Everything You Need to Know From the ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Press Conference

By December 10, 2015
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A few days ago the cast and filmmakers of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens gathered in front of a large group of journalists to try and answer questions regarding the highly-anticipated film. What perhaps made the event even more interesting was that no one in the audience had seen the film yet. It’s rare for a press audience to attend an event like this without any prior screenings normally, and even more so when you think about how big of a film The Force Awakens will end up being. If that doesn’t come as even more proof of how dedicated J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, and the rest of the Lucasfilm team are to maintaining the film’s secrecy, then I don’t know what is.

In the conferences, some interesting pieces of information were revealed included Maz Kanata’s (Lupita Nyong’o) relationship with a beloved, past Star Wars character, and Abrams finally confirming if there will be a post-credits tag attached to the film or not. However, you can find the full videos from the conferences now below, as well as our transcriptions of some of the most intriguing pieces of information…

You can watch the first press conference below, which includes J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Carrie Fisher, and Lawrence Kasdan:

So why exactly did J.J. sign on to direct Episode VII?

“This is a project that I felt incredibly lucky to be asked to be a part of. The process of this movie, for the crew and the cast, was not a job. 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 where every single person brought much more than any of us could’ve expected. I do honestly feel honored to be part of this group.”

The director also went on to explain what the most important thing from the Original Trilogy he was hoping to bring over into these new films:

“When Kathy Kennedy and Larry [Kasdan] and I started talking about what this was, at the very beginning, the fundamental question was, what do we want to feel, and what do we want people to feel? That was really the beginning of the discussion. The answer was the sense of discovery, exhilaration, surprise and comedy that George Lucas put into Star Wars. That, for me, was the thing that made me love the movie. When you look at all the things that he got right, it’s impossible and stunning. So for us, at the very beginning, it was really about knowing why we were telling the story, which 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. It’s not a nostalgia trip. We had to go backwards, in order to go forwards. If you look at IV, V and VI, those are stories that continue. This is VII. The fabric needed to be that which we are familiar with, in order to tell a brand new story.”

Going into the beginning of production though, many fans were wondering how much (if at all) the new film would be borrowing from the Expanded Universe novels or stories. Turns out – not that much according to Lawrence Kasdan:

“Yeah, 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.”

For Kasdan, the most important step when they began writing the film was to make sure they were having fun with it:

“J.J. and I jumped into the thing under a lot of time pressure and we had fun. In fact, the first day that we started real work on it, we said, ‘You know, we must have fun with this, every day.’ It’s a privilege. You’re very lucky to get to write the next Star Wars. We didn’t really have fear. I think we had trepidation about fulfilling people’s expectations, and that they be satisfied with what we came out with.”

When asked where he draws his inspiration from too, Kasdan revealed his go-to source:

“All the movies of Akira Kurosawa have influenced me, throughout my career. That’s because he was the Shakespeare of cinema. He did comedies, he did action films, he did Shakespearean drama, in each one of his films. Seven Samurai may be the greatest film ever made. It’s a personal drama, and it’s an action picture. So when J.J. and I were working, we kept referring to that. And we talked about the great American movies that we loved and things that had influenced the first Star Wars, which were Howard Hawks and John Ford. When George [Lucas] made A New Hope, he was very much influenced by Kurosawa and Flash Gordon and The Wizard of Oz. You could feel all of those movies in A New Hope, and everything that’s in A New Hope has come down through the movies, to this day.”

It wasn’t long before the conversation quickly turned to the film’s secrecy. Despite his past reputation though, Abrams revealed that the decision was a team effort between he and Lucasfilm:

“While we were working on the movie, I realized how engaged with the fans and forthcoming Lucasfilm had always been. My nature is to keep things quiet, which was something that I was certain we were going to have fights about, but Disney, to my shock, was arguing to not ruin, not reveal and not show every story beat. We’ve all seen trailers for films that literally show you the movie in Cliff Notes form. 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.”

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One of the most secretive aspects of the film has always been Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren too, who is the main antagonist of the film. For Driver, Ren is unlike any other villain that Star Wars fans have seen yet:

“I think he’s very polished and unfinished and I think what J.J. and Larry did, keeping all the vocabulary that everyone’s very familiar with of Star Wars and the dark side and keeping that very much intact, but also adding a kind of recklessness or something that’s kind of un-neat about that I think people normally associate with the dark side being organized and very in control and calm and in command.”

When trying to carry on with the film’s legacy and history, Driver said that he tried to ignore the expectations, and focus on creating a complete character:

“I feel like we tried to not think about that as much as possible. And then I remember early on we – not think of him being bad or evil or a villain and try to make something that was more three-dimensional, ‘cause that to me, when we were talking originally, seemed more dangerous and more unpredictable, someone who feels morally justified in doing whatever they need to publicly kind of state that what they’re doing is right seems kind of something more active to play than just being evil for the sake of it. That’s not really fun to play, I guess.”

