‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens': 5 Franchise Updates and Insights From J.J. Abrams

Director talks about Episode VIII, working with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, and explains why everyone can enjoy his sequel hitting theaters on Dec. 18

J.J. Abrams seems primed to deliver the ultimate fanboy experience with the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and beyond.

The writer, director and producer of Episode VII revealed a wealth of new information about the franchise and his relationship with it in a new Wired interview.

Abrams touched on making “The Force Awakens” a “self-contained story,” working with Lawrence Kasdan, and the moments on set that made him feel like a kid at the movies again.

Here are five updates and insights about the “Star Wars” universe from the man masterminding Disney’s revival.

“The Force Awakens” Is a “Self-Contained Story”

“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,” Abrams said.

He also said that “The Force Awakens” has a great advantage because it presents a completely new storyline to people who haven’t seen the other films, but preserves the backstory of the franchise for diehard fans.

Working with Lawrence Kasdan Was an “Extended Master Class”

Abrams had nothing but kind words for collaborator and “Return of the Jedi”/”Empire Strikes Back” writer Lawrence Kasdan. “The collaboration, for me, was an education in storytelling and doing so with clarity, with efficiency, brevity–wit,” Abrams said. “It was a little like taking an extended master class.”

He also revealed mistakes he made on past films that he avoided with “The Force Awakens.”

“I didn’t want to enter into making a movie where we didn’t really own our story,” he said. “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.”

Abrams Pushed to Release an Early Teaser

While Abrams credits Disney with their willingness to keep the film under such an intense shroud of secrecy, he admits he pushed the company to release an early look for the sake of the fans.

“I actually personally pushed to have a teaser come out a year before, just because it felt like, as a fan of ‘Star Wars,’ if I could see even the littlest thing I’d be psyched a year out,” he said. “Why not? So we did.”

Episode VIII Is Written

Abrams said that the first draft of “Star Wars: Episode VIII” has already been completed. Rian Johnson will write and direct the next entry in the series, but Abrams and Kasdan were integral in preparing the project.

“But what Larry and I did was set up certain key relationships, certain key questions, conflicts,” Abrams said. “We had meetings with Rian and Ram Bergman, the producer of VIII. They were watching dailies when we were shooting our movie. We wanted them to be part of the process, to make the transition to their film as seamless as possible.”

Abrams Is Still a Fanboy at Heart

Despite being hailed as the next Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Abrams is at his core still a fan of the movies he grew up watching.

“When we were on-set and we were shooting a scene, it was always amazing to me to see Harrison Ford dressed as Han Solo,” he said. “Or, wow, there’s a guy–a stormtrooper!–and he looks exactly like a stormtrooper…The point is, these scenes aren’t good just because those characters or things are there, even though it’s the greatest eye candy in the history of time.”

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