“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy are in Anaheim to talk Episode VII at Star Wars Celebration, but even if you’re nowhere near Southern California, you can watch it via the event’s livestream here:
During the panel, Abrams and Kennedy addressed several issues concerning the film — including the health of star Harrison Ford, who was injured in a plane crash last month. “He’s home, resting, and getting well as fast as he can,” Kennedy said, stating that she’s sure by the time the film opens in December, “Han Solo will be very actively involved in what we’re doing.”
“He was more of a hero in that move than in any of the movies he’s been in,” Abrams said of Ford, who was able to crash-land the vintage plane he was piloting solo on a golf course, without causing any further injuries.
Three of the new additions to the franchise — John Boyega (Finn), Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) also joined the panel, providing some hints of where their characters are when the film starts. “We discover Rey on the desert planet Jakku,” Ridley said. “She is a scavenger.”
“We find Finn, he’s in incredible danger, and the way he decides to react to this danger changes his life, and launches him into the Star Wars universe in a unique way,” Boyega said, confirming that his character is a Stormtrooper (as glimpsed in the previously released trailer), but wouldn’t say if that means he’s a hero or villain.
Of Poe Dameron, Isaac said, “He’s the best pilot in the galaxy. He’s been sent on a mission by a certain princess.” On that mission, Poe and Finn’s “fates are forever intertwined,” the “Inside Llewyn Davis” actor said.
More surprise additions to the panel: Original trilogy stars Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), along with a fleet of the movie’s new Stormtroopers. As pointed out, Daniels is the only actor to be in every “Star Wars” film. “It is quite amazing, because it’s 40 years now since I first met George Lucas,” Daniels said, adding that he didn’t expect the franchise to have the enduring life it’s had.
When asked about Leia’s potential hairstyles for the movie, Fisher said, “The buns are tired now. but I think we have an alternate thing that you’ll be into. Which is not the metal bikini — I promise!”
Hamill told the crowd, “If it wasn’t for the UPFs — ultra passionate fans — we wouldn’t be here. It never ceases to amaze me. You’re more than just fans. You’re family.”
Earlier in the panel — which included live-action appearances from original droid R2-D2 and new addition BB-8, plus the robotics mechanics who bring them to life — Abrams addressed why practical sets were important to him, saying in the original trilogy, “you knew the people were in those places.” “It’s Star Wars. There are going to be an endless number of effects that will be CG. But we needed a standard. You want it to be legitimate. you want it to be authentic. Building as much as we possibly could was really the mandate. It’s great for the actors, too.”
Kennedy also discussed the importance of adding more female characters to the franchise, acknowledging it’s something that has been missing up to this point, but “that’s going to change.”
The panel ended with the reveal of the latest “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” teaser trailer, which focuses on both the original cast members and the new ones, and can be viewed here:
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is scheduled for release on Dec. 18, 2015.
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