Rogue One's Gary Whitta Tells Us His Plans for a Last Starfighter Reboot

Concept art for a new Last Starfighter released by Gary Whitta today.
Concept art for a new Last Starfighter released by Gary Whitta today.
Image: Matt Allsopp (Twitter)

On Twitter, Rogue One and Book of Eli screenwriter Gary Whitta just dropped a huge bombshell: He’s working with Jonathan Betuel, the writer of The Last Starfighter, to finally try and reboot it for the big screen. We reached out to learn more, and Whitta told us why now is the perfect time to bring it back.

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Whitta just nonchalantly revealed the project as “a little something” he’s been working on with Betuel, alongside four gorgeous pieces of concept art depicting the iconic ships from Nick Castle’s beloved 1984 classic, as rendered by Rogue One lead concept artist Matt Allsopp.

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There’s literally nothing else to go on right now, other than the fact that Whitta and Betuel are in the early stages of getting a reboot off the ground—something Hollywood has been trying to do for quite some time. So we reached out to the writer, and here’s what he had to tell us about his plan.

io9: What’s your personal history with The Last Starfighter?

Gary Whitta: It’s always been one of my all-time favorites. It is a deeply special movie for me. In terms of movies that stirred my imagination as a kid, it’s right up there with Star Wars. Maybe because I was a video game junkie back then, but the idea that playing a game could be a magic ticket to a real space adventure, I just always thought that concept was utterly brilliant. The film is sorely underrated in my view, although it’s endured as a cult classic and every time I bring it up in conversation people seem to just light up. There’s a tremendous undercurrent of fondness out there for it.

Why was now the right time to bring it back?

Whitta: The simple answer to that is Jonathan Betuel. Jon created and wrote the original movie, it was all his idea, a spec script he wrote while he was working as a waiter in Hollywood in the early ’80s. There was a whole bidding war over that script. In all the years hence, whenever I’ve brought up the idea of a Starfighter reboot in meetings, people would always convey excitement and then say that it’s impossible because the rights are a mess. It’s true that it’s not simple, but part of the key to it is, as I understand it (and I’m not a lawyer), Jon still retains some piece of ownership of the original IP, so no one can make a new movie without his participation. I happened to track Jon down, and after I was done pestering him with all my fanboy questions about the original film we started to talk about what a new version might look like. Since then we’ve spent so many hours working on it I’ve long since lost count, but right now we have a fully developed story that is a combination of reboot and sequel that we both think honors the legacy of the original film while passing the torch to a new generation. We’re both very excited about it creatively.

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What does it mean to you to be trying to bring this world back to the big screen right now in the midst of some other similar projects being developed?

Whitta: All I know is, we’re trying really hard to make this a reality. It’s a passion project for Jon and me both. And I know we have a great movie here. But we still need to deal with some remaining biz stuff before we can really move forward. We’ve had a lot of talks with Universal. We’re determined, one way or another, to make this happen. Trying to create in Hollywood is always like pushing a boulder uphill, particularly when there are archaic rights issues involved, but we’re going to keep trying. That’s the lesson of Starfighter... when you get your chance you’ve got to grab it with both hands, and hold on tight.

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You tagged Seth Rogen on your reveal of the concept art on Twitter. Is he involved?

Whitta: I know Seth is a fan of the original and he’s tried to get this done before too. We’ve chatted on Twitter about it. Personally I think he’d make a fantastic Centauri.

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We’ll bring you more on the Last Starfighter reboot as we learn it—for now, feast your eyes on those glorious Gunstars.

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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DISCUSSION

My brother and I wrote this over the weekend:

The next installment of teaser trailers of sequels we would like to see (with some help from CROSIS101):

EXT: A sunny day late afternoon. The camera pans over a trailer park. It rests on a diner at the outskirts of the trailer park. There are people there, dressed in black. There is an African American woman and her daughter saying good bye to people and thanking them for coming and paying their respects. A few say things like “he was a wonderful man” and “your grandfather gave us hope.” As the last people leave, the daughter, in her mid teens, sits at a table. Her mother comes over to her.

“Mom, do you believe the story grandpa used to tell, about that night?

“I wasn’t here when it happened. Not many left who were. But people around here seem to believe it.”

“Do you believe it?”

The mom is picking up some dishes and making a stack. “I believe a bright young man with a bright future died in a car wreck after drinking on a beach and people made up a better story.”

“Why do you think so many people believed it?”

“Because, around here, people need hope. They want to believe if you’re good enough, smart enough, you get a chance at something better.”

“Nobody around here ever gets a chance.”

“Your grandpa used to say ‘things change, always do. You’ll get your chance. Important thing is, when it comes, you’ve got to grab it with both hands; hold on tight.’”

The mother continues to clean while the daughter sits at the table. The mother asks, “can you take the extra chairs and put them in storage for me?”

The daughter stands, folds up a few chairs, and tucks one under each arm.

INT SHED: the daughter opens the door. She enters and sets the chairs against a wall and turns to leave. Her back to us, we hear a sound, a slight whirring, electronic kind of sound. She turns to face the camera. The shot switches to being behind her. There is an old arcade game, covered in dust against the wall. She walks forward.

Close up, she plugs in the game and stands.

Close up of her face, illuminated by the light of the video game. It speaks.

“Greetings Starfighter.”

Cut to black.

Fade in: Recruiting again, this summer.