Abrams Compares 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' to 'A New Hope,' Gives 'Episode VIII' Update

"The Force Awakens" director J.J. Abrams explained how the latest "Star Wars" film will welcome everyone, new and old fans alike, and offered an update on "Episode VIII's" progress during an interview with Wired, where he also weighed in on his goals for the film and who was behind the decision to keep the film's story so tightly under wraps.

"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," he explained. "When 'Star 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."

"I also tried to focus on things that I find inspiring about cinema. I asked questions like 'How do we make this movie delightful?' That was really the only requirement Larry [Kasdan] and I imposed on each other: The movie needed to be delightful. It was not about explaining everything away, not about introducing a certain number of toys for a corporation, not about trying to appease anyone. This has only ever been about what gets us excited," he added.

Abrams is known for keeping his plot details securely under wraps during the marketing of his films. However, he revealed he had some help this time around. "I give credit to, and frankly surprisingly so, the incredible people at Disney, especially Alan Horn [chair of Walt Disney Studios] and Bob Iger [Disney CEO]. Bob’s been unbelievably collaborative and supportive of this entire process. When it came to marketing, I was expecting Disney to want to put out an overabundance of material. But they’ve been incredibly reluctant to do that. They want this thing to be an experience for people when they go to see the film. And I’m grateful for that."

Additionally, he offered an update on "Star Wars: Episode VIII," which will be directed by Rian Johnson. "The script for 'Episode VIII' is written," he shared. "I’m sure rewrites are going to be endless, like they always are. But what Larry and I did was set up certain key relationships, certain key questions, conflicts. And we knew where certain things were going. We had meetings with Rian [Johnson] and Ram Bergman, the producer of 'VIII.' They were watching dailies when we were shooting our movie. We wanted them to be part of the process, to make the transition to their film as seamless as possible. I showed Rian an early cut of the movie, because I knew he was doing his rewrite and prepping. And as executive producer of 'VIII,' I need that movie to be really good. Withholding serves no one and certainly not the fans. So we’ve been as transparent as possible."

"Rian has asked for a couple of things here and there that he needs for his story," Abrams continued. "He is an incredibly accomplished filmmaker and an incredibly strong writer. So the story he told took what we were doing and went in the direction that he felt was best but that is very much in line with what we were thinking as well."

Opening Dec. 18 in North America, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” also stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fish, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis and Max von Sydow.

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