‘Star Wars': J.J. Abrams Explains Why He Turned Down, Then Said “Yes” to ‘Force Awakens’

     November 30, 2015

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It’s no secret that J.J. Abrams was approached early on in the director search for Star Wars: Episode VII, at which point he quickly—and politely—said “no”. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy continued to speak with other directors, but it seems as though Abrams was always the favorite to land the gig, and so she went back to the filmmaker once more, after which he ultimately accepted the gig. But it wasn’t without some nudging—Lawrence Kasdan recently revealed that he was enlisted to speak with Abrams to convince him to sign on. So why was Abrams so hesitant to direct Star Wars? Didn’t he admit that he agreed to helm Star Trek simply because it was the closest thing he’d get to making a Star Wars movie? Well it turns out even blockbuster filmmakers can suffer from blockbuster fatigue.

Speaking with Howard Stern on his radio show, Abrams said he declined the Episode VII gig because he was tired of making sequels:


“I said ‘No’. I didn’t want to do a sequel. I’d done a Mission: Impossible movie; I’d done Star Trek. I didn’t wanna do another sequel—I’m sick of movies with numbers… As a fan, I’d rather just go to the theater and watch the movie.”

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Image via Lucasfilm

That’s fair. At that point in time, Abrams had only made one original film—Super 8—and he admits now that the finished product didn’t completely live up to his expectations, so one can imagine the desire to go off and make something wholly original after Star Trek Into Darkness. But as we know, Abrams eventually relented. So what turned him around?

“Kathy [Kennedy] said can we get together, and so we sat down and we just started talking about Star Wars. We just started talking about what this thing could be, and as we were talking about it I found myself suddenly on fire… When Kathy and I started talking about these characters, the idea that Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia—this is 40 years ago, so for someone who’s 19 years old, they’re myths. Who knows what they know about them? People wouldn’t even know, maybe, who some of these characters are.”

Abrams continued, relating the exact moment that lit a fire in him that propelled the entire story for The Force Awakens:

“And the thing that got me, that grabbed me, was that feeling of a new, young character—in the case of this conversation it was a female character, didn’t know anything about her, but in the conversation that question of this young woman asking, ‘Who is Luke Skywalker?’, I don’t know why but it made me feel like, ‘Fuck that’s so cool!’ That there would be a discovery, these would be essentially kids who didn’t see Star Wars themselves who would be in this universe. The idea of sort of rediscovering this world.”

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Image via Lucasfilm

This was actually one of the aspects of The Force Awakens that came as a surprise to many, that the characters in the film—in this case Daisy Ridley’s Rey and John Boyega’s Finn—don’t really know much about Luke, Han, and Leia. They’re discovering much of it for the first time, and as we saw in the final trailer, they’re finding out that these mythic stories about “The Force” are “all true.”


To treat the Original Trilogy as legend in the context of The Force Awakens not only works on a subtextual level, relating to audience members who are so passionate about this universe and these original characters, but it’s also a smart storytelling device that adds a rich history and background to the proceedings that are unfolding. I’m incredibly curious to see how much this tiny nugget of an idea influenced the full film when it’s finally unveiled on December 18th.

For more on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, peruse our recent links below:

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