‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: 30 Things We Learned At The Press Conference
Monday, December 7th, 2015 at 5:09 pm
Star Wars defined the genre films like never before. It’s got romance, action, and that buddy cop vibe all rolled into one. Not only that, but since A New Hope debuted back in 1977, the franchise has become one of the most successful, spawning sequels, prequels, cartoon spinoffs, video games, books, comic books, and even a Christmas Special. With Disney acquiring Lucasfilm back in 2012, the studio has plans to release more canon films and spinoffs as well, all starting off with the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
We had the opportunity to take part in the press conference for the film, which no one has seen by the way — not even our moderator Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project, Pixar’s Inside Out).
Below, we will reveal the top things we learned about The Force Awakens, including what was it like for an established director like J.J. Abrams to be asked to direct another hugely popular sci-fi film, some of the fears and hesitations of writing a Star Wars script, working with motion-capture technology, if we will see Jar Jar Binks or Ewoks, and much more.
Here are the Top 30 things we learned at the Star Wars: The Force Awakens press conference.
1 – J.J. Abrams felt incredibly lucky to be asked to direct the film: “The process of this movie, to the person on the crew, to the person on the cast, this was not a job. This was not a gig. It was something that felt like a true passion, and something that every single person brought much more than any of us could expect. I do honestly feel blessed to be a pat of it.”
Harrison Ford explained that he returned because it is what he does. “It’s what I like to do. It’s what’s fun.”
2 – Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan were excited by the thought of Adam Driver playing Kylo Ren because there has never been a character like him before. According to Kasdan, Kylo “hasn’t got all his shit together.” He adds, “Adam acts it so beautifully. What you are looking at is some evil genius, but what you are getting is all the contradictions and conflicts that people feel or anyone of us could feel at any moment. That’s what is so amazing about it.”
3 – For Lupita Nyong’o, The Force Awakens marks her first time working with motion-capture technology. And while most of the time the technology would just record her motions and her performance would be added in later the film, she actually got to act alongside her fellow castmates in her motion-capture suit and dots. “I’m internally grateful for J.J. letting me do that. It was a great way to get into this wonderful crazy thing call motion capture. And I got to be on the set, and see the things, and feel them, and the art direction in this, there is so much detail, even when you are standing on that set, it is mesmerizing. Audiences are going to have a very immersive experience, much like we had filming it. So it was good to have that. The physicality then carries on into the theater for sure, and was the thing that attracted me to play motion capture. The idea of working on a character that wasn’t limited by my physical circumstances, and I could work with my body in new ways.”
Abrams complimented her for being “remarkably tireless” and “willing to experiment” the different versions of Kaz Manta. “It was kind of an amazing thing to discover over various iterations. What she sounded like. How she moved. I’ve never been through this before with an actor that got to discover again and again and again, to kind of how to better tell the story that we were telling. I always felt guilty every time we started another session, and reshoots, and every single time Lupita was willing and game and deeply committed to finding Maz Kanta’s voice. I’m just enterally grateful.”
4 – Daisy Ridley said that her walk-up song would be “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” from Disney’s Mulan. For Gwendoline Christie, it’s Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”
5 – One of the most important things that Abrams wanted to bring from the original trilogy into The Force Awakens. “The sense of discovery, exhilaration, surprise, the comedy that George Lucas put into it, was for me was the thing that made me love the movie. But when you look at all of the things he got right, it’s impossible and stunning. So for us in the every beginning, knowing why we were telling the story. It was to give people that sense possibility and magic that we all felt when we saw the original Star Wars. This is all about telling a new story, meaning it’s not just a nostalgia trip. We had to go backwards in order to go forwards. If you look at four, five, and six, those are stories that continue. This is seven. The history of seven will be what we have seen before. The fabric had to be what we’re familiar with, in order to tell a brand new story,” said Abrams.
