POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!
For those that were at the opening panel at Star Wars Celebration 2015, they would agree that the word of the morning was “lines”; some waited in line from the night before, not knowing they’d be blessed with free pizza compliments of JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy. Most waited at least 2 hours, hopefully to acquire the elusive orange wristband that would take them into the Celebration Stage, home of the opening panel. Latecomers got either a green or blue wristband, which directed them to other stages where the panel would be simulcast.
Here’s the coverage of the Star Wars opening panel:
Host Anthony Breznican, Senior Writer for Entertainment Weekly starts off the show by having some guy shooting off shirts into the audience. After asking if the guys that waited since last night enjoyed their complimentary pizza, Anthony brings out JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy, director of Star Wars: Force Awakens and President of Lucasfilm, respectively.
JJ starts by talking about his early Star Wars memories, he mentions that he saw the movie when he was 11 and that he dressed up as a Jawa on an unspecified year.
He starts to talk about shooting for the film. While talking he did go into mentioning that the desert planet we thought was Tatooine is actually a new planet called Jakku. Fans get excited.
Kathleen then starts talking about the time when George Lucas asked her to take over Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise, she mentions she was thinking he had someone else in mind, but Lucas suggests Kathleen to take over. Of course she takes it. She then talks about her experience with working with George through the Indiana Jones films and mentions how honored she was to take the role.
Both of them then go into a conversation about going to a prior Star Wars Celebration (Germany?) and that they were impressed with the life sized, functioning droid displays. They went on to hire on two of the designers for droid work.
Then BB8 comes out.
I’ll admit I was really skeptical about Droid-Ball. It looked corny…kind of hastily put together, obviously computer generated. But what comes out on to the stage was something I wasn’t expecting; a live prop of BB8. It literally was a droid head on a ball….and it was pretty freakin’ adorable.
JJ and Kathleen start to talk about Harrison Ford and that he really wanted to be there. Kathleen mentions how only he can land his plane on a golf course next to two doctors.
She’s got a point. Harrison’s legitimately a badass.
Here’s where is gets…spoiler-y. The dynamic duo then start describing the movie in not-so-subtle ways using the previous trailer as a reference as they bring out the 3 lead characters of the movie. The female shown speeding away in the oversize Fudgsicle is introduced as Daisy Ridley, who plays a character named Rey. They mention that Rey meets Finn, played by the second actor John Boyega, who was the black guy in the stormtrooper outfit at the opening of the trailer. The third actor, Oscar Isaac, plays Poe Dameron, the pilot of the X-Wing with the black, red, and grey helmet. He is apparently being sent on a mission by a very familiar “princess” to meet up with Finn. When asked by Anthony if Finn was actually a stormtrooper or if he was in disguise, John mysteriously forgot.
Anthony starts moving onto the next segment, audience questions. He’s even taken some from the people that stood in line for the panel since the night before.
How does it feel to be a part of the Star Wars universe? Boyega goes into a story about how he asked Harrison Ford to sign his doll. Harrison replies, “This is weird”
Where would you find yourself in the Star Wars universe? No real answer is given, though Kathleen mentions that when she looked to (the original) Star Wars, there was only 1 real woman she could emulate. She continues on to say that there will be really strong women in the upcoming movie and that there will be a lot of women to look up to as she has 2 girls of her own.
On asked about using old vs. new technology (tech from the prequels as opposed to tech from the original trilogy), JJ said he loves the sense of real and weathered things, how the story is about going up against an enemy that’s bigger and larger. “Anything but brand new” is what JJ emphasized and reiterated that the movie will be decades after Return of the Jedi.
About whether he was afraid he would disappoint, JJ jokingly says, “we just will”. He continues to say that he’s never had more fun doing this project and that the fun that he’s having far outweighs the risk of disappointment.
How much does the fan perspective take into effect? Kathleen takes over and mentions they are fans too. With a thankful demeanor, she says they can’t do it without the fans. Everyone has a Star Wars story and that the fans energize them in their work.
The simplest question was advice for a budding filmmaker. JJ explains that technology is amazing, filmmaking is democratized and everyone with a computer and a camera can be a filmmaker since much of what we can do today wasn’t available when he was learning about film. The ability to make a story is real and encourages the asker to just do it. He’s amazed at the quality of the fan films that have come out as a result of the modern age.
Who was more excited about being in the movie, the originals or the newbies? Daisy is excited and she said she “can’t wait to show you”, but it was mentioned that the older actors were coming back to something familiar, so there’s that. Oscar talked about how he prepared for the role by playing lightsaber in the shower and John kept it secret until it was actually announced, though he did mention he lied and said he was “still” working on the TV show 24.
Anthony takes control and brings out a squadron of stormtroopers in their new uniforms. Along with the stormtroopers, he delivers the second punch by bringing out Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamil, and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca).
Daniels was praised for being the only actor on stage to appear in all 6 Star Wars films. Daniels mentions he didn’t realize it would become this big and was grateful to the fans for their dedication.
Mayhew talks about how he’s the only one that can “go anywhere and still be comfortable”, but he did refer to the suit as a “walking carpet”.
Fisher was asked if her character would return to her famous hair buns. She replies that the buns are tired and that’s there’s a new alternative style…and no return of the bikini.
The audience laughs.
She did like being the only girl at 19, but in this day and age, she needs a little backup.
Hamil talks about how Star Wars was the “most expensive low budget film ever made”. He thanks the fans and they never cease to amaze him. He goes on to say he’s felt so much love and that they were more than fans…they were family.
Fisher said the fans grew up with them and mentioned loved being a toy, thanking the fans again for playing with her.
Audience gets the joke.
Anthony wraps up the panel and then brings out everyone for a final group photo op.
Then the new trailer is revealed. It was amazing. It has such a pop that they played it again.
And then it was over.