When J.J. Abrams agreed to direct “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” it wasn’t just a matter of continuing the franchise with a sequel, he had to ensure the building blocks were in place for future filmmakers.
He recently spoke at length with Wired about setting up this franchise for the ambitious plans Disney have for multiple sequels and numerous spinoffs.
“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.”
Making a movie that is both satisfying on its own and ensuring that elements are their for the continuation of the story was an hard balance to strike. He worked with Episode VII director Rian Johnson to ensure the next instalment in the space opera saga was setup in the right way.
“The script for VIII is written. I’m sure rewrites are going to be endless, like they always are. But what [Larry 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.”
The collaboration it seems worked both ways, with Johnson also contributing to “The Force Awakens”:
“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.”
Abrams compares having the responsibility of casting for not just his movie but multiple “Star Wars” films to another famous franchise.
“When you think about all that these characters go through, not just in this movie but knowing their work would continue, these individuals needed to be worthy bearers of this burden and opportunity to continue to tell the story. I think about the Harry Potter movies—that’s unbelievable that they cast those films the way they did. And for what, eight movies?! That was a miracle. They needed to be able to do everything, and they all killed it.”
With Abrams comments, it is hard to comprehend what a massive task it is to not just make a good movie, but also ensure the health of the franchise moving forward. With a multitude of moving parts in play Disney have the experience from their work on the Marvel Cinematic Universe in manoeuvring a massive multi-film/TV franchise, this knowhow will no doubt put Lucasfilm in good-stead for continued success with “Star Wars”.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens on December 18th and stars:Daisy Ridley, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Warwick Davis, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow and Mark Hamill.