‘Star Wars’ veteran Lawrence Kasdan prepares to return to a galaxy far, far away

It's exciting that Disney's resurrection of "Star Wars" is going to involve new recruits to the franchise like director J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Simon Kinberg. But there's also a certain comfort in the fact that old war horses (or old Tauntauns, rather?) like Lawrence Kasdan are going to be around to keep things from getting too whippersnapper-ish.

Kasdan, whose writing and directing credits include "The Big Chill," "Silverado" and "The Accidental Tourist," has been a part of "Star Wars" since, well, the days of the Old Republic. He penned the screenplay for "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), following up "A New Hope" with a darker, edgier, more character-driven and -- as is almost universally agreed upon -- ultimately better chapter. After working with George Lucas again on the script for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), he returned to "Star Wars" with his screenplay for "Return of the Jedi" (1983).

Thirty years later, Kasdan is back in the cockpit of his X-Wing fighter (or wherever it is that "Star Wars" writers do their thing) as an official creative consultant on the new wave of "Star Wars" films being planned by the Disney-acquired Lucasfilm. Kasdan will be mentoring Michael Arndt ("Little Miss Sunshine") through the script for "Episode VII," though he'll also, along with "Sherlock Holmes" writer Simon Kinberg, be working on a series of stand-alone spinoff films that will focus on individual "Star Wars" characters.

Kasdan spoke about his return to the "Star Wars" galaxy with both IGN and Hero Complex at last week's Final Draft Big Break screenwriting awards, where Kasdan received the organization's Hall of Fame award. And, like a true "Star Wars" veteran, he was able to inspire excitement for the upcoming movies without revealing one single detail about them.

"They’re going to be fun," Kasdan said to IGN. "J.J. [Abrams]'s a great director for the first sequel. Perfect. We're very happy to have him. The writers I've been working with -- Michael Arndt, who's going to write the sequel, and Simon Kinberg, who has, like me, been sort of consulting -- they're great. I’ve never really collaborated a lot, and I've never been a room with a bunch of writers thinking, 'Well, what should this thing be?' It's really fun."

Not surprisingly, Kasdan wouldn't confirm the rumors that the first round of spinoff films will be focusing on Yoda, Han Solo and Boba Fett. However, we should look forward to something of a "new beginning" for "Star Wars," even if we'll be revisiting familiar characters.

"I'm trying to start fresh," Kasdan said to Hero Complex. "There are certain pleasures that we think the saga can bring to people that they've been missing, and we're hoping to bring them that, and at the same time, have them feel that it's all new."

When asked if it will be strange to explore this fresh start without series creator George Lucas being involved, Kasdan pointed out that it was Lucas who brought him on board the new Disney-led projects last fall ... "sort of," at least.

"George sort of brought me into this part of it, and he's stepping back from the company," Kasdan said to Hero Complex. "He's sort of given his blessing to everybody, and he'll be there if you need him. I think everyone's interested to see where this can go. It's been to some very different places over 30 years ... I think with J.J., we'll get something entirely new."

Finally, Kasdan revealed himself as something of a rebel in the world of "Star Wars," as he's one of the few people who doesn't consider "The Empire Strikes Back" -- a film he wrote himself -- to be the best "Star Wars" movie to date.

"I must say, I think that the great, great film is the first 'Star Wars,'" Kasdan said to Hero Complex. "I do. It's hilarious, and it changed movies forever."

We don't know if "hilarious" is the first word that comes to mind when we think of "A New Hope," but there's no denying that at this point Kasdan knows the "Star Wars" universe inside and out. The new movies are in good shape as young Padawans like Abrams are being guided by such a wise Jedi Master.