With a little over five weeks to go until the massively-anticipated release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Star Wars marketing machine is in full swing. Over the past few days we’ve had a new trailer, an international poster, and a first TV spot, and now director J.J. Abrams has been speaking to Wired about the film, the secrecy surrounding its plot, and sewing the seeds for Star Wars: Episode VIII.
On launching the Sequel Trilogy with The Force Awakens: “We wanted to tell a story that had its own self-contained beginning, middle, and end but at the same time, like A New Hope, implied a history that preceded it and also hinted at a future to follow. When Star Wars first came out, it was a film that both allowed the audience to understand a new story but also to infer all sorts of exciting things that might be. In that first movie, Luke wasn’t necessarily the son of Vader, he wasn’t necessarily the brother of Leia, but it was all possible. The Force Awakens has this incredible advantage, not just of a passionate fan base but also of a backstory that is familiar to a lot of people. We’ve been able to use what came before in a very organic way, because we didn’t have to reboot anything. We didn’t have to come up with a backstory that would make sense; it’s all there. But these new characters, which Force is very much about, find themselves in new situations—so even if you don’t know anything about Star Wars, you’re right there with them. If you are a fan of Star Wars, what they experience will have added meaning.”
On keeping the plot under wraps during the marketing campaign: “I give credit to, and frankly surprisingly so, the incredible people at Disney, especially Alan Horn [chair of Walt Disney Studios] and Bob Iger [Disney CEO]. Bob’s been unbelievably collaborative and supportive of this entire process. When it came to marketing, I was expecting Disney to want to put out an overabundance of material. But they’ve been incredibly reluctant to do that. They want this thing to be an experience for people when they go to see the film. And I’m grateful for that. There’s a really positive side to keeping quiet. You can protect the audience from spoilers or certain moments that, in a way, obviate the movie experience. But on the other hand, you risk being seen as coy or as a withholding shithead. That’s never my intent. Because Lucasfilm has been so engaged with the fans and so forthcoming about what they’re doing, it would have felt oddly inconsistent to not show anything until just before the movie came out. I actually personally pushed to have a teaser come out a year before, just because it felt like, as a fan of Star Wars, if I could see even the littlest thing I’d be psyched a year out. Why not? So we did. But I don’t want to destroy too many illusions. We’re walking a tightrope. If you fall on one side it’s no good, because we’re showing too much. If you fall on the other side it’s no good, because we’re not showing anything and we look like arrogant jerks.”
On building to Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII: “The script for VIII is written. I’m sure rewrites are going to be endless, like they always are. But what Larry 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. 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.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set for release on December 17th in the UK and December 18th in the States and sees J.J. Abrams directing returning stars Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar), in addition to Adam Driver (Girls), Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Andy Serkis (Avengers: Age of Ultron), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina), John Boyega (Attack the Block), Daisy Ridley (Silent Witness), Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Ken Leung (Lost), Miltos Yerolemou (Game of Thrones), Max von Sydow (The Exorcist), Jessica Henwick (Spirit Warriors), Christina Chong (24: Live Another Day), Simon Pegg (Star Trek) and newcomers Crystal Clarke and Pip Andersen.