J.J. Abrams is no stranger to working on major films series: He made his directorial debut with Mission Impossible: III before directing the first two installments of the Star Trek reboot. And in what may go down as the most difficult task of his career, Abrams was asked to imagine and then execute Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, the seventh installment in one of the most fiercely debated film series of all time.
In an interview on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, Abrams revealed that, initially, he was afraid of the project and was expecting major criticism from fans of the series. In particular, he expected fans to criticize him for “ripping off” the six previous films.
“I knew that, whatever we did, there would be a group of people that would take issue with any number of things,” Abrams says. “But I knew we weren’t making the movie for any other reason than we believed that it could be something meaningful and special and entertaining and worthy of people’s time.”
While it’s true that the new Star Wars film can be nostalgia-heavy at times, what with the role reprisals of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill and plot points that seem VERY familiar, Abrams feels that he did a good job of using that nostalgia to his advantage, making it easier to introduce great new characters like Rey and Finn (played by newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega) to an audience of new and old fans alike.
“What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new, to go backwards to go forwards,” Abrams says.
Still, he thinks the nostalgia factor may fade with the next two installments in the trilogy-of-trilogies, especially since Abrams is handing the writing and directing reins over to Rian Johnson, the creative mind behind cult action thriller, Looper. According to Abrams, he and longtime Star Wars writer Larry Kasdan adjusted parts of Force Awakens to give Johnson the right footing for Episode VIII.
“Larry and I had a bunch of thoughts of where certain things could go and we shared those things with Rian Johnson, who’s directing VIII,” he says. “He had things that he came up with where he asked if it was possible if we could make some adjustments with what we were doing at the end, most of which we did — there were just a couple that didn’t feel right, so he made adjustments — but it was just collaboration.”
Intriguing. The as-yet-untitled sequel to Force Awakens will arrive in theaters in May 2017—we’ll be waiting with bated breath.
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