Abrams On “Force Awakens,” Ep. VIII Status

Though “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is the first of a new trilogy of “Star Wars” films, director J.J. Abrams says that the film also very much stands on its own.

Much like the original 1977 film, the aim is to do a self-contained film that lays the groundwork for further movies to come but wraps up its own threads in the process and stands on its own despite all the promotional throwbacks to the original trilogy. In a new feature piece for Wired, Abrams says:

“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.”

He also says he’s considered the flaws in his past filmmaking efforts to make sure that the new film is all it could be:

“More than anything, I drew on personal experiences as cautionary tales, things that I didn’t want to do again. For example, 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. The collaboration [with Kasdan], for me, was an education in storytelling and doing so with clarity, with efficiency, brevity – wit. It was a little like taking an extended master class.”

Abrams also talked about how he and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan approached the story:

“I asked questions like ‘How do we make this movie delightful?’ That was really the only requirement [co-writer Lawrence Kasdan] 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. This has only ever been about what gets us excited.”

He also talked about where “Star Wars: Episode VIII” currently is and how the film’s director Rian Johnson has already been in discussions with him:

“The script for VIII is written. I’m sure rewrites are going to be endless, like they always are. But what [Kasdan] 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.”

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens in cinemas on December 18th.