Star Wars: Episode VII Gets Official Release Date; Abrams Gives Explanation For Screenwriter Change

With all the recent buzz behind J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII going around in the past couple of weeks, it'd be safe to assume that many fans (including myself) have had much reason for concern over the current status of film. Reports last week brought us news that Michael Arndt (Toys Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine) would no longer be working on the film's screenplay, and that Empire Strike's Back writer Lawrence Kasdan along with Abrams himself would now be taking over from him. More recently, new  speculation emerged indicating that conflicts were emerging between LucasFilm President and Episode VII producer Kathleen Kennedy and Disney CEO Bob Iger over pushing the film's release back to 2016. Well now fans can finally put their concerns at ease as the official release date for Episode VII has been revealed, and yes, it is in 2015.

The news of the film's release date comes to us via Starwars.com itself, so it really can't get more official than that. As I stated above, there were recent rumblings that producer Kathleen Kennedy was pushing for the film's release date to be pushed back to 2016, in order to give more time to Abrams, and apparently more time for Arndt to finish the films script (Which it would seem was taking longer than originally expected). Well none of this speculation has been confirmed nor denied, apparently Disney head Bob Iger was very keen on the film making the 2015 release, as it's now been set to hit theaters on December 18, 2015.
The release doesn't come as much of surprise, as Disney already has quite a few heavy hitters set for Summer 2015, and squeezing in such a major project like Episode VII in there didn't exactly seem like a smart move. It's hard to tell whether a December release was Disney's original intention, as they've now moved Brad Bird's upcoming Tommorowland from it's December 2014 release date to May 22, 2015, which is the month all previous Star Wars films were released in. It's likely Kennedy and Iger came to some sort of compromise over the film's release which pushed it back to late 2015. The film's release date keeps it clear from any of 2015's major competition including WB's Superman Vs. Batman and Universal's Jurassic World, but it does pit the film directly against Duncan Jones' upcoming World of Warcraft film; Warcraft, which could be a bit risky for a film hoping to attract all walks of fanboys.
While the sudden shift in screenwriters seemed like a drastic move, it seems the reason for the change was really made in relation to getting the script completed quicker. Initial reports had led many to assume that the reason behind Kasdan and Abrams taking over script duties was due to dissatisfaction with the script written by Arndt, some sites even going as far as to say that Kasdan and Abrams would be starting the script from scratch. Well now Abrams set the record straight when talking to Deadline, and clears up any false speculation for the recent change, and also pointing out that this they may not be the last time Arndt takes part in a future Star Wars project. According to Abrams: 

“It became clear that given the time frame and given the process and the way the thing was going that working with Larry [Kasdan] in this way was going to get us where we need to be and when we needed to be… Working with Michael [Arndt] was a wonderful experience and I couldn’t be a bigger fan of his or adore him more, He’s a wonderful guy and was incredibly helpful in the process.”
So now with the film's release date and screen writing all sorted out, let's move on to the more reason news involving the film's cast. We reported a few weeks ago that actress Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, The Host) had confirmed that she auditioned for Star Wars: Episode VII. Well now the actress has seemingly confirmed that she's no longer in contention for the part, stating the following in a discussion with Indiewire:

"I don't have the role," Ronan said, sounding kind of defeated. "I just shouldn't have said anything. I just auditioned for it, like everyone else did."
But while Ronan is no longer up for a part in the film, recent rumors have been circulating that actor Chitwetel Ejoifor, who recently starred in the critically acclaimed 12 Years A Slave, may have a part in the film. Ejoifor has previously starred the lead villain in Joss Whedon's space epic Serenity, so Episode VII definitely seems like something up his ally. When asked about his involvement with Episode VII in an interview Ejoifor played coy, similar to Benedict Cumberbatch and Harrison Ford, so is this an indication that he may in fact have some sort of part in the film? It's anyone's guess at this point.
So are you happy with the December 18 release date? How do you feel about Abrams and Kasdan now writing the script?