“I can’t wait for people to see the movie. We’ve been baking this cake for a long time, and now it’s time to serve it.” That’s just one great quote from J.J. Abrams in a fantastic new interview he did with WIRED that was posted today, where he shares a lot of interesting details regarding the making of not only “The Force Awakens,” but also working a bit with Rian Johnson on Episode VIII!
You can check out a portion of the interview below, where J.J. talks about striking a balance with making “The Force Awakens” accessible for new fans, but also welcoming back old fans, the trailers and working with Disney on the marketing of the film, and setting up stories for characters in Episodes VIII and IX:
How much of The Force Awakens is geared toward welcoming people back to the Star Wars franchise versus starting something completely new? How do you strike a balance between those two imperatives?
We wanted to tell a story that had its own self-contained beginning, middle, and end but at the same time, like A New Hope, implied a history that preceded it and also hinted at a future to follow. When Star Wars first came out, it was a film that both allowed the audience to understand a new story but also to infer all sorts of exciting things that might be. In that first movie, Luke wasn’t necessarily the son of Vader, he wasn’t necessarily the brother of Leia, but it was all possible. The Force Awakens has this incredible advantage, not just of a passionate fan base but also of a backstory that is familiar to a lot of people. We’ve been able to use what came before in a very organic way, because we didn’t have to reboot anything. We didn’t have to come up with a backstory that would make sense; it’s all there. But these new characters, which Force is very much about, find themselves in new situations—so even if you don’t know anything about Star Wars, you’re right there with them. If you are a fan of Star Wars, what they experience will have added meaning.
I remember waking up on Black Friday last year, my wife shoving her iPhone in my sleeping face. I heard the music and shot awake—I felt that excitement.
That’s great. What I’m excited about is that the movie itself feels like those teasers and not like the movie is one thing and the teasers are something else.
One thing I know about you is that you love a mystery. You love to surprise an audience. How have you felt about those teasers—about revealing parts of the movie, necessarily talking about and marketing it, versus allowing the story to unfold on your terms?
I give credit to, and frankly surprisingly so, the incredible people at Disney, especially Alan Horn [chair of Walt Disney Studios] and Bob Iger [Disney CEO]. Bob’s been unbelievably collaborative and supportive of this entire process. When it came to marketing, I was expecting Disney to want to put out an overabundance of material. But they’ve been incredibly reluctant to do that. They want this thing to be an experience for people when they go to see the film. And I’m grateful for that.
There’s a really positive side to keeping quiet. You can protect the audience from spoilers or certain moments that, in a way, obviate the movie experience. But on the other hand, you risk being seen as coy or as a withholding shithead. That’s never my intent. Because Lucasfilm has been so engaged with the fans and so forthcoming about what they’re doing, it would have felt oddly inconsistent to not show anything until just before the movie came out. I actually personally pushed to have a teaser come out a year before, just because it felt like, as a fan of Star Wars, if I could see even the littlest thing I’d be psyched a year out. Why not? So we did.
But I don’t want to destroy too many illusions. We’re walking a tightrope. If you fall on one side it’s no good, because we’re showing too much. If you fall on the other side it’s no good, because we’re not showing anything and we look like arrogant jerks.
You can see how the universe gets so big so quickly, first toys and games and then Episode VIII and IX, with directors Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow coming aboard. I know VIII is Rian’s movie, but you’ve no doubt created story questions in Episode VII that have to be addressed. Do you know how the answers play out? Or are those moments still unspooling?
The script for VIII is written. I’m sure rewrites are going to be endless, like they always are. But what Larry and I did was set up certain key relationships, certain key questions, conflicts. And we knew where certain things were going. We had meetings with Rian and Ram Bergman, the producer of VIII. They were watching dailies when we were shooting our movie. We wanted them to be part of the process, to make the transition to their film as seamless as possible. I showed Rian an early cut of the movie, because I knew he was doing his rewrite and prepping. And as executive producer of VIII, I need that movie to be really good. Withholding serves no one and certainly not the fans. So we’ve been as transparent as possible.
Rian has asked for a couple of things here and there that he needs for his story. He is an incredibly accomplished filmmaker and an incredibly strong writer. So the story he told took what we were doing and went in the direction that he felt was best but that is very much in line with what we were thinking as well. But you’re right—that will be his movie; he’s going to do it in the way he sees fit. He’s neither asking for nor does he need me to oversee the process.
There’s lots of great stuff in this interview from J.J Abrmas that gives us not only an insight how production went for “The Force Awakens” and even a little on Episode VIII, but also just how happy J.J. is with this movie, and how he genuinely cannot wait for everyone to see it. So be sure to check out the full interview over at WIRED, where he also talks about working with Lawrence Kasdan on trying to make “The Force Awakens” a “delightful” film, the new cast working so well with the original trilogy cast, working with John Williams, and the legacy of “Star Wars” that he is now a part of.