J.J. Abrams is known to be a bit of a tinkerer as a director. He can make adjustments on the fly, and will make sweeping changes up to the very last minute if it’s for the betterment of the film. He went so far as to conduct reshoots for 10 Cloverfield Lane in an office at his Bad Robot facility, and rumors have swirled that Star Wars: The Force Awakens went through many changes during post-production courtesy of some substantial reshoots.
But with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, it sounds like Abrams actually nailed the story pretty early. He was brought back into the fold to craft a conclusion not just to the sequel trilogy but to the Skywalker saga as a whole, and he co-wrote the screenplay himself with Oscar-winning Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio. Speaking with EW, Abrams revealed that The Force Awakens underwent more reshoots than his initial Star Wars film, if only because on TFA he was still trying to figure out who these characters were:
“We had more reshoots on Episode VII than this one,” Abrams says. “We had more story adjustments on VII than this one. We didn’t know if these characters would work, if the actors would be able to carry a Star Wars movie. There were a lot of things we didn’t know. On this, we knew who and what worked, and everyone is doing the best work I’ve ever seen anyone do.”
However, Abrams acknowledged that just because there was less tinkering doesn’t mean The Rise of Skywalker was a walk in the park, as he called this film far more ambitious than Episode VII:
“But the ambition of this movie is far greater than Force Awakens. What we set out to do was far more challenging. Everything is exponentially larger on this.”
Indeed, as revealed in the film’s trailer this summer, Palpatine is back, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) have a fight on the Death Star, and Carrie Fisher’s Leia returns courtesy of unused footage from The Force Awakens. Abrams is attempting to tie the entire Skywalker Saga together while also providing a satisfying ending for these new characters he established in The Force Awakens. That’s an incredibly difficult tightrope walk, and I’m incredibly eager to see how he does it.
And this isn’t to say things didn’t change during the making of Rise of Skywalker. Ridley revealed earlier this year that the end of the film film was adjusted during filming:
“J.J. had told me [the ending], and then I read the script, and then it was sort of shifting. The ending was always pretty similar, and then I was told there was sort of a new—I guess a slightly different beat added that I was told, which was awesome. Because it’s nice to be told the thing and then you can like experience it with the filmmaker. But also, we don’t know how it’s gonna turn out. We did the thing on this side of the camera, so we don’t know how it’s gonna turn out. So I’m as excited to see it as everyone else.”
And who’s to say the ending didn’t change further during additional photography? Reshoots aren’t inherently a bad thing, as evidenced by the fact that The Force Awakens had many and turned out to be a pretty good movie. But it is interesting to hear Abrams discuss how more assured he felt this time around, even if the level of difficulty had increased.
We’ll see for ourselves when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in theaters on December 20th. For more on the film, check out these newly released images and take a look at our extensive Star Wars timeline.