Michael Arndt confirmed as “Star Wars” sequel screenwriter, Spielberg, Abrams out

Michael Arndt (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

In recent weeks, we've written quite a bit about some of the rumours and speculation surrounding the recently announced "Star Wars" sequels. Just who exactly will write and direct the planned follow-up trilogy has been the subject of endless debate since the news first broke that Disney would be acquiring the legendary sci-fi franchise, but over the weekend "Star Wars" fans finally got some concrete news.

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Following numerous reports that "Little Miss Sunshine" writer Michael Arndt had written a story treatment for "Star Wars: Episode VII," Lucasfilm confirmed this weekend that Arndt will indeed be writing the screenplay for the highly anticipated sequel. According to StarWars.com, the screenwriter has begun in-depth meetings with Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy and "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, who will be a creative consultant on the project.

Arndt's story treatment apparently impressed both Disney and Lucasfilm enough to win him the coveted "Star Wars" job, but some of the screenwriter's previous work surely helped him close the deal.

Arndt burst on the scene in 2006, winning a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for the indie dramedy "Little Miss Sunshine." He followed that success with a very high profile writing job for Disney - penning the screenplay for Pixar's "Toy Story 3." Arndt's work on the family flick earned him a second Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Adapted Screenplay. Although he didn't win, he did become the only screenwriter in history to have his first two scripts nominated for Oscars. Not a bad way to start your Hollywood career.

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Obviously pleased with his critically acclaimed work on "Toy Story 3," Disney put Arndt to work writing more projects, including the film spin-off of their "Phineas and Ferb" TV series and "Tron: Legacy" director Joe Kosinski's big budget sci-fi epic "Oblivion." On top of all that, Arndt has also found time to adapt author Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" sequel "Catching Fire" for the big screen and pen an as-yet-untitled Pixar project from "Up" director Pete Doctor. Arndt is clearly one of the studio's go-to people when they need a movie written, so in retrospect it's really no surprise that he's been tasked with the "Star Wars: Episode VII" duties.

With Arndt now sitting in the writer's hot seat, Disney just has one more major chair to fill so that "Episode VII" can make its 2015 release slot: the director's chair.

Long-time Lucas buddy and "Indiana Jones" collaborator Steven Spielberg was quick to quash rumours that he was being lined up for the job, telling Access Hollywood "Star Wars" simply isn't his genre. With an emphatic "no" Spielberg said "It's my best friend George's genre." While it could be argued that Spielberg already has significant science fiction cred with films like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "E.T. The Extraterrestrial," and "War of the Worlds" under his belt, the "Lincoln" director clearly wants to avoid offending his friend Lucas by honing in on his territory.

See more: What will 'Episode 7' be about?

Spielberg and Lucas superfan-cum-director J.J. Abrams also shot down rumours that he would be directing "Episode VII." The "Star Trek" director told MTV that even though the original "Star Wars" movie is one of all-time favourites, he said it would be committing "fatal sacrilege" for a fan like him to try to make the sequels. "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!"

That still leaves any number of potential candidates, including "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau — who has been enthusiastic about the prospect — "Safety Not Guaranteed" director Colin Trevorow, Pixar wunderkind Brad Bird ("Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol"), and the mysteriously quiet Matthew Vaughn ("X-Men: First Class"). Vaughn suddenly exited the "First Class" sequel "X-Men: Days of Future Past" a few weeks ago, and many have speculated that the reason for his departure was a chance to direct "Star Wars: Episode VII."

Meanwhile, StarWars.com posted the second in a series of videos where George Lucas and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy talk about the future of the franchise. No major revelations yet, but there's definitely some interesting things said by the pair.

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