Deadline has posted a few relevant quotes from J.J. Abrams on the removal of Michael Arndt from scripting duties on Episode VII:
“It became clear that given the time frame and given the process and the way the thing was going that working with Larry in this way was going to get us where we need to be and when we needed to be,” said the Episode VII director Thursday. “Working with Larry Kasdan, especially on a Star Wars movie is kind of unbeatable,” Abrams told Deadline.
“Working with Michael 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,” Abrams said of Arndt. The director also noted that while he and Kasdan have taken over the script for the first of the three new Star Wars films that Disney has planned over the next few years, “that doesn’t preclude working with Michael again in the future.” Abrams added, “he is one of the best writers around.”
That doesn’t really tell us much, but it does contradict the earlier report by The Hollywood Reporter that Arndt left the project of his own accord. It also lines up with rumours that the script needed to move in a different direction (namely, a shift from Solos to one or more Skywalkers).
The picture seems pretty clear if you read between the lines and put everything together. WARNING: The following is speculation…
Arndt’s script was “off” in at least one key way, and Abrams felt (especially after talking with George Lucas) that the script needed to be reworked somehow. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to do the work needed.
Kathleen Kennedy successfully negotiated a six month extension, pushing the release back to December 2015. That bought an additional few months for post-production and an additional few months for script work. The shoot was pushed back to spring 2014, but Abrams (with Lawrence Kasdan in tow) couldn’t see further progress with Arndt being made in the direction needed, given that the extension only amounted to a few more months on the script at best. Abrams and Kasdan took the reins just to get things to where they needed to be in short order. As a bonus, Disney and Lucasfilm get to tout that Episode VII will be co-written by the co-writer of Empire, which will of course get great media buzz.