Montclair Film Festival Presents Celebrity Nerd-Off: Stephen Colbert & J.J. Abrams

As you may have heard by now, J.J. Abrams completed the mix of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at 2:38 AM Saturday morning, leaving, according to him, just six small (but important) tasks to be done. But instead of celebrating by, say, downing an entire bottle of champagne and then curling up for a nice, long, well-deserved nap, Abrams hopped on a plane to New Jersey, where he engaged in a “Celebrity Nerd-Off” with Star Wars superfan Stephen Colbert in support of the Montclair Film Festival.

For an hour and a half, Colbert interviewed Abrams about his beginnings, his career, and of course, Star Wars. After the jump, find out what we learned. 

Star Wars The Force Awakens lens flare

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will go easy on the lens flares. 

 
In the past, Abrams’ lens flare habit has gotten so out of control that he’s actually apologized for it. But it seems the recovering addict has turned a corner, just in time for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “I’ve kind of pulled back. As you’ll see in the Star Wars movie, I’ve allowed lens flares to take a very backseat,” he said. “We’re making sure that it looks photorealistic and photoreal, but every time there could be a flare — because you know, I like to do that a lot — I would say ‘These are not the flares you’re looking for.'”

Which isn’t to say Abrams has ditched the habit completely. After viewing the latest Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer with the audience, Colbert commented, “Three. Three lens flares.”

Kardue’sai’Malloc

Abrams’ favorite Star Wars alien is the grinning guy from the cantina.

 
Everyone has a favorite Star Wars character, but one audience member made the choice a bit more interesting by asking Abrams to name his favorite “non-starring” (i.e., not Chewbacca) alien character. Abrams picked Kardue’sai’Malloc — an alien so obscure, even he admitted not to knowing the character’s name. (A different audience member later named the character in question.) Here’s Abrams explaining why:

The first thing that comes to my mind, and I don’t know his name but I’m sure he’s got a novel written about him, was in the cantina, that guy who smiled. This guy with this amazing face, and I remember as a kid seeing it, and just being like, holy crap. It wasn’t just that it was cool-looking, but it was that little thing that was representative of what George Lucas was doing everywhere you looked … They were characters that told you there was life and character and drama happening beyond the borders of what you were seeing, and it was an inspiring, inspiring thing.

taking care of business

Colbert and Abrams almost crossed paths very early in their careers.

 
It’s no surprise that Colbert and Abrams know each other now, given that one of them is a talk show host and the other a hotshot director, but the pair almost met at the very start of their careers. Colbert revealed (to Abrams’ apparent surprise) that he’d actually auditioned for Abrams’ first screenplay, Filofax: “Jim Belushi was in it, and I guess he wanted some Chicago people in it, and so I think probably everybody got hoovered up in Chicago improv comedy.” The film, retitled Taking Care of Business, was released in 1990.

Montclair Film Festival Presents Celebrity Nerd-Off: Stephen Colbert & J.J. Abrams

Colbert wants Abrams to make an Akallabêth movie.

 
During the Q&A, an audience member asked Colbert what J.R.R. Tolkien project he wanted Abrams to direct. Colbert barely even had to think before he gave his answer. “I would ask him to make what’s called the Akallabêth,” he said, referring to the fourth section of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. “It’s got all your greatest hits in it. It’s got elves in it, it’s got Sauron in it…” Colbert gave a detailed description of the entire plot before concluding, “It’s a perfect story. It’s complete. I think of anything in The Silmarillion, you should do that.”

JJ Abrams Star Wars Force Awakens set

Abrams is very ready for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be done.

 
Star Wars fans the world over are beyond ready to watch The Force Awakens, and after nearly three years of working on the movie, Abrams is beyond ready for them to see it, too. “It’s been like living with the greatest roommate in history for too long,” he said. “It’s time for it to get its own place. It’s been the greatest and I can’t tell you how much I want him to get out and go into the world and meet other people. We know each other really well.” Even after all that time and work, however, Abrams sounded amazed to have the opportunity to make a Star Wars film at all: “Of course I’m, in turns, thrilled beyond words and more terrified than I can say.”

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