6 – When asked about bringing out the “girl power” in this movie, Carrie Fisher responded, “I am the beginning of girl power.” She then added an arousing “Deal with it!” Fisher then explained how she was “the only girl on the all-boys set.” “I got to put things in their drinks and stuff like that. We drank through the whole trilogy in the beginning. This [The Force Awakens] was a sober set,” she added. “That’s what J.J. brought to it. Sobriety!”
Of course since this is the subject of girl power, Fisher encourages all women to boss men around. “Women, if you haven’t done that yet, I encourage you to try it.”
In regards to the new generation, Ridley described Rey as “brave,” “vulnerable,” and “sort of nuanced.” “She didn’t have to be one thing,” said Ridley. “She’s not important because she’s a woman, she’s just important. It just so happens that she is a woman. She transcends gender. She’s going to speak to men and women. It’s wonderful to be part of a crew and cast of wonderful women.”
7 – So far no one, except those who are very close to the production, has seen The Force Awakens. To this day, we still don’t know much about it, even though two teasers, a trailer, and a handful of TV spots have been released. But this seemed to be a part of the plan all along, and for Abrams, he is is glad that Disney was on board with that idea. “My nature was to keep things quiet. It was something I was certain I was going to have fights about. To keep the audience surprised when they see the movie. But Disney, to my shock, was arguing not to reveal, not show, every story. We’ve all seen trailers for films that literally that show you the movie in cliffnotes form, and you go see the film, and you go “yeah, that was literally the movie, I saw it in a 2 minute and ten second piece. So I was very grateful that Disney took the lead on keeping things quieter,” said Abrams. The Force Awakens director had also asked us that when we talk about it to our fans and readers, that we maintain the element of surprise.
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said, “I think right from the beginning, we’ve respected the fans. The fans have really been the ones focused on everybody and anybody who is into this movie is getting to be surprised. “I’ve had people say to me that they don’t want to read anything, at all, so they can get to the theater and have it be a pleasant surprise. That’s what’s driving it, and we’ve tried to respect it.”
8 – Kasdan doesn’t associate the writing process with fear. He and Abrams jumped into it with time pressure, but they still managed to have fun. That was a priority for them. “We didn’t really have fear,” said Kasdan. “We had trepidation about fulfilling people’s expectations. That they be satisfied with what we come out with. But we didn’t want them to know what we came up with. The only pressure can you do something that fulfills that much anticipation?”
9 – With the Star Wars universe being as expansive as it is, there was a lot of material that could have influenced and shaped The Force Awakens, but for Kasdan, he says it had more to do with “[Return of the] Jedi, and the continuation of 4, 5, and 6, this is 7.” He continued, “We were aware, we were respectful of the canon, but we really wanted to tell a story that interested us, that delighted us, we didn’t want any rules or parameters. J.J. asked, ‘We could do anything we want with this story, what would be the most fun thing to do on this page, and the next page, the page after that?’ and that was sort of the guiding principle.”
10 – Star Wars has always had interesting names, but the decisions that go into the creation can be as equally as interesting. But for Kasdan and Abrams, the criteria, according to Kasdan, was, “Did we like it?” Abrams continued, “A lot of names came and went, and stuck.” BB-8 was one of the first names the spherical droid ever had. Rey, Finn, and Poe went through many iterations though, while Kylo Ren was named very early on, as was Maz Kanata.
11 – There will be no Ewoks in this movie. “Living?” asked Abrams. “There are no Ewoks,” confirmed Abrams. “There are a lot of them in Return Of The Jedi.”
12 – Kasdan says that Akira Kurosawa is one of his greatest influences. He then discussed some of the great films that helped influence the first Star Wars film from filmmakers like Howard Hawks, John Ford, and some iconic properties like Flash Gordon. He added that Wizard of Oz also served as an inspiration.
13 – That huge generational gap leaves a lot of questions as to what happened in between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, but for Adam Driver, it’s not so much asking what happened between then and now, but how much the film can reflect true life. “I would say that it is still called Star Wars, for me, but in a way that it is 30 years later, but the exact same things are going on in a way, which is so telling, so true to life,” said Driver. “We have such short memories of huge events, and mass genocide, and then we forget about it, it seems. And it is still the same people are in charge, and the same group of people, it’s all a circular thing. Finding these people, a lot of things have changed, but really the circumstances are the same.”
