from Arndt. "Working with Larry Kasdan, especially on a 'Star Wars' movie, is kind of unbeatable."
Abrams had only positive things to say about Arndt's contributions to "Episode VII" -- "He is one of the best writers around" -- and hinted that the Oscar winner may still be involved in the new trilogy somewhere down the line.
"Working with Michael was a wonderful experience and I couldn't be a bigger fan of his or adore him more," Abrams said. "He's a wonderful guy and was incredibly helpful in the process."