We are less than 40 days away from the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the anticipation for this film has yet to peak. With all the new trailers and TV spots being released, it’s hard not to stay spoiled. But before you go on a Star Wars blackout until December 17, you might want to consider taking a look at J.J. Abrams’ journey from taking the film from page to screen.
In a new interview with Wired, the director talks about trying to figure out the story for The Force Awakens and using some of the lessons he has learned from past mistakes to not only shape the story, but also to become a better writer. Check out what he had to say here below.
Star Wars is just one of those franchises that already has a built-in fan base. But knowing what we know about the prequels, no director would just want to go in head first without having some sort of vision for the next trilogy. So Abrams talked a little bit about what he has learned from his previous screenwriting endeavors and how merely simplifying it to tell a story about two characters, not making a movie about anything they want:
We really tried to look at it from the inside out. What makes this story have a beating heart? What makes it romantic or fun or surprising or heartbreaking or hysterically funny? We simply approached this narrative from the point of view that this is a story about a young man and a young woman, not with the idea that we can do anything we want.
Here also asked the questions he asked himself and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan about what makes Star Wars so great,
I asked questions like “How do we make this movie delightful?” That was really the only requirement [co-writer Lawrence 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.
As many of us know, we are three trailers into Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and we still know very little about it. But that is what makes it so ingenious, that we know so little, and all will be revealed to us by the end the film. Knowing so little about the story will make it that much more engaging for the audience. But it wasn’t easy for Abrams, who describes his experience writing The Force Awakens as “an education in storytelling.”
More than anything, I drew on personal experiences as cautionary tales, things that I didn’t want to do again. For example, I didn’t want to enter into making a movie where we didn’t really own our story. I feel like I’ve done that a couple of times in my career. That’s not to say I’m not proud of my work, but the fact is I remember starting to shoot ‘Super 8‘ and ‘Star Trek Into Darkness‘ and feeling like I hadn’t really solved some fundamental story problems. The collaboration [with Kasdan], for me, was an education in storytelling and doing so with clarity, with efficiency, brevity — wit. It was a little like taking an extended master class. And because he’s also a director, he knew what I was going through in prep and in production, and he allowed for my needs.
So when he found that vision, the director explains how the film acts like A New Hope, where there is years of mythology and history that lead up to The Force Awakens, but you don’t necessarily need to see all of those films or the cartoon series to understand about the characters and their journey in The Force Awakens,
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. 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.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters on December 18, 2015.