When Disney bought Lucasfilm everybody - including Disney, I think - was under the assumption they have a Star Wars Episode VII ready to move into pre-production. They had a treatment from Michael Arndt that they loved, and then they brought in JJ Abrams to direct the movie. It looked like the film was moving ahead. But then delays crept into the process. From the outside it wasn't clear what was happening, just that there was deafening radio silence from within the Star Wars camp. There wasn't even a release date. Some believed that this was because Abrams was engaged in deep secrecy.
Then the truth came out. We hadn't heard anything because there was nothing to hear. The Arndt script was thrown out and Abrams had begun work from more or less scratch, if my sources were to be believed. The film was pushed back out of the traditional May Star Wars slot into a December date that barely kept it within 2015 - basically a date that would keep Bob Iger's promise to the shareholders to release the movie in 2015.
There's been nothing new since then. As other 2015 movies gear up and begin casting, Star Wars has remained quiet. Today a small piece of news hit Twitter that gives us a sense of just where the film is at the moment:
Disney expects to see a script in January. Alan Horn, chairman of Disney Studios, is speaking to a Variety breakfast crowd right now, and Variety's Marc Graser tweets that he expects to see a script in January. Without a script there's no budget, but the studio expects it to be at least $200 million.
This is the moment that's making or breaking Episode VII*. In a few years we'll look back and be glad that Abrams fought to rewrite the script and that he took his time with it... or we'll look back and see that this was a period of massive indecision and uncertainty that led Abrams slamming into a brick wall of a hard deadline. I hope for the best, but Abrams has a reputation as a guy who's not great at making decisions and who dithers when it comes time to make a choice. I've heard it from FX guys to marketing guys to screenwriters - Abrams needs people to pull the ideas out of his head bit by bit. He's not a guy who walks into a room and says "This is the color of the jacket!" He's a guy who walks into a room and asks for 400 color samples.
Everybody has their own way of working, and for fans of Abrams that way of working has worked. There's no way today to know what the truth is behind the scenes or whether Abrams' process will be bringing us the best possible Star Wars or a movie that will eventually emerge half-baked (like Star Trek into Darkness and Super 8). I will tell you this: once that script is handed in expect leaks to start. In other words: Star Wars news starts hitting early next year.
* artistically. This movie will make crazy money even if it's absolutely terrible.