The best kept secret in Hollywood in years is the upcoming STAR WARS film, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, the seventh film in the franchise. It is also the most anticipated film I can remember in years. We have seen fans get excited for everything from AVATAR to THE LORD OF THE RINGS and from HARRY POTTER and THE HUNGER GAMES all the way to THE AVENGERS, but I have never seen excitement like that surrounding the news of not just one, but several new films coming to theaters everywhere. It seems no matter where you go STAR WARS merchandise is hitting the shelves, and we’re not just talking about the normal toys and apparel, everyone wants in on the action including makeup companies and food. You can get pretty much anything with the STAR WARS name on it including Coffee Mate, cereal and macaroni and cheese and fans are literally eating it up.
Keeping a film of this magnitude under wraps is no easy task, so when the cast and filmmakers got together last weekend for a press conference it was in everyone’s mind. I mean in the history of us covering films your usually not even allowed to attend a press event without first screening the film, but in the case of STAR WARS we were all going in blind, not a single press outlet was allowed to prescreen the film and Kathleen Kennedy gave us a little insight into why telling us who set the standard for secrecy saying:
“I think, you know, right from the beginning we’ve respected the fans, and the fans have really been the ones focused around making sure that everybody and anybody who walks into this movie gets to be surprised. We have so little things that surprise us anymore when you walk in to see a movie – it’s all told in the trailers; it ends up online way in advance. And I think, you know, that’s something that overwhelmingly – I’ve even had people say to me, “I don’t want to read anything, at all,” so that they can get into the theater and actually have a pleasant surprise. So that’s really all that’s driving it. And we’ve respected that in all ways we can.”
While this confused me a bit seeing the success of spoiler sites and the need for information as soon as it breaks, it was refreshing to see a studio take fans excitement about seeing everything first hand seriously. Most people thought it was JJ Abrams choice to keep everything top secret seeing as he is known for keeping his projects under wraps, but he told us that Disney felt the exact same way he did saying:
“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 Lucas Film had always been, and my nature, which is to keep things quiet, was something that I was certain we were going to have fights about and my wanting to keep the audience surprised when they went to see the movie. But Disney, to my shock, was arguing to not ruin, not reveal, not show, every story beat. And we’ve all seen trailers for films that literally show you the movie in Cliff’s Notes form and then you go to see the film and you’re like, yeah, that was literally the movie. I saw it in a two minute, ten second piece. So I was very grateful that Disney actually took the lead on trying to keep things quieter, and you know, obviously I ask all of you who we are incredibly grateful for your being here, that when you do see the movie, and hopefully talk about it to your fans and 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.”
Abrams face literally lit up every time he answered a question and his excitement was contagious, as if we needed another reason to be ecstatic, we were sitting in front of STAR WARS legends both on-screen and off, old and new. Listening to him talk about being a part of this project only had us at the edge of our seats knowing that he is just as big a fan as we are and how much being a part of this meant to him. Abrams told us:
“Here’s the thing. This is a project that I felt incredibly lucky to be asked to be a part of, and I think I speak for all of us, except for maybe Harrison, when I say, this was not a job. I’m kidding, Harrison, you know, was unbelievable. But the process of this movie, to a person on the crew, to a person on the cast, this was not a job, and 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 could have expected, and so I do honestly feel honored to be part of this group.”
There is such a love and adoration of the original trilogy and a strong dislike for the second trilogy, that every STAR WARS fan is wondering what to expect. With six films made an an extensive cannon we wanted know just how much of that was used when making this film, Kasdan & Abrams told us how it all went down saying:
“I think it had more to do with Jedi and the continuation of, you know, 4, 5, and 6. This is 7. I think, you know, we were aware, we’re respectful of the canon, but we really wanted to tell a story that interested us and delighted us and we didn’t really want any rules and parameters particularly. We just said, we can do anything we want with this story. What would be the most fun thing to do on this page, and the next page, and the page after that? And that was sort of the guiding principle, I think, more than the canon or anything that had come before.”
And Abrams added:
“When Kathy Kennedy and Larry and I started talking about what this was at the very beginning, the fundamental question was what did we want to feel, and what did we want people to feel when they came to this movie. And that was really the beginning of the discussion, and the answer was the kind of sense of discovery, exhilaration, surprise. The comedy that George Lucas put into Star Wars kind of 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. And so for us, at the very beginning, it was really about knowing why we were telling this 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 4, 5, and 6 those are stories that continue. This is 7, so the history of 7 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. ”
One of the great things about STAR WARS is it’s s villain, Darth Vader goes down in history as one of the great. He was on one serious mission that nothing would get in the way of, not even his own son and every act seems well thought out with a strong sense of “The force” being with him even if it is to carry out an evil plan to take over The Empire. So now that we get a new Villian the question has to cross your mind at least once and you just wonder “Does Kylo-ren have his shit together like Darth Vader?” I know the thought has crossed this STAR WARS fans mind and Kasdan had the answer, telling us if Kylo-ren is as calculated in the best possible evil way. He told us:
“That’s why were so excited about Adam playing this part because there’s never been a character like Kylo in the saga. And no, he hasn’t got his shit all together, I would say. And Adam acts it so beautifully because what you’re looking at is, you know, you expect that oh, this is some evil genius, you know, but what you’re getting is all the contradictions and the conflict that people feel, any one of us can feel at any moment. That’s what’s so amazing about it and I think that’s what’s unique about what Adam has done.”
Character names in the STAR WARS saga have been as epic as the characters themselves and we wondered how hard it was to come up with amazing names like Kylo-ren and BB-8 and if any names were left over that weren’t used in the last six films. Kasdan told us:
KASDAN: I don’t know if there were any left over. I think the criteria was: did we like it? That was it. Really tough criteria. Did it sound good to say it? Did it feel good to type it?
J.J. ABRAMS: Yep.
LAWRENCE KASDAN: And don’t you think?
J.J. ABRAMS: Yeah, and a lot of names came and went, and some names stuck. And I remember when we put down BB-8, it was a name that – it was the first and only name that droid ever 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 sort of backstory. And Maz Kanata I think was always Maz Kanata. And we changed Leia’s name. No, we didn’t really do it.”
To say we are excited to see Harrison Ford back in the iconic role standing next to his partner in crime is the understatement of the century, but in case anyone is wondering if he’s still got it, Kathleen Kennedy assured us all not to worry (not that I was in the slightest) saying:
“I can attest to the fact that for all of us that were there, the second he walked in to the Millennium Falcon and said his first line, he – Han Solo was back. So it was pretty instantaneous.”
We are just days away from experiencing STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS for ourselves, so may the force be with you!