14 – Abrams confirmed that there will be no post-credits scene.
15 – Abrams expressed his excitement about costume designer Michael Kaplan‘s work, and how he couldn’t wait to show everyone what he has done. “The most difficult one was Kylo Ren. We went through I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of iterations and verisons. One of the great things about that was, over the course for Captain Phasma design, that was actually pitched as Kylo Ren costume originally. For story reasons, it didn’t make sense, it didn’t work. You suddenly realize ‘Oh my god this is one of the greatest looking costumes I have ever seen. He then she became one of my favorite characters. The design of Kylo Ren was the most difficult one. When we finally saw the mask of that design, it really was instantly clear that was the winner.”
For some, though, the costuming was easy. Ridley said she got into her costume in 40 minutes, with the wraps. Driver said that it took about an hour to get it on the first time, but it got progressively shorter throughout the production. As for Nyong’o, she didn’t have a costume, but putting all the dots on took about two and half hours, and they were able to get it down to an hour. Abrams said that she had dots on her teeth. “I’m still finding them,” the actress joked.
Fisher chimed that it took her only 10 minutes because she looked like she had a “classy gas station attendant look.”
16 – There still are a few things that scare and terrify the cast and crew of The Force Awakens. For Ridley, it was being cast in a lead role, having other people seeing something in her that she didn’t see, and the fear of not being able to fulfill that potential. The scariest day for Abrams was when Harrison Ford got injured on set. But every day during production presented all sorts of challenges. It was a presence that never went away.
Driver explained that he is terrified, as he is for most jobs, but that getting into the iconography and mythology of Star Wars was exceptionally scary. Nyong’o joked that the motion-capture process of the 360 cameras terrified her.
17 – Kennedy confirmed that “Jar Jar is definitely not in the movie.”
18 – Ford said it is gratifying to be one of the bridges between the two generations of films. “There was an interesting story to tell. It’s always nice to working on something you know people have an appetite for. It’s fun to play with these toys again, it’s been a great experience,” said Ford.
19 – With each sequel being a continuation of a story, Kennedy confirms that, even though they have not mapped out “every single moment” of the upcoming trilogy. “Obviously everyone is talking with one another. That collaboration is what is going to guarantee that everyone has got a say as we move forward with this,” said Kennedy. “So far it is going great. J.J. and Rian [Johnson] are already talking at length because Rian is about to start shooting Episode VIII. He’s getting ready to head over in January, and Colin [Trevorrow] will start working with Rian.”
While she didn’t verbally confirm it, she patted John Boyega on the back, which might indicate that he lives and will continue his adventures in Star Wars: Episode VIII.
20 – When asked what was it liked to be asked to return to the Star Wars franchise, Ford responded, “I’m aware of the value that’s placed on these films by the audience. I’m aware that the first three have been passed through generations. There’s still some value to them in interpreting life somehow. It’s a bit of a mystery, but it’s very gratifying to be part of that.”
21 – Christie was “surprised and heartened” by the acceptance of Captain Phasma. “I really felt that what Kathleen and J.J. and everyone created at Star Wars – I think J.J. opened it up to that he wanted to respect the origins of the films, and celebrate them. To bring it to modern day. And the confirmation of that seemed to be, to me, in this amazing character Captain Phasma, who is Star Wars’ first on-screen female villain. More than “this is a character who, so far, we’ve related to due to her choices, due her character, and not due to the way she has been made in flesh, and conventionally is how we relate to female characters. This to me felt very progressive. The response from the audience and fans has been so celebratory, it makes me think this is the kind of thing people want to see. People want to see more diverse reflection of society.” As for any other possible similar roles, she would graciously accept it.
