Last night Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams appeared on stage at the Tribeca Film Festival with actor and comedian Chris Rock and participated in a Q & A. Abrams caused quite a stir online after he gave away a hint about Rey's parents(which he later clarified). But it appears that wasn't all he revealed, as IGN has reported on some highlights from the discussion which sheds some light on some behind the scenes drama that took place. Specifically the fact that it took some convincing to get Mark Hamill back as Luke Skywalker.
First of all, he responded to critics of the film who have claimed that Episode VII is a "remake" of Episode IV: A New Hope. He reassures that upcoming films will tread new ground:
“This movie [The Force Awakens] was a bridge and a kind of reminder; the audience needed to be reminded what Star Wars is, but it needed to be established with something familiar, with a sense of where we are going to new lands, which is very much what 8 and 9 do... The weird thing about that movie is that it had been so long since the last one. Obviously the prequels had existed in between and we wanted to, sort of, reclaim the story. So we very consciously - and I know it is derided for this - we very consciously tried to borrow familiar beats so the rest of the movie could hang on something that we knew was Star Wars.”
Abrams also explains that there was actually a bright spot to the otherwise terrible situation surrounding Harrison Ford's infamous on set injury:
"When I was on the set of the Millennium Falcon and we started to do work with Rey and Finn, the first time we did it, it didn’t work at all. It was much more contentious. I didn’t direct it right. It was set up all wrong, and when Harrison Ford got injured - which was a very scary day - we ended up having a few weeks off, and it was during that time that I really got to look at what we had done and rewrite quite a bit of that relationship. So when we came back to work again, we actually just reshot from the ground up, those scenes. It was an amazingly helpful thing to get these two characters to where they needed to be.”
In addition, he reveals that Mark Hamill wasn't always on board with the idea of only have on scene and no dialogue at the end of the film:
“We knew that getting to Luke was the whole story, and I was desperate to do the next chunk that we knew would not fit into this one movie. But, we knew that we had that ending, but it was a frightening and tricky thing to do, but at first and in all honesty, Mark Hamill was a little resistant... Imagine reading Star Wars, imagine being Mark Hamill and you get the script for the new Star Wars. 'Oh the opening is good, page two, oh, three and so on - what the f**k is the going on, I’m three pages before the end, the last page, what?' He was so kind to do it, and at first he was like, 'Will it seem silly, will it be a joke that he is standing there?' I said to him, ‘I don’t think it will.’ I said because the whole movie is about that, it could be a great fun drum roll, up to seeing this guy.”
Abrams admits that it wasn't until they were filming the scenes on Skellig Michael Island in Ireland that he realized himself that the ending would indeed work. You can check out IGN's full recap here.
I have to say, how they decided to use Luke in The Force Awakens was both brilliant and gutsy. Many(including myself) would have put Luke front and center in this film if they had had their way. But Abrams and his crew took the risk and it paid off incredibly well. Episode VII was a great (almost literal) cliffhanger that left us all wanting to see Episode VIII. We're bound to see much more of Luke when that film hits theaters December 15th, 2017.
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