According to Kasdan as well, one of his and Abrams’ goals from the beginning was to create a villain that would be different than the previously organized Dark Side villains:

“Yes. And 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.”

Along with the mix of practical and CGI effects, The Force Awakens will also be introducing performance capture technology to the franchise, and for Lupita Nyong’o – who plays Maz Kanata in the film – it was an exciting new experience:

“Yeah, fortunately for me, J.J. had me be a part of principle photography so my very first experience of motion capture was on the actual sets with the actual actors. So I am eternally grateful to him for giving me that, because it was a great way to get into this wonderful, crazy thing called motion capture. I got to be on those sets and see those things and feel them and the art direction in this, there’s so much detail, even when you’re standing on that set, that it’s mesmerizing, and I think audiences are going to be – they’re going to have a very immersive experience, much like we had filming it. And so it was good to have that and the physicality is something that then carries on into theater for sure, and that was a thing that attracted me to the idea of playing 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 and I’ve continued that onto the stage.”

Abrams also took the chance to commend Nyongo’o’s performance in the film, and her commitment to the role:

“Like, if I can just say one thing that Lupita would not, which is that she was remarkably tireless and willing to experiment with different versions of this character, and it was kind of an amazing thing to discover over various iterations of Maz what she sounded like, how she moved. It was really – I’ve never been through this before with an actor where we got to discover again and again and again kind of how to better tell the story we were telling and it was just – I always felt guilty every time we started up another session, we did some reshoots, we did some work, and every single time, Lupita was willing and game and deeply committed and into finding Maz Kanata’s voice, and again, I’m just eternally grateful.”

Driver also revealed his thoughts on how the film continues from Return of the Jedi, and if he felt satisfied by the film’s revelations:

“In a way, it’s 30 years later, but the exact same things are going on in a way, which I thought was so telling of – it was so true to life, even though I feel that’s very – we have such short memories of huge, you know, events and mass genocide. Then we kind of forget about it, it seems, and there’s still the same people are in charge, and the same group of people, you know, younger, older, everyone comes on and feel that their problems are unique, and then it’s all a cyclical thing and it seems like finding these people. And a lot of things have changed, like the setting, but really the circumstances are the same, I thought was very true. And that for me was what I took out – well, less plot points, and like, I always knew that, you know, Leia would be doing this, or Solo would be doing this, more like nothing really changes.”

Something that has been a constant topic of discussion amongst Star Wars fans too, have been the character names. When asked what the criteria for the new characters were, and if either Abrams or Lawrence used left over names from George Lucas, Kasdan responded with the following:

“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?”

Abrams added:

“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.”

Finally, J.J. also revealed that Kylo Ren’s costume was the hardest to get right, but when they had it - they had it:

“The costume that was the most challenging I think for us to arrive at, and Michael Kaplan, the costume designer, I cannot wait for you to see what he’s done in this movie. There are so many cool – and many of you have not seen at all, costumes that are extraordinary. the most difficult one was Kylo Ren, and we went through I don’t know how many hundreds and probably thousands of iterations and different versions, and one of the great things about that was,over the course of that the costume for Captain Phasma was designed, that was actually pitched as a Kylo Ren costume originally. For story reasons it didn’t make sense and didn’t work, but we suddenly realized, oh my god, this is one of the greatest-looking costumes I’ve ever seen. And he/then she became one of my favorite characters in the movie. But the design of Kylo Ren was the most difficult one and when we finally saw the mask in the beginning of that design, it was really instantly clear that was the winner, and I’m very grateful to Michael and his whole amazing team.”

You can watch the second press conference below as well, which included Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, John Boyega, and Kathleen Kennedy:

For Harrison Ford, coming back was like a chance to work with new and exciting people:

“It’s because it’s what I do. It’s what I like to do. It’s what’s fun for me. And I had a chance to work with people that I really admire, doing something that I thought was going to be fun, and which actually turned out to be fun, and to work with J.J., whose work I had really admired and long known about. And it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

The veteran actor said he was excited to be working on something that he knew fans would be excited for again:

“It’s gratifying to be asked to be part of this.  There was a interesting story to tell through the character.  It’s always nice to anticipate working in something that you know people will have an appetite for.  This is not a crap shoot.  This is… this is a big casino.  And it’s fun to play with these toys again.  It’s been a great experience. “

The film is just the first in a line of several other, announced Star Wars projects though, so how mapped out is Disney and Lucasfilm’s actual plan and story for the new trilogy? When asked how specific the story details are moving forward with directors Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow, Kathleen Kennedy revealed the following:

“We haven’t mapped out every single detail yet. But obviously, everybody’s talking to one another, working together. And that collaboration I think is what is going to guarantee that everybody’s got a say in how we move forward with this, and so far, it’s going great. I mean, J.J. and Ryan have already talked at length because Ryan’s about to start shooting Episode 8. These guys are getting ready to head over in January. And then Colin will start working with Ryan, and spend a lot of time on the set with us.”

