The Ninjabot

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Comic-Con Panel Recap

Posted on July 11, 2015 at 8:59 am by David "Snackbar" Edmundson

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San Diego Comic-Con is home to some of the biggest and most popular “geek” properties around, but if you were to take a poll this year of folks’ most anticipated panel of the 2015 Con, the winner would be unanimous: Star Wars. With the wheels churning heavily on a reinvigorated creative direction, starting with J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens and continuing on with other proper installments in a new trilogy as well as “Star Wars Anthology” standalone stories, interest is at a fever pitch for what new Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has up her sleeve with a new series of films, and today’s Comic-Con panel—before which the intense anticipation in the room was palpable—did not disappoint.

Panel Highlights

  • First off, the panel couldn’t have had a more perfect moderator than Chris Hardwick, who’s a Comic-Con MVP at this point. He began by speaking about how special and emotional this was for him, stressing that this would be an experience that we’d be talking about for decades to come, and he star-wars-7-force-awakens-r2d2-bb8-600x600ensured those in attendance that we wouldn’t be disappointed. And we weren’t.
  • Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and co-writer Lawrence Kasdanwere the first to take the stage.
  • Hardwick first addressed Kennedy, asking her about the fandom and presence throughout the years: “Obviously I think a lot of people out there know that Star Wars is 100% dependent on the fans in this room and all over the world since 1976. In fact, when the movie was ready to come out, it was really the fans that built the momentum around the release of A New Hope. So we are right back in full circle, and we wanna say thank you to all of you.”
  • Abrams revealed they have a cut of the movie and they’re currently editing, in “an extraordinary moment where we’re fine-tuning.” He stressed that he was happy that Disney gave them the time to do it right and tinker with the film, taking their time instead of chasing a release date.
  • Kasdan, making his first Comic-Con appearance ever, said, “The guy that brought me here is the genius that brought us all here: George Lucas.” He reflected on working with Lucas on Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, then said he got a call asking if he’d want to work with the characters again, 30 years later.
  • Kasdan on Abrams: “I thought he was the funniest, most talented, most perfect choice for this movie. And then he and I spent an entire year walking around, figuring it out, [writing the script].”
  • Abrams on the experience of making a Star Wars movie: “There is nothing normal about getting to write a movie with Lawrence Kasdan… I’ve sat down with John Williams to show him scenes from a Star Wars movie that he hadn’t seen yet. There’s nothing normal [about this].”
  • Hardwick asked Abrams about the practical effects, and Abrams discussed doing a video for Unicef star-wars-7-force-awakens-oscar-isaac-600x422through Omaze and raised $5 million for charity by offering a tease of the film for fans.
  • Abrams talked about the creature seen in the first set video that went out for the Unicef event, and he brought “Baba Jo” on stage to prove he’s practical.
  • Baba Jo was built by Neal Scanlon and the creature department, and is one of “hundreds” of creatures they built for the film. He’s operated by five people, and Abrams said a lot of these creatures are just background creatures, but they give the actors in scenes things to respond to and interact with on set.
  • The creature Baba Jo looked fantastic on stage, by the way. He literally wiggled his nose, showing off incredibly detailed and precise movements.
  • Abrams on practical effects: “Of course it’s Star Wars there’s gonna be a ton of visual effects… But the important thing for us was we made this authentic.”
  • John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac came out to take part in the rest of the panel.
  • On the physical demands of the film, Daisy Ridley described the training regimen as amazing, saying the months of training helped her to get into character. “As you’ve seen in the teaser, we were running through 110 degree heat, and those explosions were real.”
  • Was Isaac given advice on his piloting? “As an excited eager actor I wanted to talk to Harrison Ford about piloting, and he said, “Um, it’s fake. And also it’s in space so the same stuff doesn’t apply.”
  • Isaac says Poe Dameron takes on the legacy of Han and Luke as a fighter pilot. “Poe was watching on star-wars-7-force-awakens-daisy-ridley-401x600Yavin when the medal ceremony was happening and saying, ‘I wanna be that.’”
  • For the first time in public, Hardwick introduced the Dark Side characters: Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), and Gwendonline Christie (Captain Phasma).
  • Christie first spoke and said, “This is so out of control,” to which Hardwick replied, “You know you’re on Game of Thrones right?”
  • On Kylo Ren, Driver was very tight-lipped but said, “We didn’t really have a lot of conversations about bad or evil, actually, when we were shooting it. It was more what do you think the difference between being bad and being right?… Thinking their right is almost more evil. A group of people who have decided that they’re morally justified in behaving a certain way.”
  • On the character of Captain Hux, Gleeson was asked if his character is flat-out evil, to which he replied, “He’s British, so yeah.” He looks like a very uptight, “commander” type in costume. No facial hair, slicked back head of hari
  • Speaking about Captain Phasma, Christie said, “I found it not only 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 the exterior, and it’s more about the outside feeding in.”
  • As one of the final surprise guests, Hardwick introduced Carrie Fisher.
  • What was the feeling of coming back on set? Fisher replied, “It was like a flashback. I thought, ‘They were right about the acid flashbacks,” to plenty of laughter. “I always said it was a little like before, star-wars-7-force-awakens-jj-abrams-r2d2-600x400but we looked more melted.”
  • And last but not least, Mark Hamill took the stage. He spoke about the “out of body experience” of these films meaning so much to so many people, adding “I’m moved by the connection to the world. Suddenly you’re a friend to everyone.”
  • And just as it seemed like the panel was winding down, Harrison Ford took the stage to uproarious applause. When asked about his foot, Ford said, “I mean I walked here [to this seat].”
  • “Well it should’ve felt ridiculous. It was 30 freaking years ago and I sort of grew up. It was something I did so long ago, and I will tel 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, Larry wrote us a wonderful story, and I was proud and grateful to once again be involved. The original Star Wars that I was part of really was the beginning of my working life, and I was very, very grateful for the opportunity that I had in that film, and the success I had in that film, so it was great to be back.”
  • Hardwick spoke about how meaningful it was for the central trio to return and “bring us home” in a way.

