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'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Is A Long-Baked, Delightful Cake, And Other Insights From J.J. Abrams' 'Wired' Interview

By Petr Knava | Trade News | November 10, 2015 | Comments ()

By Petr Knava | Trade News | November 10, 2015 |


jj-abrams-star-wars-episode-vii.jpg

It’s a little more than a month until J.J. Abrams’ entertainment monolith rolls out and crushes us all below it. The excitement for a movie that could potentially recapture a magic that millions of fans haven’t experienced in a very long time is only matched by the fear and dread that comes from being burned so badly before and knowing full well that it could happen again.

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Abrams seems to be very conscious of this fear, as well as the massive hopes resting on his shoulders, in this interview in Wired.

The interview is, however, also displayed in an annoying font colour, size, and not-on-Pajiba-ness, so here are the most interesting bits:

On the trailer and TV spot footage, and other marketing material released thus far:

‘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.

[…]

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.’

On working with legendary director, producer, and screenwriter (writer of The Empire Strikes Back as well as Return of the Jedi), Lawrence Kasdan:

Because he’s also a director, he knew what I was going through in prep and in production, and he allowed for my needs. Sometimes those needs were practical, other times they were creative needs or feelings I had. But he was there to help that process, the same way I would have been if I had known he was directing. It was always about moving this thing forward in the right way, about making this movie the right way. I can’t say enough about him.

On how episode VII will flow into VIII (set to be directed by Rian Johnson):

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.

On trying to tell a fundamentally small-scale, human story in one of the vastest movie universes ever:

We really tried to look at it from the inside out. What makes this story have a beating heart? What makes it romantic or fun or surprising or heartbreaking or hysterically funny? We simply approached this narrative from the point of view that this is a story about a young man and a young woman, not with the idea that we can do anything we want.

How he feels about the movie finally coming out:

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.

On John Williams (and apparently having a strange life goal fulfilled):

Oh my God! First of all, forget his talent and his achievement. As a person, he’s the guy you want to know more than anyone. He is the sweetest soul I’ve ever met. He’s like this jazzman who became one of the greatest composers of all time. He literally calls you “baby”! Like, “Hey, baby.” He calls me “J.J. Baby.” I waited all my life to meet someone who would call me that!

On the passage of time in the Star Wars universe between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens:

You know the moment when you reconnect with someone after years apart? You see the lines on their face, you think, oh, they’ve lived 10 years! Or when you see someone has a scar they didn’t have—physical or emotional—you recognize it. It lets you know it’s not two minutes later. It was important that Han Solo be Han Solo but not feel like he’s playing a 30-year-old dude. When you’re 70, you will have lived a different set of experiences. That has to be apparent in who he is. Harrison was required to bring a level of complexity that a 30-year-old Han wouldn’t be required to have.

On his admiration for George Lucas and the original trilogy:

I cannot say enough about what George was able to do with that first movie, let alone the next ones. Forget how incredible it looked, forget the technology, forget the humor of it, the heart, the romance, the adventure—all the amazing moments that made us love it. Think about what he was able to stir up, the questions he was able to ask—exactly the right questions—the idea that he was able to create a world that clearly went so far beyond the boundaries of what we were seeing and hearing. This, to me, is one of the greatest things about Star Wars. Working on this new movie has been as much about trying to set up elements of what is beyond what you’re seeing as it has been about telling a story that will be satisfying in and of itself. But it can’t feel like a cop-out—like we’re just setting things up and not resolving them.

And finally, on trying to make a labour of love, rather than a cynical money-spinner:

“How do we make this movie delightful?” That was really the only requirement Larry and I imposed on each other: The movie needed to be delightful. It was not about explaining everything away, not about introducing a certain number of toys for a corporation, not about trying to appease anyone.

Bonus:

I didn’t want to enter into making a movie where we didn’t really own our story. I feel like I’ve done that a couple of times in my career. That’s not to say I’m not proud of my work, but the fact is I remember starting to shoot Super 8 and Star Trek Into Darkness and feeling like I hadn’t really solved some fundamental story problems.

Well whaddya know, The Abrams is self-aware!


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