John Boyega Star Wars Force Awakens Jakku

Entertainment Weekly is on a roll with Star Wars coverage from their upcoming Kylo Ren cover issue featuring Star Wars: The Force Awakens. One of the many things their coverage has touched upon is the meaning behind the names of the characters in Episode 7. How did Finn, Rey, Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren get their names? What was director JJ Abrams’ inspiration? Is there a greater meaning to the names? Find out after the jump.

Darth Vader

I was one of those Star Wars fans who didn’t love the The Force Awakens character names when they were announced. I always loved the obvious symbolism of the character names from George Lucas’ films:

  • Darth Vader: “Darth” is a variant of the word Dark and famously, but unintentionally, Vader is Dutch for “Father” — which probably means many Star Wars fans in the Netherlands weren’t surprised by the ending of The Empire Strikes Back.
  • Luke Skywalker: While the last name is quite obvious (Lucas wasn’t much for the art of subtlety), the first name Luke has the Latin meaning of “light” and Biblical meaning of “Luminous, white.”
  • Yoda: From the Hebrew word yodea, which means knowledge, wisdom, or “the one who knows.”
  • Han Solo: “Solo” is obviously a reference to the character’s unwillingness to work as part of a team. Albeit with his co-pilot Chewbacca, Han works outside of the system – alone, solo.
  • Anakin: Comes from the Caananite tribe, the Anakim, or Anak, which means “born from the gods.”
  • Sidious: A form of the word insidious.

There are many others, but we’ll move on.

Rey Star Wars

To me the names of the characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn’t seem to have any symbolism. A lot of the power of George Lucas’ original trilogy came from the symbolism, not just in the names but from the overarching mythology of the heroes’ journey.  To not have meaning behind the names seemed like a misstep for the series. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe the names do have a deeper meaning.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Character Names Explained

Finally we have an answer as EW was able to quiz JJ Abrams about the origins of the names. And it turns out, I was sadly right.  The names don’t have much symbolic meaning (at least that JJ Abrams is willing to admit at this time), most of them are derived from people or things the filmmaker knows:

  • Kylo Ren, the new villain played by Adam Driver, is a name the character “came to” when he joined an order called the Knights of Ren.
  • Finn, the runaway stormtrooper played by John Boyega, and Rey, the desert scavenger played by Daisy Ridley, have no surnames on purpose. “It is completely intentional that their last names aren’t public record,” Abrams teases. This suggests the characters may be related to original or prequel trilogy characters we might be familiar with.
  • Poe Dameron, the X-Wing pilot played by Oscar Isaac, is named partially after JJ Abrams’ assistant Morgan Dameron. Abrams says that Dameron was obviously a name he was familiar with, but it also “just musically felt right.” Abrams admits that “There was no sort of deep reasoning behind it, and I also knew it would make Morgan blush if we named a character that. So she had this giant smile on her face.” He planned to eventually change the name but it stuck “like things that work seem to.” The first name is probably subconsciously named after his daughter who had a polar bear named Poe (short for “Polar”). Abrams says that “might’ve been why it felt right. There was a kind of sweetness to, and a charm to that name.”
  • General Hux, The First Order general played by Domhnall Gleeson, might have been named during the long storytelling walks Abrams would take with co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan:  “Larry and I would walk all over the place when we were breaking the story, and we would record our conversations. We were walking through a cemetery that’s near the Bad Robot offices, and we would often, as we were talking about characters, sort of just be glancing at names to see if any of them stuck. I don’t believe that Hux came from there, but it may have.” No grave with the name “Hux” is on record with the city.
  • Captain Phasma, a First Order warrior wearing shiny armor played by Gwendoline Christie, was named after the  1979 horror film Phantasm: “It reminded me of the ball in Phantasm, and I just thought, Phasma sounds really cool.”
  • BB-8, Poe Dameron’s sphere-shaped driod, Abrams blames the name on onomatopoeia, saying “It was sort of how he looked to me, with the 8, obviously, and then the 2 B’s.” Although we’ve heard that production has said BB is short for Ball Bot, but that must have come after the fact. Abrams dismissed the notion that BB-8 was an homage to his longtime producer Bryan Burk.

Of course, Abrams didn’t go much into the meanings behind Finn and Rey’s first names. I’m hopeful there is a greater meaning there somewhere.

Star Wars The Force Awakens - Rey

The piece also gives some context to the image above that we ran earlier in the day. In the shot above, BB-8 was captured by “a surly little sand-dweller known as Teedo, who is riding atop what looks like a rhinoceros fused with metal boxes. That beast of burden is known as a luggabeast, a never-before-seen creature from the universe.” Teedo is played by Kiran Shah, who appeared as an Ewok in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: