Author Timothy Zahn of Heir to the Empire talks Star Wars Episode 7


It’s been a big news week – well, for anyone that’s owned a Greedo or Admiral Ackbar action-figure at one stage in their life.

And it’s likely that “Star Wars” will remain a trending twitter topic well beyond Lucasfilm’s sale to Disney, particularly with plans to do Episodes 7 to 9 in-foot.

Though Lucasfilm has said the storyline for the new trilogy – set after the events of “Return of the Jedi” – will be an original one, conceived by George Lucas (who won’t be writing or directing any of the films, simply consulting on them), the writers of the various “Star Wars” books out there are understandably crossing their fingers that they get a call from ‘the ranch’ to come down and assist on those scripts.

Timothy Zahn, who in 1991 wrote a series of books that follow the events of “Return of the Jedi”, beginning with the acclaimed “Heir to the Empire”, tells EW that he doesn’t think Lucasfilm will use anything from his books – – but he can hope.

Still, he thinks it unlikely that Thrawn, the villain he created for ‘Heir to the Empire’, will be a fixture in the film trilogy.

“The original idea as I understood it— and Lucas changes his mind off and on, so it may not be what he’s thinking right now – but it was going to be three generations. You’d have the original trilogy, then go back to Luke’s father and find out what happened to him [in the prequels], and if there was another 7th, 8th, or 9th film, it would be Luke’s children. The Thrawn Trilogy really would have fit into the gap,” the author said.

Having said that, Lucas has borrowed things from Zahn’s books for his “Star Wars” films – like the name of the planet ‘Coruscant’.

“Another thing in the Thrawn trilogy was the catching of Force lightning with a lightsaber blade. Apparently, George thought that was a cool visual and put it in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, so he has been keeping a close eye on what has been done,” Zahn says.

“It could be an entirely new storyline, but if he picks and chooses bits and pieces from the expanded universe, we’d all be thrilled to death.”

Zahn says he’d love to see a bit more of a ‘family’ storyline introduced into the series – preferably the Skywalker family.

“I’d like to see the original characters in perhaps smaller roles, handing the mantle of adventure to the next generation. Luke would be like Obi-Wan, but not quite the same because he will have raised his children and Obi-Wan was more standing off, watching and protecting,” Zahn says.

“I’d love to see a good father-son, or mother-son, or daughter story. I’d like to see family. We haven’t seen a lot of good family stuff in Star Wars. A lot of it has been dysfunctional, and driven by somebody else. Anakin was a slave and manipulated all his life. Luke and Leia never knew each other…

“Some family interaction would be something different for the new movies to do – against the backdrop of excitement and adventure that forms the basis of Star Wars,” Zahn says. “There are a lot of directions you can go with the Skywalker families and really kick some serious butt.”

The Oregon-based author hopes the original cast will get a look-in.

“Frankly, I’m interested to see what they’re going to do,” Zahn says. “Is Lucas going to skip a generation so that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher can do their roles at the proper age? Or would they try some CG ‘youthing,’ like the filmmakers did with [Jeff Bridges] in Tron: Legacy? Could they reboot and use different actors? That sounds like it would be a horrible sacrilege, but Star Trek got away with it.”

Zahn said if Lucas was considering using the storyline from the books for the new films, he doesn’t have to be informed, so it’s likely the first time he hears of it is either on the internet or in the cinema, when he sits down to watch the next film for the first time.

“It certainly could be happening,” the author says. “They have no obligation to touch base. As with any other franchise, once we write something, it’s owned by Lucasfilm, as it should be. It’s their property. “

He has been surprised before. “I’ve had conversations with friends over the years and they’d say, ‘Oh, Thrawn is in a new video game,’ and that would be the first I heard about it. So they could film the whole Thrawn trilogy without me ever knowing until I sat down in the theater!”

According to The LA Times, a number of known screenwriters have already visited Lucasfilm to talk about possibly penning the new trilogy.

In the months before Disney announced it would acquire “Star Wars” studio Lucasfilm, several different screenwriters paid visits to Lucasfilm’s Northern California compound to pitch George Lucas and his co-chair Kathleen Kennedy their ideas for the new live-action installment, the series’ seventh, according to a person familiar with the talks who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about them. The screenwriters were pitching ideas for a new story, not ones adapted from existing “Star Wars” books.

The person did not reveal the identities of the people who had met with Lucas and Kennedy but said they were well-known screenwriters with experience creating big-budget Hollywood films. A spokeswoman for Lucasfilm on Wednesday did not return a call seeking comment.

“Star Wars : Episode 7” will be released in 2015.