Star Wars Comic Con

After waiting hours in line over the past two days (yes, we have to wait in line just like everyone else), Lucasfilm finally wowed Comic-Con with their panel in Hall H for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and it did not disappoint.

Although there weren’t any major announcements about forthcoming Star Wars Anthology projects or the next two episodes of the new Star Wars trilogy, fans were still left with the feeling that they could take on the whole Empire (or First Order) themselves. Why? Because a wonderful sizzle reel took us behind the scenes of the production of the film, and cast members both new and old came to hype up the start of a new era of Star Wars.

Below, find out everything we learned during the Star Wars Comic Con panel!

Kathleen Kennedy started off with a big thank you to the fans who have been supporting Star Wars since it hit Comic-Con in 1976. The Lucasfilm chief said:

“I think a lot of people out there know that Star Wars is 100% dependent on the fans of this room and all over the world since 1976. When the movie was ready to come out, it was the fans that built the momentum around the release of A New Hope, and here we are, back full circle, and we want to say thank you to all of you.”

Fans would get quite the show of gratitude just a couple hours later. But first let’s get to the goods of the panel.

The Filmmakers

George Lucas JJ Abrams Kathleen Kennedy Star Wars

J.J. Abrams says they’re currently editing the movie, and they have a working cut of the movie done. Right now they’re at an “extraordinary moment” where they’re fine-tuning. Abrams says he calls it an extraordinary moment, because Disney actually gave them the time to get the movie done the right way.

Lawrence Kasdan went berserk when J.J. Abrams was brought on board Star Wars. He calls Abrams “the funniest, most talented, most perfect choice for this movie.” They spent a year writing the script and figuring it out, and “it’s been a total gas.”

Abrams has been a Star Wars fan since a kid, and he actually asked his mother to make him a Jawa costume for Halloween when he was 13 years old. Young Abrams made the eyes, and his mother did the rest of the costume. And while Abrams his a fan, he addressed how surreal it is to be working on this movie:

“There’s nothing normal about writing with Lawrence Kasdan, there’s nothing normal about working with Kathleen Kennedy. I sat down with John Williams to show him scenes from a Star Wars movie he hadn’t seen, that I directed. There’s nothing normal about that.”

There’s also nothing normal about Baba Joe, one of the practical aliens from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This particular alien was featured in the first video from the set of the sequel, glimpsed in the background of some kind of market. Baba Joe came out on the Hall H stage, showing off the impressive, practical creation from Neal Scanlan, responsible for effects ranging from Prometheus to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

JJ Abrams Star Wars Force Awakens set

Baba Joe (above right) is just one of hundreds of practical creatures built for this film. Abrams stresses how important it was to have these elements on set, even as just background creatures. It gives the actors things to actually interact with and respond to, also makes for better lighting, and how it reflects on the set with these “real” creatures actually in front of the camera. Authenticity was stressed, tangible construction, to make it look and feel real on screen, because it was.

Kasdan also echoed the sentiments of a practical set and effects, recalling one particular sequence where they were on the bay of a Star Destroyer with Stormtroopers drilling in front of us. What are they drilling for? Were not really sure, but having real weapons and real Stormtroopers in front of the camera, and even in the background, just made it that much more special.

J.J. Abrams talked about the influences on The Force Awakens, and how they determined what approach to take. The director says:

“We tried to sit down and ask ourselves what feels right, and the only mandate we had is, what delights us? It doesn’t have to be fun all the time or ever silly, but it has to be compelling. We treated films four, five and six, the films that I grew up with, as canon. And it’s crazy to be writing a script with Lawrence Kasdan and ask , ‘What would Han Solo say here?’ and have Kasdan just know, ‘Well I’ll tell you what Han would say here.'”

Abrams adds, “We wanted to tell a story that would make us feel.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: harrison ford as Han Solo

And the best way to make fans feel isn’t to just throw in a bunch of familiar, nostalgic things without any meaning. Abrams explains, “It’s bitchin’ to have a scene on the Millennium Falcon, but it doesn’t make the scene automatically good. You have to ask, ‘What’s interesting? What’s unexpected?’ It has to be interesting, it has to be scary, it has to be infectious and as deep as what came before. We can’t be blinded by it, so we have to have these checks and balances. You say, ‘That’s really cool, but what does it mean?’ We worked as hard as we possibly could.

The idea of diversity in the Star Wars cast was addressed after a fan specifically asked about the lack of Asians in a galaxy far, far away. Abrams threw his full support behind having Asians in the films, “I’m not casting the movies that are coming out, but if I Were, I would cast them as only Asian.”

The director says there are Asians in The Force Awakens though, but also stressed that they didn’t write roles with details like race in mind, “We didn’t write the character of Finn to be any color, we just cast this movie knowing we wanted the movie to look the way the world looks. It’s important that people see themselves represented in the film.