Harrison Ford also addressed what the differences were between making The Force Awakens and the Original Trilogy:

“It’s hard to say what the difference is.  I can tell you how it feels.  It feels familiar.  It feels good.  It’s good to be home, as Han says in the trailer, in the teaser trailer.  It’s a – you know, I’m aware of the value that’s placed on these films by the audience, and I’m gratified that they’ve been passed on, the first three have been passed on generationally through family, and that there’s still an audience for those of us that were in the original film.  There’s still some value to them in interpreting life somehow.  And it’s a bit of a mystery, but it’s very gratifying to be part of that.”

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Gwendoline Christie also addressed the fans’ overwhelmingly positive reaction to Captain Phasma, what it means to be this character in the franchise, and if she would be interested in playing Captain Marvel:

“I was very surprised, and heartened at the overwhelming response to the character of Captain Phasma.  But I really felt that what Kathleen, and J.J., and everyone had created at Star Wars was… I think J.J.’s been open about the fact that he wanted to respect the origins of the films and celebrate the, but to bring them into the modern day.  And confirmation of that seemed to be, to me, in this amazing character of Captain Phasma, who is Star Wars’ first on screen female villain.  And more than that, this is a character who, so far, we have related to due to her choices, due to her character, and not due to the way she has been made in flesh.  And conventionally, that is how we have related to female characters.  So this to me felt very progressive.  And the response from the audience and the fans has been so celebratory, it makes me think that this is the kind of thing people want to see.  People want to see a more diverse reflection of society.  And I feel incredibly privileged to play that part.  If anyone else wants to offer me any work, then I am very grateful and willing to listen.”

Staying in line with the previous comments by J.J. Abrams too, Kathleen Kennedy commented on the film’s secrecy, and the reasoning behind the marketing campaign:

“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.”

John Boyega also addressed some of the backlash that his casting received a few months ago, and what themes/messages he wants moviegoers to take away from the film:

“For me, I – I’m going to be honest.  I really don’t care about the black storm trooper stuff.  I couldn’t care less.  This is a movie about human beings, about Wookies, spaceships, and Ty fighters, and it has an undertone and a message of courage, and a message of friendship, and loyalty.  And I think that’s something that is ultimately important.  I watched the movie with Kathy just last week, and I really relate to Rey more than any of the characters.  And to be in a circumstance where you have to find something bigger than who you are within yourself, is something that’s an inspiration to me.  And I think that people take that away – in terms of the kids, all they’re going to be concentrating on is BB-8.”

How did it feel to know he was going to be wielding the Skywalker legacy lightsaber too?

“Oh, it was – it was – I was very excited to use that thing, because I think blue suits me.  And also, it was – it was amazing for me to read the whole script and to find out all the things that Finn gets to do.  And for me, it’s like – I feel like for some reason – did J.J. know what kind of fan I was when it came to Star Wars, and write this role for me?  Because I get to wear a stormtrooper’s suit, a rebel jacket.  I have a blaster.  I use a lightsaber. I hang out with frickin’ Han Solo and Chewie.  It’s just fantastic.”

The three new cast members also revealed their favorite moments from the Original Trilogy, and what inspirations they incorporated into their performances. For Oscar Isaac, his favorite moment came in Return of the Jedi:

“My favorite part was when in Return of the Jedi when Darth Vadar’s helmet comes off and you see that he’s just a soft, sad, old, vulnerable man underneath. I don’t know how that affected my performance, but that’s my – that was my favorite part.”

Gwendoline Christie’s:

“I just remember, I was about six when I saw the film, and I remember being so struck by the character of Princess Leia, and thinking even then, in my infant mind, “This seems different to the other women I see in films,” and feeling very, very inspired by that. And inspired by a woman with such tenacity, and being so strong minded. And I asked Carrie Fisher if – I said I felt like watching her performance implanted a seed in my mind. And Carrie said that she did plant a seed, actually in my mind.”

Finally, Boyega also told a story about how some throwback audition tapes helped him to land the part:

“I remember doing the auditions, not from the original films, but during the audition I had screen tested, and then I heard that I was going to be brought back one last time.  And mind you, I had been at – auditioned for several months.  And I just needed inspiration.  And I went on YouTube, and I saw Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill’s original audition tape, just on YouTube.  And that really inspired me to, you know, tap into the Star Wars-esque energy, because I think that’s what – that was something that we were trying to gauge, and that really inspired me, and I booked it. Thanks, Harrison.”

Oh, and for those of you hoping for more Ewoks, Abrams has finally confirmed that no Ewoks are featured in The Force Awakens…. Alive, at least.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is set to hit theatres on December 18th.

Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.

Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable