I must admit, I’m quite hesitant to write this article. After writer/director JJ Abrams and co outright lied to us by saying that there would be no more trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, only for a new Japanese one to show up and drop a whole batch of new footage, I’ve been afraid that Disney may just be tipping their hand too much in the final stretch to the film’s release. Thus far they’ve masterfully walked a very tight line when it came to teasing fans while still not giving away details.
The biggest info dump by far came from a series of interviews they did for Variety earlier in the year. And now they’ve gone and done a series of interviews again with EW, also revealing a bunch. Now while nothing in here is strictly a SPOILER as the cast are very clever in not giving away any major plot or character details, there are a few tidbits that have never been mentioned before and which some people may want to experience fresh. For these folks, I suggest checking out the gallery of 27 newly released images below and then calling it a day. The rest of you can keep on scrolling.
How cool do some of those pics look? Am I the only one that thinks the one of the Stormtroopers firing from the landing ramp of some spacecraft looks like it should be in a video game? And if you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that the brown jacket John Boyega’s Finn is wearing is the same one worn by Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron. Did Finn get it off him when he was still a Stormtrooper, or did they swap later on?
First up, Harrison Ford on whether Han Solo has mellowed or gotten wiser in his older age:
“There’s not an abandoning of the character. He does not aspire to the position of Obi-‘Ben’ Kenobi, nor do I aspire to be some New Age Alec Guinness. His development is consistent with the character, and there are emotional elements which have occasioned his growth.”
“We spend a lot more time [in the movie] on his failure to master basic skills, like accounting, and accounting for his own behavior. There’s a lot of the rogue still left in Solo. Some things don’t change.”
Ford’s advice to whichever actor gets picked to play a young Han Solo in the upcoming prequel:
“I would say, ‘Talk to your director. Watch the movies. And welcome aboard. Make it your own.’”
When Oscar Isaac, who plays new X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron, asked Ford about he uses his real life piloting experience to make his Star Wars performance more authentic:
“I said, ‘Just make s–t up!’ I mean, it’s a movie, man. It’s space. You don’t fly in space the way you do in an atmosphere.”
“I don’t know any more than George [Lucas] knew how to fly the Millennium Falcon when I first got in. ‘How do you fly this, George?’ [starts impersonating Lucas] ‘Well, I don’t know, you just flip switches, and, errrr…Ooookay!’”
In a separate interview, JJ Abrams spoke about Carrie Fisher’s older Leia Organa and revealed that she now has a new title. And no it’s not queen.
“She’s referred to as General. There’s a moment in the movie where a character sort of slips and calls her ‘Princess.’”
He also explained what it meant to have Carrie reprise her iconic role, and how her character has changed.
“The stakes are pretty high in the story for her, so there’s not much goofing around where Leia’s concerned. But it felt historic to have her, especially with Harrison [Ford], back in scenes together. I can only imagine the baggage that they bring to it, I’m just a fan who loves this stuff, but they’ve been living with it — and living in it — since ’77.”
“[Leia is] solitary. Under a lot of pressure. Committed as ever to her cause, but I would imagine feeling somewhat defeated, tired and pissed.”
But enough about the two elder statespeople of the cast, what about the new guys? Well, with that batch of images above, EW also spoke to the cast about the content and there were some big revelations. John Boyega, who plays the ex First Order stormtrooper turned lightsabre wielding rebel Finn, explained that these new stormtroopers were indoctrinated with a completely different version of history.
Boyega says soldiers raised from childhood to serve this remnant of the scattered Imperial forces are fed propaganda about the heroes of the Rebellion. Unlike Rey, he has learned a lot about Luke Skywalker — but he has been taught he was a villain who destroyed the benevolent Empire.
That would explain why Solo tells Finn and Daisy Ridley’s Rey about how the past events are all real in the last trailer. And speaking of Rey, there have been lots of rumours around exactly who she might actually be, and Ridley drops the most obvious hint yet about her character’s mysterious parentage when she gives more info on her background.
Rey was ditched on Jakku by her family when she was a child and has no idea why — or why they never returned. “She’s been alone for a long time,” Ridley says. “When something occurs when you’re 5, you know what went on but you don’t understand the reasoning. She’s hopeful for what lies ahead, whether that involves the past or not.” So why hasn’t abandonment made her bitter, angry, and… prone to the Dark Side? “Hope makes people good, a lot of the time,” Ridley says. “You hope for a brighter future, and resentment is outweighed.”
One other female character that has been shrouded in mystery thus far is Lupita Nyong’s Maz Kanata. All we’ve really known about her so far is that the character is fully CG, she lives in some kind of pirate castle and that it’s her voice we can hear in the trailer questioning Rey. Abrams shed some further light on Nyong’s Maz though.
“Her history is that she was a pirate for a long time,” he says. “She’s lived over a thousand years. She’s had this watering hole for about a century, and it’s like another bar that you’d find in a corner of the Star Wars universe.”
In the last trailer you can hear Maz’s voice telling Rey “I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people. I see your eyes. I know your eyes”. And apparently eyes are kind of a big deal for the character.
“I had some specific ideas about how she would work and what she would do. I had this pitch about these goggles that she wore. Her eyes are an important aspect of her character, and you’ll see how it plays out.”
Nyong’o couldn’t really give away anything major when it came to these eyes and their special abilities, but she did add that they gave her something extra to take into consideration.
“As an actor for films, your eyes are a lot of the way you communicate anyway. So it was definitely a gift to have that be the means to her magic as a motion-capture character.”
Although Maz is fully CG, she didn’t start out that way. Abrams explained that, much like the return to other physical effects, he wanted the character to be a puppet but that the character required more. However, he still wanted to maintain that more classic look.
“I wanted to do the creature as a puppet originally, but once we figured out the things that she was required to do, it felt like [performance capture] was the way to go.”
“Maz needed to look and feel and be just like one of those creatures. And given her mobility, and given the role that she played, it became clear that that was one creature where we should use the tool of CG. But the performance was all Lupita. She was there on set, and we did capture sessions afterwards as well, and I can’t say enough about working with her.”
This will be the first time that Nyong’o will be doing motion capture for a role, but she was luckily in that she had the mo-cap master Andy Serkis to turn to for help. Of course he wasn’t just there to offer advice about acting while covered in dots, as Serkis is of course also playing the enigmatic character of Supreme Leader Snoke. Out of all the new characters in The Force Awakens, he’s the one we have the least info about, knowing only that he’s a really bad guy and that he will also be CG. Which is apparently not much more than what initially Serkis knew either.
“It’s the first time I’ve been on set not yet knowing what the character’s gonna look like. I mean, talk about secrecy!”
One of the reasons though the secrecy around Snoke’s look is that director JJ Abrams’ idea of the character changed as the visual effects artists were able to do more, as Serkis explained.
“When we first started working on it, [JJ Abrams] had some rough notions of how Snoke was gonna look, but it really hadn’t been fully-formed and it almost came out of discussion and performance.”
“We shot on set of course, and I was in the scenes I have with other actors, but the beauty of this process is you can go back and reiterate, keep informing and honing beats and moments. So J.J., after we shot last year, we’ve had a series of sessions where I’d be in London at The Imaginarium, my studio, while he’s been directing from L.A., and we’ve literally been creating further additions and iterations to the character. That’s been fascinating. And in the meantime I’ve been able to see the look and design of the character grow and change as the performances change. So it’s been really exciting in that respect.”
But that’s all about what the character looks like – or could look like – what about who he is? Well, while Serkis was not willing to completely lift the veil of secrecy around the character, he did provide some really interesting teases about him.
“Supreme Leader Snoke is quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful. Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. As I said, there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda, I suppose.”
“[I couldn’t play him using just makeup]. The scale of him, for instance, is one reason. He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design – you couldn’t have gotten there with prosthetics. It’s too extreme. Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone structure and facial structure. You could never have done it [in real life.]”
Now thanks to a recent so-crazy-it-may-just-be-true fan theory about how Jar Jar Binks may actually be the true evil mastermind behind the whole Star Wars story, some fans have started to suspect that Snokes is none other than Jar Jar in disguise. I know it sounds ridiculous, but when you hear about Snokes being damaged, could it be that he’s an old character we already know that befell some calamity in the original galactic civil war between the Empire and the Rebels?
“No, he’s a new character in this universe. It is very much a newly-introduced character. He’s aware of what’s gone on, in the respect that he has been around and is aware of prior events. I think it’d be fair to say that he is aware of the past to a great degree.”
So sorry, guys. But it doesn’t look like Darth Jar Jar is ever going to be more than just a theory. Somebody who has of course had plenty of theories swirling around him – and specifically his absence thus far in the film’s marketing – Luke Skywalker. We still don’t know what has happened to the erstwhile Jedi as his current condition is easily the film’s biggest secret. Hell, he doesn’t even feature on The Force Awakens‘ posters! And that’s the way Abrams wants it.
