"We could go on making 'Star Wars' for the next 100 years."
Under different circumstances, George Lucas uttering those words would send shivers down the spines of film fans across the world. However things are different now; Lucas has flogged 'Star Wars' to Disney.
With many commentators (including us) cautiously optimistic about the sale, it's time to turn to the next phase of the news cycle: the nuts and bolts of what 'Episode VII' will actually be like. Disney want it out there by 2015 (possibly the same year as 'Avengers 2', interestingly), so they have to get cracking on it... well, now.
The expanded universe
As the news broke fans immediately turned to the "expanded universe", a term used to label 'Star Wars' stories, whether told in books, games, comics or cartoons, that form part of the wider franchise narrative.
Speculation turned to Timothy Zahn's 'Thrawn Trilogy'; novels set after 'Return of the Jedi' that continue the story of Luke, Leia and Han as the New Republic fends off a resurgent Imperial threat led by military mastermind Grand Admiral Thrawn.
They would make ideal fodder for a new trilogy of movies, but don't hold your breath: according to a Disney source quoted by E!, the new films will be original works.
Lucas himself has gone on record before ruling out this material. He told Total Film: "Now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn't at all what I would have done with it. The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn't come back to life, the Emperor doesn't get cloned and Luke doesn't get married...".
There are hundreds more stories from the expanded universe that could yet serve as inspiration for the new films however. The 'Star Wars' mythology is rich in history, archetypes and settings that any screenwriter tasked with writing the new films could find influence in.
The Lucas stories
George Lucas, in a video released this week, acknowledges the existence of story treatments for a new trilogy that he had written and which will be passed on to those now in charge of the series. Whether they will be used or not isn't entirely clear but a lot has been said about Lucas' planned sequel trilogy for many years now.
After the original 'Star Wars' was a smash hit, Lucas sketched out many more films, including the prequels that were eventually made. He has admitted as much in an interview with Time in which he said: "The first script was one of six original stories I had written in the form of two trilogies. After the success of 'Star Wars', I added another trilogy."
Gary Kurtz, who worked as a producer on 'A New Hope' and 'The Empire Strikes Back' has also blabbed about the planned films, saying that they wouldn't have fitted with what eventually transpired in 'Return of the Jedi'. Luke's sister wasn't supposed to be Leia at first, and that the Emperor wouldn't have been introduced until 'Episode IX'.
Speaking recently about treatments that he had read, Lucas' unofficial biographer Dale Pollock told The Wrap: "It was originally a 12-part saga. The three most exciting stories were 7, 8 and 9. They had propulsive action, really interesting new worlds, new characters. I remember thinking, 'I want to see these 3 movies.'"
Pollock went on to say that the next films would feature an older Luke Skywalker, who as a Jedi Master begins teaching people in the ways of the force. This also fits with vague outlines talked about by Kurtz. Pollock also stated that Lucas wouldn't have turned to Mark Hamill to reprise his iconic role.
Despite the actor being 61, Pollock said: "They will need an older Luke Skywalker."
The old gang back again?
Despite the claims above, Mark Hamill admitted this week that Lucas had sat down with himself and Carrie Fisher over a year ago to tell them that new 'Star Wars' films were in the pipeline.
"I was just gobsmacked," said the actor. "There's this ravenous desire on the part of the true believers to have more and more and more material. It's one of those things: people either just don't care for it or are passionate about it. I guess that defines what cult movies are all about."
When pushed Hamill said he had no idea if he would have a part to play in any new film, claiming Lucas only told the pair so they would be the first to know.
Would audiences even want to see an older Luke and Leia on screen? The duo would doubtless leap at the chance to play those iconic roles again, but it would be a bit weird unless they were given small supporting parts.
There's a chance with these new films for a clean break from the mistakes of the past. Disney and the new-look Lucasfilm will be aware of this, so a new set of characters would seem much more likely.
Who'll be in charge?
More than actors, it's the director of 'Part VII' who will come under the most scrutiny. By 2015 it will have been 32 years since someone other than George Lucas was in charge of a 'Star Wars' film.
Every decent director under the age of 60 will invariably be linked to the new film in some way before an announcement is made. Already obvious names like JJ Abrams (who as director of the 'Star Trek' reboot seems very unlikely) and Christopher Nolan (come on!) are being thrown around, but some less famous names are interesting.
In the world of science fiction Duncan Jones has made a name for himself with his first two efforts 'Moon' and 'Source Code'. Then there's Alfonso Cuaron, director of 'Children of Men' and upcoming award-magnet 'Gravity' starring George Clooney. He's superb.
Disney could look within their own ranks, and more specifically towards Pixar. Andrew Stanton directed 'Finding Nemo' and 'Wall-E' before moving into the live action realm with 'John Carter'. Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out.
Brad Bird, who directed 'The Incredibles' and more recently 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' is another possibility with ties to the Mouse House.
Of course sci-fi chops aren't mandatory. The tone of the script Lucasfilm eventually goes with should dictate the director.
What would you like to see from the new 'Star Wars' films? Let us know in the comments below.