It's a classic Hollywood producer's line when embarking on a new movie: "I'll see you at the premiere." And while every movie has its filmmaking challenges along the way, a precious few are of the scale of re-launching an historic, epic and universally beloved franchise like "Star Wars."
Kathleen Kennedy is a prolific producer known for her long body of work with Steven Spielberg. She took the reins as president of Lucasfilm from her longtime friend and colleague George Lucas just as Disney purchased the company, and prepared to embark on a plethora of new "Star Wars" projects.
As Kennedy hit the red carpet this week at the Hollywood premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," she had arrived at the culmination of a very long and involved process, and her sense of pride -- and relief -- was palpable as she spoke with Spinoff Online.
Spinoff Online: You did it. You got here!
Kathleen Kennedy: We're here. We're here. I want to see that film rolling in the projector, though.
When your old friend George Lucas called you and said, "Do you want to do this? Do you want to take this over?" What was it in your head to consider making more "Star Wars," and what's it been like in reality?
You know, it's the first thing George talked to me about, was that he thought that he was ready to see movies get made again. So that was probably a part of one of our first conversations. It's really exciting that he was open to doing that. He was the one that reached out to Harrison [Ford] and Carrie [Fisher] and Mark [Hamill] right away. So needless to say, everything he's done over the past 40 years has paved the way for me very comfortably.
Twice now, you've gotten to see Harrison reprise a character that is iconic and wonderful. What's that like for you to see him come back to these roles, one of them that's very, very close to you?
It's incredibly powerful and really emotional. He's an amazing guy. Given the fact that he's had a lot happen this year in addition to reprising these roles, and he is like the Bionic Man. He is just extraordinary. I think that first moment when he appeared in the Millennium Falcon, it was amazingly emotional for everybody on the crew. So he has a power about him that's pretty great.
What part of this process on your end did you never see coming -- the big surprise of getting here tonight?
I think the response by the fans to the degree that we've seen over time is exceptional. I've never seen anything like this. The loyalty and support that people have, and the way they want everything to be great. They want to come in and have a great time seeing the movie, they want to share it with family and friends. That's been a really nice surprise.
Princess Leia was, obviously, one of the groundbreaking action heroines, smart and tough and commanding. You get to expand that and have a broader cast of women in this film. What does that mean to you to bring that to women today?
It feels great. I have two daughters, two teenage daughters. The fact that they have such a strong female character and role model inside this movie to relate to and little girls are going to have the same thing, I think the diversity inside the movie more reflects the audience. On the other hand, I want to hand it to George, because he did have Princess Leia, very cutting edge character at the time. He had a diverse cast. So that was really the springboard for wanting to continue that.
So much "Star Wars" is planned. Do you have a plan to keep it from getting to be too much "Star Wars?"
Yes. I think, the plan is to tell interesting, diverse, standalone stories. So we're not necessarily just trying to feed a pipeline of ongoing similar stories. If the movies really stand on their own, and the fans are attracted to the stories that we come up with inside the universe, fantastic. If it starts to feel like one is corrupting the other, then we'll back off. But right now, we're pretty excited about what we're developing.
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" opens Friday across North America.