“No one forgot about him! We were hoping people would care, but there are a lot of things that are not on the poster, as busy as the poster is. Certainly Luke is a very important aspect of the story.”
As Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy explained earlier in the year, it was the question of “Who is Luke Skywalker?” that convinced Abrams to take on this high-pressure directing gig. And its one that still drives Abrams, especially went taking into consideration how history becomes just stories over time.
“It was the thing that struck me the hardest, which was the idea that doing a story that took place nearly 40 years after Jedi meant that there would be a generation for whom Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia would be as good as myth. They’d be as old and as mythic as the tale of King Arthur. They would be characters who they may have heard of, but maybe not. They’d be characters who they might believe existed, or just sounded like a fairy tale.”
For Rey, eking out a living on a backward little planet in one tiny little corner of a huge galaxy, this becomes even more prevalent.
“To someone who is living alone and struggling without a formal education or support system, who knows what that person in the literal middle of nowhere would have ever heard about any of these things, or would ever know, and how much that person would have to infer and piece together on their own. So the idea that someone like that would begin to learn that the Jedi were real, and that the Force exists, and that there’s a power in the universe that sounds fanciful but is actually possible, was an incredibly intriguing notion.”
Finn is different though: He knows who Luke Skywalker is. Sort of. As mentioned earlier, the First Order taught young Stormtroopers about Luke and the Rebels since childhood, but it is a warped version of history. So how discovering the truth about what really happened and what is out there right now change him?
“For Finn, he’s been raised from the ashes of the Empire. He’s been taught about Luke Skywalker, he knows about his history. For him it’s like joining the army and then learning about one of the great enemies of your country. It has that effect on him. But in terms of the Force, and the magical stuff that happens, that is the point where Finn kind of questions what is what. What is the Force, what part does Luke Skywalker play in all of this?”
Of course. A regular scruffy looking nerf herder probably holds a lot less mystery to Finn.
“[For Finn, it really is kind of: ‘Han who?’
“To a stormtrooper they’ve probably been given a watered down bit about Han Solo or something. It doesn’t feel as magical and mythical and historical, so you know. It’s quite fun playing that not really knowing who these people are.”
I actually like this approach of new characters like Finn and Rey being a bit in the dark, as it parallels Luke growing up not knowing about Anakin and the rest Jedi Council. Of the event that kicks off Finn’s journey of discovery is finding Luke’s old lightsaber, the one he lost on Cloud City when Darth Vader sliced off his hand. Just how it ends up in Finn’s possession is described as “an important piece of the puzzle that will reveal Luke’s fate and whereabouts”.
And not even Luke himself, Mark Hamill, is willing to say much more about that. And he finds it excessively difficult to be tightlipped around one particular demographic of fans.
“That would be young children. Because they don’t understand non-disclosure agreements, they just want to know what’s going on. It’s not been easy, but the wait will soon be over.”
Many years ago, Hamill was part of a special Dinner For Five where him and a bunch of people in the biz sat around and discussed their work. During the video, Hamill would go on to talk at length about his thoughts about how Luke should go to the Dark Side and eventually become the villain in the Star Wars story. One of the other people who were a part of this video? A young JJ Abrams. So maybe, as a lot of fans are suspecting, that talk stuck with Abrams all these years and that’s why Luke has been missing from all the marketing? Neither man is willing to say, but Hamill did explain that he completely understands why fans would be willing to jump onto any theory that looks even remotely plausible, even if thinks they shouldn’t be worrying too much about it.
“That’s the beauty of the story, is it leaves it up to the audience’s imagination. It was the story of a boy going from a farm boy to a Jedi Master, and I always thought it was amusing, and if you put it in terms of James Bond, it would be like telling the story of how he got his license to kill, and then stopping and never telling any stories of what his adventures were. But that was just the structure of the movie, so it leaves it to the audience.”
He brings up George Lucas adding “Episode IV” to the original Star Wars film. “Even I said to George, ‘What’s going on with that?’ And he said, ‘Well, I want the audience to get the feeling that they’re just coming in to an adventure, and they’ll catch up.’ They know that all these things have gone on, and things are going on in front of their eyes, and it just ups the excitement factor. And so just on that basis alone, you should go in fresh and not have any questions.”
Well, sorry Mark. We do have questions. A lot of them. If you want a tiny fraction of them answered though, I would definitely advise you to go check out the EW article with all the new images, as there are a whole lot of other small behind the scenes details revealed in it as well.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens locally on 16 December 2015.
Last Updated: November 13, 2015