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Disney Chief Talks 'Star Wars' Casting, Budgets and Expectations

"We need to give the audience a full meal in return for their affection and devotion and love for these properties," says Alan Horn about next year's "Episode VII."

Star Wars Tatooine Scene - H 2014
Courtesy Everett Collection

For those curious to find out just who will be hanging around in a galaxy far, far away in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Wars movie, the wait is almost over, with Disney chairman Alan Horn saying that an official casting announcement will be coming “very shortly.”

Talking to Bloomberg Television about Episode VII, Horn said that casting is “almost complete,” adding that “we’re not prepared to announce it yet, but we will be very shortly.” He explained that, despite earlier reports, principal photography hasn’t started on the film, with the Abu Dhabi shoot described as “some second-unit work … because we have all these locations we have to film and we have to give it that Star Warsian look.”

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Horn also revealed that Disney doesn’t have a finished budget for Abrams’ Star Wars entry, although he estimated it as in a range akin to Marvel Studios’ output. “These large, tentpole kinds of movies, on the expensive side, are in the neighborhood of $175-200 million, that kind of a number,” he said. “Some are more, some are less. We need to give the audience, essentially, a full meal in return for their affection and devotion and love for these properties.”

Although Disney is “the primary driver behind the property” post 2012’s Lucasfilm purchase, Horn underlined that Star Wars creator George Lucas remains “a very valued person” to the franchise, and a consultant on the property moving forward. “Kathy [Kennedy] interacts with him, back and forth, I think,” he said, referring to the current president of Lucasfilm.

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Even Lucas didn’t have the pull to keep the tradition of the movies’ May openings in place, however; Episode VII has a December 2015 release date. That might change in future, Horn admitted. “We may revert,” he said, talking about the possibility of May openings for future Star Wars releases. “It depends on the readiness of the screenplays and where we are.”