The press conference for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was divided into two panels. The first had director J.J. Abrams along with cast members Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o and Carrie Fisher, as well as screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, moderated by Abrams’ friend Mindy Kaling. As director, Abrams fielded the most questions and had the most answers about the production, so here are all of them compiled in one article, with just a tiny bit of editing for clarity.
Our own Louis Love of Nuke the Fridge asks J.J. Abrams: What was the most important thing to bring to The Force Awakens from the original trilogy?
“When Kathy Kennedy and Larry and I started talking about what this was at the very beginning, the fundamental question was: what do we want to feel? And what we want people to feel when they came to this movie? That was really the beginning of the discussion. The answer was the kind of sense of discovery, exhilaration, surprise, the comedy that George Lucas put into Star Wars was for me the thing that made me love the movie. But when you look at all the things that he got right, it’s impossible and stunning. So for us at the very beginning, it was really about knowing why we were telling the story and it was to give people that sense of possibility and magic that we all felt when we first saw the original Star Wars. But I will just say that this is all to tell a new story. Meaning, it’s not a nostalgia trip. We had to go backwards in order to go forwards and if you look at IV, V and VI, those are stories that continue. This is VII. So the history of VII will be what we’ve seen before so the fabric needed to be that that we are familiar with in order to tell a brand new story.”
J.J. Abrams on why he took the job directing Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
JJ: Here’s the thing. This is a project that I felt incredibly lucky to be asked to be a part of. I think I speak for all of us, except for maybe Harrison when I say this was not a job. I’m kidding, Harrison was unbelievable. The process of this movie, to a person on the crew, to a person on the cast, this was not a job. It was nothing that I think any one of us took on because it was a gig that was available. It was something that felt like a true passion and something that every single person brought much more than any of us could’ve expected. I do honestly feel honored to be part of this group.
J.J. Abrams was not the most secretive person involved with Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
“No, no, no. The contrary actually. It was something that while we were working on the movie, I realized how engaged with the fans and forthcoming Lucasfilm had always been. My nature which is to keep things quiet was something that I was certain we were going to have fights about, my wanting to keep the audience surprised when they see the movie. But Disney, to my shock, was arguing to not ruin, not reveal, not show every story beat. We’ve all seen trailers for films that literally show you the movie in Cliff Notes form. Then you go to see the film and you’re like, ‘Yeah, that was literally the movie. I saw it in a two minute 10 second piece.’ So I was very grateful that Disney actually took the lead on trying to keep things quieter. Obviously I ask all of you, we are incredibly grateful for your being here, that when you do see the movie and hopefully talk about it to your fans or readers and stuff, that we maintain some level of surprise for people who get to see the movie and don’t have it ruined for them just because it’s finally been released, which I cannot wait for by the way.”
J.J. Abrams on Lupita Nyong’o’s motion capture performance as Maz Kanata:
“People have said to me, ‘I don’t understand, you cast someone so beautiful as Lupita and you had her be a motion capture character.’ I think, would it be okay if she were ugly? Lupita had dots on her teeth. Like everywhere. She had dots all over the place and actually not until today have I met her without dots. If I can say one thing that Lupita would not which is that she was remarkably tireless and willing to experiment with different versions of this character. It was kind of an amazing thing to discover over various iterations of Maz, what she sounded like, how she moved. It was really, I’ve never been through this before with an actor where we got to discover again and again and again how to better tell the story we were telling. I always felt guilty every time we started up another session, or we needed some reshoots. Every single time, Lupita was willing and game and deeply committed and into finding Maz Kanata’s voice and again, I’m just eternally grateful.”
J.J. Abrams’ scariest moments making Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
“The scariest day for me was when Harrison Ford was injured, which was just absolutely hideous. Every day felt like there were challenges because I knew how important this was to so many people. That was never a presence that went away. Every decision I knew had this importance and yet we had a day to make, we had a story to tell and it was always about trying to do the best work possibly.”
J.J. Abrams is asked if any real planetary science made its way into Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
J.J. Abrams on naming the new characters of Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
“A lot of names came and went and some names stuck. I remember when we put down BB-8, it was a name that was the first and only name that droid had, but we called him BB-8 and we still do. Rey and Finn and Poe went through many iterations. Kylo Ren was Kylo Ren fairly early on and there was a backstory, and Maz Kanata I think was always Maz Kanata. We changed Leia’s name. No we didn’t.”
J.J. Abrams on Maz Kanata’s history with Yoda:
“I will say this, in an attempt to save my friend Lupita from this slightly awesomely geeky [subject] which is that I do believe that Maz and Yoda at one point crossed paths, but that is not something that, of course due to the events of past films, happens in this one.”
J.J. Abrams on the costumes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
“The costume that was the most challenging I think for us to arrive at, and Michael Kaplan, the costume designer, I cannot wait for you to see what he’s done in this movie. There are so many cool, and many you have not seen at all, costumes that are extraordinary. The most difficult one was Kylo Ren and we went through I don’t know how many hundreds and probably thousands of iterations and different versions. One of the great things about that was over the course of that, the costume for Captain Phasma was designed, that was actually pitched as a Kylo Ren costume originally. For story reasons, it didn’t make sense and didn’t work but we suddenly realized oh my God, this is one of the greatest looking costumes I’ve ever seen. He, then she, became one of my favorite characters in the movie. But the design of Kylo Ren was the most difficult one. When we finally saw the mask and that design, it was really instantly clear that was the winner. I’m very grateful to Michael and his whole amazing team.”
You’ve already read that there are no Ewoks in The Force Awakens. Here’s the full exchange:
“Living? Listen, if a man can’t joke with friends. No, there are no Ewoks in this film.”
Carrie Fisher chimed in and offered there are no Ewoks “That you’re aware of.”
Abrams picked up on that, “That’s right. There were rumors that some snuck onto set, but there are a lot of them in Return of the Jedi.”
J.J. Abrams on the absence of a post-credits Easter Egg:
“No, there’s not. All the scenes are actually in the movie.”
J.J. Abrams on the cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
“Everyone was shockingly and eerily wonderful to work with. To get to work with people like Carrie and Harrison and Mark and people who I was a fan of since I was 11 years old, and also actors like Lupita and Daisy and Adam and John, it was so much fun to see them working together and to see how that alchemy came out. It was really a spectacular and fun thing every day. Anyway, I cannot wait for you to see the work that everyone on this couch has done in the movie.”
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