The amount of pressure on JJ Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens is starting to reach a fever pitch. One of the factors that Disney is counting upon is its ability to launch a number of spin-off films that will fill the year-long gaps between this newest installment, the upcoming Rian Johnson helmed Episode VIII, and the eventual Episode IX.

Gareth Edwards‘ film – the first of these stand-alones and reported to center on the heist-like premise of an attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star before the events of “A New Hope” – suffered its first set-back when writer Gary Whitta left the project.

THR is now reporting that Disney has found his replacement in writer Chris Weitz (A Better Life, The Golden Compass). Weitz is also the writer for the upcoming Cinderella film, and the writer/co-director for the Oscar-nominated About a Boy.

The Edwards directed Star Wars entry is set for release on December 16, 2016. It’s likely we’ll start to hear the first whispers of a cast fairly soon, provided the script can be whipped into shape in time.

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