22 – Boyega admited that he doesn’t care about the controversy of the “Black Stormtrooper.” “I couldn’t care less,” said Boyega. “This is a story about human beings, about Wookies, spaceships, and TIE Fighters. It has a message of courage, a message of friendshipf and loyalty, and I think that is what is ultimately important,” Boyega said. “I watched the movie with Kathy just last week, and I really really really related to Rey more than any of the characters! It’s inspirational to me.” He added, “In terms of the kids, all they will concentrate on is BB-8.”
23 – Oscar Isaac and Boyega reprised their roles for the Disney Infinity game. Boyega confirmed that he went in twice. “To be a playable character, I get to play with myself,” Boyega joked. He added that the characters of Disney Infinity are more childlike reflections of their counterparts.
24 – Isaac said that developing his character was one of the coolest things. “There has been a real sense of collaboration,” Isaac said. According to him, there is a real sandbox element to it. He speculated that Poe’s parents may have met on Yavin IV, and nine months later Poe would come into the world. But his theory would help lay the ground work for the Shattered Empire comic, and the actor was genuinely surprised to see that happen.
Boyega said he didn’t know much. During his time screen testing, the actor admited that he didn’t believe that Finn’s story was so simple, and that he has some conspiracy theroies as to where Finn comes from.
Christie agreed. To work with Abrams on who Captain Phasma was and to develop that character, she was interested to see where her character may go after The Force Awakens. Don’t worry, that really isn’t a spoiler since it was confirmed that Captain Phasma will return for Episode VIII.
25 – We know that there have been many fan theories and rumors out there, and of course everyone close to the film has probably heard them all, but as to what their favorite ones are, Isaac joked that his was “Jar Jar was Kylo Ren.”
Boyega remembered one where Finn was Mace Windu’s grandson. He then talked about how he was once at a party, and met an ecstatic Samuel L. Jackson who was excited to meet another Black Jedi.
Christie admitted that she hasn’t followed any fan theories, mostly because she has been busy with Game of Thrones. To which Boyega asked if Jon Snow was alive or dead. She replied that she didn’t know.
26 – Ford said it seemed easy to slip back into a familiar role, especially one as familiar as Han Solo. “I was interested in the path of the character.”
Kennedy said everyone knew that Han Solo was back the moment he walked into the Millennium Falcon and said his first line.
27 – There has been much speculation as to whether or not Finn uses Anakin Skywalkers’s blue lightsaber. But Boyega vaguely said he was excited to use it. “It was amazing for me to read the whole script, and find out all the things that Finn gets to do. I felt like ‘Does J.J. know what kind of fan I was when it comes to Star Wars and writing this role for me?’ “I get to wear a stormtrooper suit, a rebel jacket, I have a blaster, a lightsaber, I get to hang out with Han Solo, Chewie. It’s just fantastic. I think JJ wrote this part with my personal dreams in mind.”
28 – Boyega confirmed that Driver really has a long reach, which may pose some problems for Finn in their lightsaber duel.
29 – Isaac joked that there is a romance between himself and BB-8. “There’s a real warmth there. There’s a give and take. That’s who has his back in the X-wing. So if there’s any romance for Poe, it’s with those two little balls,” said Isaac.
30 – The three newcomers all had different favorite moments from the original franchise. For Isaac, it was when Luke took off Vader’s helmet the first time to reveal a “soft, sad, old little man underneath.” He wasn’t sure how that affected his performance, but it was his favorite.
Christie said she was either five or six when she first saw the original film, but she was so struck by the character of Princess Leia. “Even then in my infant mind, this seems different from other women that I see in films,” said Christie. “I’m feelin very very inspired by that. Inspired by a woman with such tenacity, and so strong minded.” She asked Fisher if watching her performance implanted a seed in her mind, and she joked that Fisher had indeed implanted a seed in her infant mind.
Ford jokingly assumed that she wasn’t talking about when Slave Leia was sitting on Jabba The Hutt’s lap, to which Christie responded no. Ford then said, “That’s my favorite.”
Boyega recalled that there were no real scenes that helped inspire his performance, but rather he was inspired by audition tapes of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.