Gary Whitta on drawing inspiration from original Star Wars trilogy, writing a spinoff

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Feb 23, 2015, 5:33 PM EST (Updated)

After growing up as just another kid geeking out to Star Wars at the cineplex, Gary Whitta is now tasked with writing his own chapter in the saga. No pressure, right?

While promoting his new book, Whitta (The Book of Eli, After Earth) sat down with /Film for a wide-ranging interview — with a lot of it focused on his love for Star Wars. Aside from finishing up his novel, Whitta also spent the past year writing the mysterious Star Wars spinoff that’ll be directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla). We still don’t know what it’s about, but after hearing from Whitta, we can just about guarantee it’ll take some nods from the original trilogy.

Whitta wears his fandom on his sleeve, and it’s nice to see that the guy tasked with laying out the skeleton of the first proper spinoff film is bringing a ton of passion for the franchise to the table. He touched on fondness for the original trilogy over the prequel films, and tells a funny story about how he accidentally ruined some of the biggest story twists for his wife by trying to follow the chronological order:

“Yeah, I’m definitely of that generation for whom the original trilogy was pretty much a defining event. I cried at the end of Return of the Jedi, not just because it was such a perfect emotional ending to the saga but because I knew that the story was over. I spent every spare penny of my pocket money on the toys and action figures. I think my generation was really fortunate to have Star Wars when they were growing up, it’s certainly no accident that it inspired so many of today’s biggest film-makers and storytellers. I know there’s been a thousand books and articles written about it but I really think it’s impossible to truly gauge just how big an influence those movies have had…

Somebody once told me that each generation thinks the best era for pop music was whichever one they grew up with. I think that’s true of movies too. I’m a child of the 80s so I have a particular fondness for the movies of the 80s that had such a formative impact on me when I was a kid. So I totally understand that we have a new generation growing up now that loves the prequels in the same way that people of my generation love the original trilogy. And soon there will be another generation that will no doubt love the new films that are being made now the most. I just urge anyone who is coming to Star Wars for the first time NOT to watch the films in chronological order. DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT watch the prequels first. Watch them in the order they were made. When I first met my wife she had never seen a Star Wars movie so I thought it would be an interesting experiment to show her all six films in chronological order. She has still never forgiven me for that, and rightly so. Not only does it blow the Darth Vader reveal in Empire, it also blows what I think is often forgotten as just as great a reveal – that Yoda is not just some annoying little swamp creature but in fact a great Jedi Master.”

Whitta obviously couldn’t say much about the film itself, though he did note that the franchise played a defining role in his tastes — and he definitely feels the pressure to do right by the fans (and himself in the process) by turning in the best possible script:

“I think any time you’re dealing with something that has some personal significance to you, you instinctively approach it with a great degree of appreciation and respect. I grew up with Star Wars, it played a pivotal role in setting me on my lifelong course as a writer, so to have the opportunity to contribute a new piece to the ongoing legacy of that is both humbling and daunting. I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder on anything or with more conviction and commitment, and that includes my own original projects, which I never thought I’d hear myself say. If you ask my wife she’d tell you I was not the easiest person to live with while I was working on it because I was unable to think about anything else the vast majority of the time…

Well they say that golf is the only sport where as a professional there is actually the chance that you’ll get to play alongside your heroes, and that’s true of film too. Certainly in this case I got to meet and work alongside people I consider legends in the movie business and personal heroes of mine, so it was certainly unique in that aspect.”

The currently untitled Star Wars spinoff is slated to open Dec. 16, 2016.

(Via /Film)