By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 9, 2012 at 9:36PM
It's official. Kathleen Kennedy confirms that Michael Arndt is the new writer for "Star Wars: Episode VII." She was celebrating the AFI FEST closing night world premiere of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" Thursday, along with Disney chairman Robert Iger, who when pressed, admitted that he wouldn't have paid $4.05 billion for Lucasfilm if he didn't think Disney, Lucasfilm and Kennedy couldn't turn out the best "Star Wars" film ever made. UPDATE: Lucasfilm is taking its news direct to fans; Kennedy and George Lucas talk about the new "Star Wars" on the Lucasfilm video below.
Well, if they're setting their sights that high--remember, this is the same studio that wrote off $200 million on "John Carter" and has allowed Gore Verbinski to spend like a drunken sailor on "The Lone Ranger"--Michael Arndt ("Hunger Games: Catching Fire") is the way to go. One of the most tantalizing bits of information from the Lucasfilm conference call with Iger was the existence of a 40-page treatment for the next three "Star Wars" episodes. I assumed Lucas himself had written this. It turns out it was Arndt. That's why he had the inside shot on writing the script, which could lure a top director (say, Kennedy/Lucas collaborator Spielberg, as opposed to J.J. Abrams, who has taken himself out of the running, or the rumored Matthew Vaughn) as well as Episodes IV, V and VI stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill.
Iger was fast to point out that Arndt was a Disney writer--he wrote Pixar's Oscar-nominated "Toy Story 3." (My "TS3" interview with brainy scribe Arndt is here; he talked about "Little Miss Sunshine" here.) Arndt is also a huge "Star Wars" nerd who has analyzed the series inside and out for clues to its success. May the Force be with him.