Footage

Abrams said they weren’t ready to show a new trailer or new footage yet, but they put together a beautiful behind-the-scenes piece that revealed some fantastic set footage as well. It began with a series of slates coming down just as cameras roll. Downed fighters, practical effects stormtroopers taking position. star-wars-the-force-awakens-gwendoline-christie-captain-phasma-442x600“Nothing’s changed really. I mean everything’s changed, but nothing’s changed,” says Mark Hamill. We saw that they shot the scenes in which Daisy Ridley’s character is in a cockpit outside against a blue screen, so they could use natural light.

Simon Pegg makes a cameo on set, saying “My whole life has led to this moment.” And then we saw Pegg wearing some sort of practical suit with space for something to cover his head. So he doeshave a role in the movie, but spotting him might be difficult. And we saw Carrie Fisher in character, which was delightful. Leia does have a different hairdo. It’s not the bun, but reminiscent of it, in a single knot on the top/back of her head.

Abrams concluded the panel with one final surprise: he set up a Star Wars concert in San Diego for which everyone in the audience would be able to attend. The kicker? The entirety of Hall H would walk over to the concert together, not dissimilar from how Edgar Wright announced a surprise screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a few years ago and walked the fans over personally. The leader of the walk was Kevin, a man who put on a stormtrooper costume and walked 600 miles to Comic-Con to honor his late wife.

Audience Q&A

  • When asked what influences he took as inspiration for The Force Awakens, Abrams said they tried to sit down and ask themselves, “What feels right?” The only mandate they had was, “What delights us?… It means it has to be compelling.” Kasdan added that they were still writing as production went on, but the key to it all was making it feel real.
  • star-wars-adam-driver-600x408On the burden of legacy, Abrams said, “The only answer I can say is because we love it and we care about it so much, our job is to not be blinded by that. You can just be a fan and say you’re gonna make a movie because you’re a fan… When you’re directing a scene on the Millennium Falcon, it doesn’t make it good. It’s bitchin’ because it’s on the Millennium Falcon, but it doesn’t make it good.” Abrams stressed the importance of story and character, saying it was a constant thing trying to ensure that they weren’t blinded by their deep connection to the franchise.
  • Kennedy revealed that Gareth Edwards starts shooting Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One in three weeks.
  • Any Asian characters joining the cast in upcoming Star Wars films? “First of all I wanna say, ‘Go Asians!’ quipped Abrams. He seriously replied that there are Asians in “We didn’t write the character of Finn to be any color. We didn’t write the character of Rey any color… We wanted the movie to look the way the world looks, and I think it’s important for people to recognize themselves in film.” Kennedy added, “there is every intention” to carry on what Abrams was talking about, “in all the Star star-wars-brain-trustWars movies we’re going to make.”
  • On transmedia and marketing The Force Awakens as a piece of IP Abrams said, “If we thought of it as an IP, it would be a very different film.” He stressed the importance of story and staying true to the film through all the things they “have” to do, like marketing.
  • Isaac revealed that Harrison Ford thought he was wearing a wig when he met him on set.
  • “My greatest memory was taking Harrison Ford to a Nigerian restaurant in London… This guy comes up to him and goes, ‘Are you Harrison Ford?’ and he goes, ‘I used to be.’”
  • If they were Jedi in real life, what color would their lightsabers be? Kennedy: Blue, Abrams: Red, Kasdan: the first Black, Boyega: Gold, Ridley: Silver, Isaac: Rainbow colored.
  • What was their reaction when they were asked to be in Star Wars? Gleeson said, “They told me the story and who the guy was, that he was like in charge of people on a Starkiller Base,” accidentally spoiling the name.
  • Abrams followed up by confirming that yes, the name of the base of the First Order is “Starkiller Base” in an homage to the original last name of Luke Skywalker.
  • When asked if they’d prefer to be a part of the light side or the dark side, Boyega said, “I wouldn’t be part of any of that, I’d be Han Solo making money off of everything.”
  • What was the biggest difference in terms of theme compared to the original trilogy? Ford answered STAR-WARS--THE-FORCE-AWAKENS-5first: “I don’t know that it’s a difference of theme. It’s a development of theme, and it’s a natural progression that has occurred from 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 quipped, “I was just glad I didn’t have to go to Toshi station and pick up any power converters.”
  • Hamill addressed the fact that Luke fell in love with his sister: “We all laugh about it, but when you follow it through it must’ve been quite a traumatic experience. We were both after her,” to which Ford replied, “How many times can I say I’m sorry?”
  • Ford on whether he thought about where Han Solo ended up: “I never thought that we would do another. I was very gratified when I read the script, because I read something that I thought was really remarkable, really well-written, with some very intriguing developments. So I was delighted to be involved and I was very happy to be part of the story and the cast again.”

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