Star Wars Bits: J.J. Abrams Explains Why He Initially Turned Down 'Star Wars' And Harrison Ford Has Seen 'The Force Awakens'

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... there was Star Wars Bits, your round-up of all the Star Wars news you need to know. In this edition:

  • J.J. Abrams explains why he turned down Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  • J.J. Abrams then explains why he finally accepted the gig.
  • James Gunn says he has no interest in making a Star Wars movie.
  • A new BB-8 featurette offers up some new footage.
  • Star Wars Battlefront takes you to the Battle of Jakku.
  • Harrison Ford "reviews" The Force Awakens.
  • Carrie Fisher has a bone to pick to how the Star Wars series has treated her body.

It's no secret that Disney and Lucasfilm courted many directors for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and that many of them turned it down. Among those who turned it down was J.J. Abrams, who was currently embroiled in Star Trek Into Darkness when the offer came down the pipeline. Speaking with Howard Stern (via Collider), he explained why he initially said no to the offer of a lifetime:

I said 'No'. I didn't want to do a sequel. I'd done a Mission: Impossible movie; I'd done Star Trek. I didn't wanna do another sequel—I'm sick of movies with numbers... As a fan, I'd rather just go to the theater and watch the movie.

However, after an extensive meeting with Lucasfilm president and Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams relented. It turns out that the chance to introduce a new generation of characters in a world where the beloved original trilogy heroes were legends was just too enticing:

And the thing that got me, that grabbed me, was that feeling of a new, young character—in the case of this conversation it was a female character, didn't know anything about her, but in the conversation that question of this young woman asking, 'Who is Luke Skywalker?', I don't know why but it made me feel like, 'Fuck that's so cool!' That there would be a discovery, these would be essentially kids who didn't see Star Wars themselves who would be in this universe. The idea of sort of rediscovering this world.

abrams r2

Abrams also shared the story (via THR) of the first time he screened an unfinished cut of The Force Awakens to Disney executives, which was about as nerve-wracking as you'd expect. Imagine watching a Star Wars movie without finished music, sound and effects. Heck, the stories of George Lucas' first screening of an unfinished Star Wars are legendary, with many of his friends and peers deeming the film a disaster. Here's Abrams:

We showed the first cut — which was still incomplete, a complete version of the movie but not the finished version — and we showed it to Alan Horn, Bob Iger and Alan Bergman, the three people at Disney who sat with me in the theater, and we screened the movie. And it was horrifying. I'm nervous beyond words, I'm showing this movie that is so far from finished, there's not an effect in it. ... It was a lot of me giving excuses before the screening.

For the record, Abrams says the response to the early cut was positive.

abrams chewie

In a separate interview with Good Morning America (via THR), Abrams explained why the process of making The Force Awakens has been so secretive. In short, he's doing it for you, the humble Star Wars fan:

Here's the thing: I obviously don't want to ruin the movie for people. It's so important to us that we not give too many details and oversell it, which is very hard in a movie like Star Wars.

And yes, he's hoping to create a legion of new fans, too. And yes, he's hoping more girls will fall in love with this universe, which has been male-dominated for the past 40 years. Making the lead character a tough, heroic woman is certainly the right start:

Star Wars was always a boys thing and a movie that dads could take their sons to, and though that's still very much the case, I was really hoping that this would be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to as well. I'm looking forward to kids seeing this movie and seeing themselves in it and seeing that they're capable of doing things that they could never imagine possible.

While J.J. Abrams does all of this press, you have to wonder if any other filmmakers wish they were in his shoes right now. When asked if he would ever consider making a Star Wars movie, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was pretty blunt about the whole thing.

C'mon. The guy is too busy building the cosmic corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to think about Jedi right now. He's got talking tree and gun-toting raccoons to deal with.

The Disney Channel aired a cute, silly little video that seemingly exists solely to introduce kids to BB-8 (as if they already don't know who that is by now). While you surely don't need an education in the identity of the galaxy's cutest new droid, this video does contain snippets of new footage and a brief dialogue exchange between Daisy Ridley and BB-8. So if you have 45 seconds to spare...

battle of jakku

We've all seen the aftermath of the Battle of Jakku in the trailers for The Force Awakens: a massive graveyard of destroyed ships, rusting in the desert. The first batch of downloadable content for Star Wars Battlefront will transport players to this massive conflict, which took place shortly after the Battle of Endor and 29 years before the events of the new movie. A new trailer gives us our first look at the gameplay for this new map, which also means it's our first look at a key moment that transpired after the events of Return of the Jedi. It looks appropriately massive.

And if that's not your specific brand of video game speed, here's a video of Trevor and Michael from Grand Theft Auto V getting in a lightsaber duel because the internet will never not supply you with anything you could ask for.

Due to the Chinese government's restriction on the number of foreign films allowed to screen in the country in a given year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was never going to screen in China during 2015. However, Disney has finally secured a January 9, 2016 release date for the film and they plan to pull out all of the stops with a major gala premiere.

solo force

Harrison Ford has seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens... just don't expect him to say anything about it. In an interview with Good Morning America, the man who is Han Solo gave this extremely vague review:

It was great. It's a wonderful movie. It's got great production values. It's a real big movie, and I was delighted to see it.

When grilled about Han Solo himself, Ford refused to speak on his current relationship status (Disney snipers were obviously watching) but said this much:

He's got a more complex story now. A little more of an emotional context than perhaps there was before. But he's still the same guy.

general leia

Nearly 40 years ago, Carrie Fisher was infamously pressured to lose weight to play Princess Leia Organa, bringing her down to a startling (and dangerous) 95 pounds. Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Fisher says (via Vulture) that she was asked to lose 35 pounds to play Leia again in The Force Awakens, and she's not being shy about her feelings on this matter:

They don't want to hire all of me — only about three-quarters! Nothing changes, it's an appearance-driven thing. I'm in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance. That is so messed up. They might as well say get younger, because that's how easy it is.

But let's end this on a happier note. Here's a good look at Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, in the film. Remember all of those early rumors about how she was going to be playing a young Leia in a flashback? Nah. She's just a Resistance soldier who apparently gets to stand next to a very cool-looking droid.