'Star Wars: Episode VII' director J.J. Abrams drops new hints about film

'Star Wars: Episode VII' is set to begin filming in January, according to director J.J. Abrams. He also spoke briefly about his vision for how the film will fit in to the franchise.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/File
J.J. Abrams arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Star Trek Into Darkness' at The Dolby Theater on May 14. He's set to begin filming 'Star Wars: Episode VII' next year.

The prospect of "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams helming "Star Wars: Episode VII" is so intriguing that every time the famous words come out of his mouth, it's news – and he knows it.

So Saturday, when Mr. Abrams spoke at a conference for film producers in Los Angeles, he allowed himself the leeway to touch on the subject – but only briefly.

Filming for "Episode VII" is set to begin in January in London, he said. All six "Star Wars" movies have been produced in London, and Abrams acknowledged that he was not excited about maintaining that particular part of "Star Wars" tradition, given the inconvenience of relocating his family.

Though the move "really does make me insane," he told the Produced By Conference, "We are, most likely, if all goes as planned, going to be moving to London at the end of the year for the 'Star Wars' movie."

As a director, Abrams has shot exclusively in Los Angeles, even personally funding part of "Star Trek: Into Darkness" so he could work out of Hollywood, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

On other "Star Wars" traditions, the director was more charitable, though perhaps less deferential. The franchise, he said, "is so massive and so important to people. I think the key to moving forward on something like this is honoring but not revering what came before."

So far, that could be the motto for all the moves made by Disney, which bought Lucasfilm last year and announced plans for at least three more "Star Wars" films, with "Episode VII" coming in 2015.

Despite having directed two "Star Trek" films, Abrams told the Los Angeles Times in 2009: "As a kid, 'Star Wars' was much more my thing than 'Star Trek' was." In fact, one of the reasons he was first drawn to work with "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof was that Mr. Lindelof was wearing a "Star Wars" shirt the first time they met, according to media reports.

Yet his pedigree suggests he is not seen as a caretaker of the franchise, but rather the means for giving fresh life to its characters and storytelling, which quickly grew stale in the three prequels done by George Lucas.

How he navigates incorporating alumni of the original trilogy who have reportedly signed on to play roles in "Episode VII" – including Mark Hammill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) – without making it seemed contrived is a first challenge.

In that, too, Disney has sought to honor but not revere, signing screenwriter Michael Arndt ("Toy Story 3") to team with Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."

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