By Michael Ordona - San Francisco Chronicle

Lawrence Kasdan keeps ‘Hope’ alive in 7th ‘Star Wars’ installment

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In this Dec. 6, 2015 file photo, co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan poses during a promotion for the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” in Los Angeles. The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Dec. 18.
AP photo

Somewhere along the line, Lawrence Kasdan — he of the scripts rollicking (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”), lustful (“Body Heat”) and throwback fun (“Silverado”) — became the wise old man of the Star Wars’ universe. Not the Yoda, of course; that’s George Lucas.

“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Kasdan said with a laugh. “I love Obi-Wan.”

When it’s pointed out that might mean he’s in line to be killed and disappear, he immediately comes back with, “But if I’m struck down, I’m more powerful than ever.”

Kasdan, 66, who co-wrote “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” was cajoled by Lucas and producer Kathleen Kennedy into coming back to write the upcoming movie on the origin of Han Solo, his favorite character “by far,” he said.

But they also persuaded him to “consult” on Episode VII, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” As he puts it, “It was a million different ideas being considered for months. I would come in once or twice a week for that.”

That led to him taking over the writing reins for that one too, along with director J.J. Abrams.

“The challenge for J.J. and everybody involved, given that people have seen thousands of rip-offs of ‘A New Hope’: It’s hard to see things fresh,” Kasdan said. “Can you put the individual stamp of Star Wars on something after all that interference? Does the movie have a sense of freshness?”

The writer not only enjoyed returning to familiar characters (including Solo), but relished the opportunity to study the effect of the passage of time on them.

“We’re not ignoring it,” Kasdan says. “So Han and Leia and Luke are all 30 years older since ‘Jedi.’ So am I. So is J.J. So there’s something natural about that.”

In the 32 years between “Jedi” and “Force Awakens,” Kasdan has been nominated for four Oscars and collected the Writers Guild of America’s Laurel Award for screenwriting achievement.

“I think this generally about all of life: You don’t get any smarter; you don’t get any wiser. What happens is, you pile up experiences. Experience is helpful,” he said.

Apart from “Jedi,” Kasdan had never written a sequel to his own work until “Force,” and now he’s writing that Han Solo prequel. (When asked if he wanted to continue any of his other movies, say, “Grand Canyon,” Kasdan offers the tag line: “It’s deeper and wider.”)

“Han is about 10 years younger than we saw him in ‘A New Hope.’ What was he like before he was the guy we met in the cantina? The guy we met was very wary and cynical and tough and expected to be double-crossed and was barely scraping along. This movie sees him before he was all those things.”

As a major bonus to the experience, the writer mentions his partner on it is son, Jon Kasdan.

“We’ve written it together. It’s great. The Star Wars saga is so much about fathers and sons and generations. … My son has directed two movies on his own; this is the first thing we’ve worked on together. It’s been really fun,” the elder Kasdan said.

As a parting word, perhaps to assuage the fears of fans still traumatized by the prequel trilogy, Kasdan says confidently of “Force Awakens”: “The movie as a whole honors our goals: Would it be fun? Would it take you back to the excitement you felt in ‘A New Hope’ or ‘Empire’? Would you get that feeling? Would you get the feeling that this is delightful? Are the more serious elements there, but in their proper place? Because it’s mainly fun. That’s the way it’s designed, that’s the way J.J. made it.”

Reach Weekender at [email protected]

By Michael Ordona

San Francisco Chronicle

In this Dec. 6, 2015 file photo, co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan poses during a promotion for the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” in Los Angeles. The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Dec. 18.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_kasdan.jpgIn this Dec. 6, 2015 file photo, co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan poses during a promotion for the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” in Los Angeles. The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Dec. 18. AP photo
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Reach Weekender at [email protected]