J.J. Abrams Talks The Force Awakens and Episodes VIII and IX with Wired Magazine
STEP THROUGH THE sleek, anonymous metal door of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and you enter a world of memorabilia—the murderous Talky Tina doll from The Twilight Zone, rows of old VHS tapes labeled “Midnight Movies,” a Six Million Dollar Manboard game, assorted Godzillas. But if you look closely (we looked closely) you will see a meticulousness to the madness: The props and tchotchkes are all dust-free and carefully arranged. Those vintage 1970s Star Trek action figures aren’t just sitting there. They’re posed. This stuff is well loved. It’s clear that in addition to being one of the most gifted movie directors in the world, somehow the heir apparent to both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Abrams is also a superfan.
That puts him in a precarious situation. He has inherited the one megafranchise to rule them all. Sure, this won’t be the first time Abrams resurrects a beloved Enterprise. But … this is the saga. It’s one of the things that invented modern superfandom. And this is no reboot. With The Force Awakens, Abrams is marshaling the same actors, writers, designers, and even the same composer to reanimate the characters and themes that made the original Star Warsinto, well, Star Wars. He loves those movies as much as you or any of your laser-brained friends do. But when he first met those movies he was just an apprentice. Now he must become the master.
No pressure, right? After all, the stakes are merely the future of the franchise that made Abrams a filmmaker; a mythology held precious by millions of people for four decades; and, oh, right, billions and billions of dollars in movies and merch over the next half century (at least). I sat down with Abrams to ask him about balancing these competing (ahem) forces to tell an epic story from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away. The lightsabers are drawn; the coordinates for the jump to hyperspace are calculated. Can Abrams do it? Well, you know what Yoda said about merely trying.
WIRED: How are you feeling? It seems like only yesterday you wereannounced as the director of Episode VII.
J.J. ABRAMS: Good! It’s a crazy thing, right? I can’t wait for people to see the movie. We’ve been baking this cake for a long time, and now it’s time to serve it.
How much of The Force Awakens is geared toward welcoming people back to the Star Wars franchise versus starting something completely new? How do you strike a balance between those two imperatives?
We wanted to tell a story that had its own self-contained beginning, middle, and end but at the same time, like A New Hope, implied a history that preceded it and also hinted at a future to follow. WhenStar Wars first came out, it was a film that both allowed the audience to understand a new story but also to infer all sorts of exciting things that might be. In that first movie, Luke wasn’t necessarily the son of Vader, he wasn’t necessarily the brother of Leia, but it was all possible.The Force Awakens has this incredible advantage, not just of a passionate fan base but also of a backstory that is familiar to a lot of people. We’ve been able to use what came before in a very organic way, because we didn’t have to reboot anything. We didn’t have to come up with a backstory that would make sense; it’s all there. But these new characters, which Force is very much about, find themselves in new situations—so even if you don’t know anything about Star Wars,you’re right there with them. If you are a fan of Star Wars, what they experience will have added meaning.
The interview can be read in it’s entirety at Wired.com.