JJ Abrams talks Star Wars, Simon Pegg and Kylo Ren

JJ Abrams has finally opened up about Star Wars: The Force Awakens in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Director JJ Abrams didn’t discuss Abu Dhabi too much in his Entertainment Weekly interview but offered Star Wars fans insight into other parts of the film. Disney / Image Group LA
Director JJ Abrams didn’t discuss Abu Dhabi too much in his Entertainment Weekly interview but offered Star Wars fans insight into other parts of the film. Disney / Image Group LA

JJ Abrams has finally opened up about the forthcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the eagerly anticipated cover interview for Entertainment Weekly’s annual Fall Movie Special edition.

Now, this is JJ Abrams we’re talking about, the famously secretive JJ Abrams, but the tight-lipped one did at least offer us some behind-the-scenes titbits and teasers as to what to expect when the movie finally hits screens December 18.

Although Abrams had nothing to say about key scenes filmed earlier this year in the Abu Dhabi desert, the result of a partnership with the emirate’s film producers twofour54, it should come as no surprise to learn that all has not been sweetness and light in the Star Wars Universe in the 30 years or so that have passed since the end of Return of the Jedi.

Given the warm, celebratory closing scenes of that film following the defeat of the vile Empire, fans could be forgiven for expecting some kind of interstellar adaptation of The Waltons as we catch up with what the happy couple Han and Leia have been up to, see Luke lovingly training new young paduans in a restored Jedi Temple and watch Chewie relaxing in some kind of Wookie grooming parlour in his down time.

Mercifully, in case we hadn’t already guessed from the trailers, Abrams reassures EW that we don’t need to worry about that surreal prospect.

“Any good story has conflict,” he says. “If all were rosy 30-some years post-Jedi we would be hard-pressed to find an interesting story to tell.”

Abrams also puts to rest the debate about how much of the script he wrote, alongside Empire Strikes Back co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, and how much has come from treatments George Lucas handed over when he sold the rights to Disney. It was already widely reported that Lucas’ ideas had been, politely but completely, scrapped, and Abrams seems to confirm this.

“There was no story in place,” he reveals. “It was, without a doubt, a formidable assignment. There were so many options and so many paths that could be taken.”

Another fascinating piece of information can be gleaned from a separate interview on EW’s website, where Abrams suggests British actor, writer, comic and Star Wars obsessive Simon Pegg may have had a bigger hand in the writing process than we’d previously been led to believe.

“He was a sounding board,” Abrams says. “He would drop by the set because he wanted to, and when he could, he would help … We could talk about things, and he was a perfect combination of incredibly smart screenwriter, fan of the series, critical fan of the series, and friend of mine — but not just blindly supportive. He was an honest, critical friend. And he wasn’t so close to it that he became immune to things. He would come in with fresh eyes and very smart ideas. He’s one of a handful of people along the way that has been really priceless.”

We also learn some more about one of the new movie’s most eagerly-anticipated characters — baddie Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), he of the much-loved crossbar lightsaber from the trailers. He gained his name, Abrams tells us, when he joined an order called the Knights of Ren. Could Ren be a moniker similar to the ‘Darth’ prefix for Sith Lords, then? Abrams also confirms widespread rumours that the sabre is not some ancient Sith artefact, but a weapon Ren built himself, though perhaps inspired by the Sith that preceded him.

In keeping with the Sith/Ren link, Abrams confirms that Ren’s helmet was deliberately designed with a nod to Darth Vader from the previous movies.

“The movie explains the origins of the mask and where it’s from. Just as the audience is well aware of what’s come before, so are the characters in this film,” he says.

Finally, Abrams also pours further fuel on the rumours that either Daisy Ridley’s Rey, or John Boyega’s Finn, or both, may be the offspring of Han Solo and Princess Leia, though again in typical Abrams style, he’s not giving any specifics away.

“I will only say about that that it is completely intentional that their last names aren’t public record.”

As ever with Abrams, it often seems like the more he tells you about his movies, the less you actually know, but it all adds to the palpable sense of excitement as that December release date moves slowly, but surely, closer.

cnewbould@thenational.ae

This article was amended on 18 August, 2015, to reflect that the producers partnership is with twofour54 and not Image Nation as previously stated.

Published: August 17, 2015 04:00 AM

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