empireaust:

J.J. Abrams And More Talk The Force Awakens
At Star Wars Celebration

This year’s incarnation of Star Wars Celebration, the massive
convention that this year is happening in Anaheim, California, kicked
off on Thursday with a panel on The Force Awakens,
which included co-writer/producer/director J.J. Abrams and
producer/Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy talking about their
experiences, and helping to introduce other guests from the film.

Kennedy
revealed how George Lucas asked her over a meal whether she’d want to
take over running Lucasfilm and that she was glad Abrams signed on to
help launch the new films. For his part, the director, who admitted that
his first experience seeing Star Wars as an 11
year-old was “mind-blowing”, confirmed that he had initially turned the
job down. “I said no partly because it was an incredibly daunting thing.
Partly because it felt I’d been doing sequels and things in the past
and I wanted to break away from that.” But after having conversations
with Kennedy, he was convinced.

Part Of Abrams’ drive for the new
film was to keep things as practical as possible, focusing on real
locations, props and people. Which included shooting the new desert
planet, known as Jakku, in Abu Dhabi in 128 degree temperatures. “Star
Wars
is as much a Western and a fairy tale as much as anything,” he
said. “And one of the things you expect to see are real, tangible,
John-Ford-beautiful landscapes.”

Keeping to the practical side of things, new droid BB-8 (who you first saw in the original teaser)
rolled on stage. He’s a real prop, built by animatronics expert Neal
Scanlan, and the audience applauded as he rolled around the stage and
appeared ready to get into a fight with R2-D2.

Answering one of
the biggest complaints about the original trilogy, Kennedy assured the
audience that women would be more represented in the new movies.
“There’s great new characters, but really strong women,“ she said. “Not
only in episode seven but in the conversations we’re having moving
forward…there are going to be a lot of new wonderful characters." 

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And then it was time for three of the newcomers to the Star Wars universe to make an appearance as Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac were introduced.

Ridley
got the chance to fill us in on her character, who, like the others,
has largely been a mystery. Until now. “We discover Rey on the desert
planet Jakku,” Ridley says. “She is a scavenger in a ship graveyard…
very solitary. Until she meets another character and an adventure
begins.”

Who does she meet? Why, Boyega’s Finn! The Attack The Block
star played as coy as possible through his excitement when asked
whether Finn’s first appearance as a Stormtrooper meant he was a hero or
a villain. “When we find Finn, he’s in incredible danger,” Boyega says.
“The way he decides to react changes his life and launches him into the
Star Wars universe in a unique way.”

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As for Isaac’s Poe Dameron, it’s clear the actor is thrilled to be
playing him. “He’s the best frickin’ pilot in the galaxy, that’s who he
is,” Isaac says. “He’s been sent on a mission by a certain princess. He
comes across Mr. John Boyega’s character and their fates are forever
intertwined.”

The three were also asked about their experiences
being cast. Boyega told a funny story about waiting to admit to his
parents that he was cast in the film until the first photo broke,
telling his father that he was still shooting 24: Live Another Day. And Isaac? “When I
finally got the call that I was officially going to play Poe, I was so
nervous, I blasted the Star Wars theme as loud as I could, I grabbed my
shampoo bottle like a lightsaber,” he laughed. “And I thought, ‘I can do
this!’”

Oh, and Boyega, who talked about how he played the Star Wars
games on his PS3 even broke out a solid Harrison Ford impression,
remembering when he asked the screen icon to sign his
Solo-as-stormtrooper figurine. “This is weird,” was the veteran’s
response.

Ford was not present at the event – he’s still
recuperating from his recent plane crash – but Mark Hamill, Anthony
Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Carrie Fisher were, with Hamill revealing he
told George Lucas he thought the original film was going to be huge and
thanking the fans for their support.

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Fisher, naturally, had some of the best lines, including denying that
the hair buns from the original film would return while promising there
would be some “an alternate thing I think you’ll be into—that is not the
metal bikini!” Mic drop.

Following a big group picture on stage,
the various celebrity attendees filed off stage to allow the new teaser
to premiere. You can see that one here, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens lands on December 17.

James White

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