Kathleen Kennedy reassured fans that they will be carrying diversity through all the Star Wars films coming in the future.

One fan referred to Star Wars as an intellectual property, asking about how his work on Star Wars may influence he approaches new “IP” in the future. Abrams was intrigued by this notion and said:

“I don’t think of Star Wars as an IP, so I don’t know how to answer that question. This is a story and these are characters that we love, so none of us are thinking about it from the outside in like that. We’re just working really hard to make a movie and tell a story and when things come up to sell and market it, we want that to be authentic as the movie. It would be a different film if we just talked about it as an IP.”

The New Heroes and Villains

Rey Finn Star Wars Force Awakens

John Boyega might be a Stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but he said “It’s really complicated buying a Black Series Star Wars figure.”

Daisy Ridley was asked how the physical demands of the role compare to the work she’s done previously, and she adorably says, “We can’t really compare it to other stuff we’ve done, because I haven’t done other stuff. You always hope physically you can change yourself, as well as emotionally. It’s very difficult but amazing. We had the most incredible stunt team. And John and I were running through 125 degree heat, with real explosions.”

Boyega chimed in to thank J.J. for shooting in the Abu Dhabi desert and making him wearing a Stormtrooper outfit.

As for working with screen legends like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, each of the three new stars had their own take on working with the original trilogy heroes. Apparently Harrison Ford thought Oscar Isaac was wearing a wig when they met. And John Boyega went out to eat at a Nigerian restaurant where one of the staff members asked, “Are you Harrison Ford?” And he just responded, “I used to be.”

Daisy Ridley was a little more sweet and non-specific, saying, “Working with the legends was everything we could have hoped for and more, and they made us feel as part of the universe as they already are.”

Domhnall Gleeson confirmed that he is evil, “I’m British, so I am evil.” His character is named General Hux, and he’s a superior of some sort in the First Order, specifically on Starkiller Base, named after the original name given to Luke Skywalker in the original script for Star Wars.

Meanwhile, Adam Driver couldn’t say much about Kylo Ren, but he offered some insight on his perspective as a villain:

We didn’t have a lot of conversations about bad or evil. It was more the difference between being bad and being right, and it’s a huge difference. Someone who thinks they’re bad is a selfish thing, but thinking they’re right is different, and that’s almost more evil, people who decide they’re morally justified in behaving a certain way.

As for Gwendoline Christie, she’s thoroughly excited about her role as Captain Phasma, a female superior Stormtrooper:

“I found it exciting that there was a female Stormtrooper, but it was the opportunity to explore a female character that is totally not about the way she looks in flesh. That armor is exterior and it’s more like the outside feeding in. Underneath that armor is a woman, and I think that makes it more relevant than ever.”

The Old Heroes

The Force Awakens behind the scenes

On coming back, Carrie Fisher said it was like a flashback — an acid flashback. The actress says, “I didn’t think it was going to happen again, and I had to check and see if it was me. I always said it was a little bit like before, but we looked more melted this time, in a good way. It’s sort of like we picked up where we left off. We’re the legacy people, so it was like a tapdancing troupe; it was great having the new people because they do it faster.”

Meanwhile, Mark Hamill is still moved by the impact Star Wars has on people’s lives. He says ,”When I meet you on the street, everyone has a story. ‘I met my wife at the premiere of Return of the Jedi’ or ‘My son is named Luke.’ It’s a personal connection, and it’s very moving. It’s hard to absorb the impact you had, it’s an out of body experience. I see it put together, but it’s not me, it’s Luke. I’m moved by the connection to the world.

Fisher added that she loves how people cherish when and how they show the film to their kids, joking that some parents might end up not liking their kids if they don’t have the same favorite character.

Harrison Ford seemed to get ever so slightly emotional as he talked about what it was like to come back:

“It should’ve felt ridiculous. It was 30-something years ago, and I sorta grew up. And here I was doing something I did so long ago, and I will tell you that it felt great. I wasn’t so sure it would, but the company was the right company, the director was the right director. I’m just so proud and grateful again to be involved. The original Star Wars that I was part of really was the beginning of my working life, and I was very grateful for the opportunity I had in that film and for the success of that film, so it was great to be back.”

As for what we can expect from the film, Ford doesn’t think there’s a difference in theme between the original trilogy and the start of this new one, “I don’t know if it’s a difference, but a development of theme. It’s a natural progession that has occurred form the stories that we told in the first three, perhaps an emotional rounding of the experience that we all had in the first three films.

Hamill had the best response though, saying, “I was just glad I didn’t have to go to Toshi station to pick up some power converters.”

That’s all from the panel for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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