Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t hit theaters until December 18th, so we’ve still got a while to go before we reach critical mass advertising, but with today’s presentation at the D23 Expo, Disney and Lucasfilm have officially kicked it up a notch. After the studio brought down the house by revealing iconic Star Wars artist Drew Struzan’s new poster, debuting the first image from Rogue One, and confirming Colin Trevorrow for Episode IX, The Force Awakens cast members John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Issac hit the stage to give fans a little face time with the new heroes of the beloved intergalactic saga.
Following their panel, Boyega, Ridley, Nyong’o and Issac headed backstage where I had a chance to chat with them about their favorite memories from the elaborate practical sets, the influence of the original trilogy, and why fans should get excited for the newly revived universe headed their way. Check out what they had to say below.
How much did director J.J. Abrams reference the original trilogy during filming? Not too much according to Issac, who says that Abrams has found a way to make the film his own despite bringing back the original cast and Lawrence Kasdan, screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
He’s inspired by the original films. He’s got Larry Kasdan, he’s got the original cast, but taking the mantle and doing our thing with it, finding our language with it, and I think he’s doing an incredible job at finding not only the excitement, but the messiness of life with it. Everything was evoking the original film, so it’s not like it had to be said.
When you’re a part of a film and a franchise as massive and encompassing as Star Wars, how do you pick a standout moment? Boyega singled out the moment that they handed him his lightsaber — because let’s be real, if you get to use a lightsaber, you’re favorite part is probably going to be using a lightsaber.
I think the most surreal moment for me is when they walked out with a black box and open it up and handed me a lightsaber. For me that was when I was like, “OK, I’m in a Star Wars movie and I have a lightsaber in my hand.”
Issac singled out a more personal moment, recalling how he was able to get his Star Wars fanatic uncle a cameo in the film.
My uncle Guillermo is a huge huge, huge Star Wars fan and I told J.J. all about him. He came to visit the set — it was a massive set with all these Storm Troopers and sand and extras all over the place, and J.J. said, “Do you want to be an extra? Do you want to be in the movie?” So they put him in this crazy get up and put him behind me. So just being there, standing there; my uncle’s behind me dressed up as a Star Wars character, I’m dressed up, there’s Storm Troopers…that was a wild, strange moment.
Fans rejoiced when Kathleen Kennedy announced that there would be a heavy practical aspect to the film, and as he pointed out when I spoke to him at the convention, this is a Star Wars movie, so of course there’s going to be CG. However, using real life elements and practical sets was a huge element of the filmmaking process. Boyega spoke the surreal magic of working on the practical sets.
Being in the practical world is definitely brilliant because you’re seeing the designs of the old movies in front of you. It’s like going to a heightened version of Madame Tussauds. It’s ridiculous. It’s really, really amazing. JJ has done a good job and is really hearing the fans out.
Ridley also spoke about working on the practical sets, recalling her first time on the set of The Force Awakens in Abu Dahbi.
We stepped on set for the first time in Abu Dahbi, so honestly everything people have been talking about — real sets, about real creatures. I literally for the first day stepped on set and that’s what it was . It was boiling hot, which it needed to be. We were in the desert, we needed to be. There were speeders in the sand. There were people dressed as creatures, it couldn’t have been more fitting to how JJ wants this whole film to look. It’s tangible and it’s real, and the reactions are real.
Nyong’o, who plays Maz Kanata, an extremely mysterious motion-capture character we know almost nothing about, assured that she did have a chance to interact with the other cast members, but couldn’t say much more on the matter. However, she enthusiastically promised that Star Wars fans have a lot to look forward to when The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th.
This is the first continuation of Star Wars, so we see Han Solo and Leia and Luke Skywalker and they’re involved in this film, and we see another generation of characters, so I think it’s going to bring a lot of joy and fulfillment for people who have been wondering what happened to that universe. I think JJ has done a really good job with embracing and honoring the world that George Lucas created, and then he blended old and new technology. It’s quite fabulous.
You can catch up with all things D23 here, or peruse our latest Star Wars coverage below.
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