Rian Johnson Talks Star Wars: Episode 7’s Practical FX.

Episode VIII

We recently reported that the Star Wars “team” – director Gareth Edwards, writer/director Rian Johnson, and writer Gary Whitta – recently went to London for a meeting. Hear what Johnson had to say about his set visit after the break.


During the two week shooting hiatus Disney/LFL wasted no time as they brought in several of the talent working on “the other” Star Wars projects, notably the First Spinoff and Episodes VIII & IX. Rian Johnson has been tapped to write and direct Episode VIII of course and write a treatment for Episode IX. Oddly enough, like pretty much all of their other decisions, this has never been officially announced or confirmed by Disney or LFL.


Be that as it may, Rian Johnson just returned from his set visit with many positive and exciting things to say, although, of course pretty bland for the spoiler junkies. Doing an interview for the “Girls in Hoodies” podcast Johnson said about working for Disney on Star Wars:

It’s boring to talk about, because the only thing I can really say is I’m just happy. But I don’t have the terror I expected I would, at least not yet. I’m sure I will at some point.

Obviously he’s under heavy wraps with regard to his NDA, not that he’d want to spoil anything anyway, so it’s completely understandable that he can’t elaborate. However, he did talk a bit about his recent set visit and, much like Kevin Smith, had nothing but glowing remarks:

They’re doing so much practical building for this one, its awesome. They’re doing it all right, yeah. … I think people are coming back around [to practical effects] yeah, it seems like there’s a gravity pulling us back towards it. …




Johnson’s comments pleasantly echo Smith’s, as well as Bob Iger’s and Peter Mayhew’s in that we, the world, are going to see a great movie! And fans should be very excited by this. Moreover, Johnson is another of the growing school of young talent that believes in the “old school” practical methodology of filmmaking where CGI is best when it’s used sparingly as support:

I think more and more people are hitting a critical mass as far as the CG-driven action scene, lending itself towards a very specific type of action film, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick, and I probably sound like a grumpy old man talking about it. I do wonder, kids are growing up watching those and that’s the thing they love now. So I don’t know if it’s a generational thing.

As for the selection of Rian Johnson, as ComicBookMovie.com characterizes it, “Rian Johnson being chosen to take over the franchise was met with a universally positive response . . .” I agree that this may be the case in part, but not in light of their reasoning as they suggest, “Whether or not J.J. Abrams would direct more than just Star Wars Episode VII was always in doubt, especially after he made his displeasure clear about leaving his family behind in Los Angeles in order to relocate to the UK for the lengthy shoot.”


Episode VII


Rian Johnson’s selection had nothing to do with JJ Abrams. It’s absolutely ludicrous to state that Disney or Abrams have had some sort of irreparable falling-out over his relocation to London and to suggest as much is irresponsible at best and wrong at worst. To think that Disney would NOT bring their golden boy Abrams back, especially when I believe the movie will be the first ever 3 Billion dollar movie, is preposterous. To think JJ couldn’t be coaxed back for another episode because he had to move to London is equally as preposterous, especially in light that he directed two films of the Star Trek franchise, a franchise he admittedly doesn’t care for nearly as much as Star Wars.


The answer therefore lies elsewhere, with that elsewhere being the highly aggressive filming schedule. It is the sole reason why a new director was chosen for Episode VIII. In order for Disney/LFL to meet a 2017 release date, pre-production has to be underway now on concepts as the script unfolds. Obviously, JJ is far too busy to even consider the future while he has a year’s work still ahead of him on this one. In fact, Johnson most likely met and discussed with JJ the narrative direction for the subsequent episodes.


Lastly, with regard to future episodes, I have my suspicions that [qualifying statement here – so long as the movie does well and it will] JJ Abrams will be THE chosen one to wrap-up this trilogy, writing the script that Rian Johnson preps for him. Watch for it! But in the meantime, watch now the “The Girls in Hoodies” — false advertising by the way — interview and stay posted here for further developments!


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39 thoughts on “Rian Johnson Talks Star Wars: Episode 7’s Practical FX.

  • August 17, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    RJ seems like a quiet introvert… surprised. I was expecting more charisma from the director of Episode 8.

    • August 17, 2014 at 7:23 pm

      Some of the most creative people are naturally introverted. In fact many people in the film industry, be them actors, directors, writers, etc. are relatively quiet outside of their work. So it doesn’t come as much surprise to me. As long as he makes a good film, thats all that really matters.

    • August 17, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      Not true at all, those girls interviewing him could not shut up long enough to let the guy talk let alone ask a questions.
      He is well reserved and not boisterous like the two girls clamouring.
      He loves Battlestar Galactica and the Ending to Lost which works for me.

  • August 17, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    “I think more and more people are hitting a critical mass as far as the CG-driven action scene, lending itself towards a very specific type of action film, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick, and I probably sound like a grumpy old man talking about it.”

    Yes. THANK you. I do like JJ for the most part as a director, but unfortunately he treats his action like a video game. He goes for the inane ‘bigger is better’ approach. Unfortunately he thinks action is merely a spectacle rather than an experience. But hey, at least it’s done practically.. for the most part. It’s just great to see Rian actually talk about understanding humanity and physics, when most directors talk about how much more ‘epic’ their explosions are..

  • August 17, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    OK… In every movie CGI space looks fake. So, with the emphasis on practical, Ep 7 will be the first movie filmed in space. If not, all that talk about practical is just a bunch of crap. Anyway, I don’t care about the effects, it’s the story that matters and no one mentioned it.

    • August 17, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      The Story is constantly talked about here daily and the CGI effects in space vs practical is getting old and childish.
      There has been awesome work done by ILM as far as outer space CGI shots go and never look fake.

    • August 17, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      Of course the story is the most important thing, but why should that mean we can’t discuss the other things that will make up the movie too? Don’t be so pretentious..

      • August 18, 2014 at 4:55 am

        There is not a post that goes by that people are not discussing a multitude of situations and possibilities, either serious or injest about the making of the new trilogy and its as of yet unknown intertwining story lines.
        You are acting pretentious not myself.

        • August 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm

          I don’t think he was responding to you.

  • August 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    I hope every future SW protect has a new director at the helm with many of the the last films crew and creative staff continuing to keep the reigns snug and pass the baton.
    Passing on what you learned is a major part of this new trilogy and has been a stapled them through out the saga. So I can hope that this franchise can stay grounded without jumping the shark for years to come.

    As much as people distance themselves from the last batch of films I do not think it as a whole is a total loss.

    Practical effects vs CGI are relative to how they are executed. A mix of the two are great and should always be considered tools in the box and it is how they are used. Both can fail on there own, one must consider what is in front of them and if it doesn’t work should be treated as such.one must take a utilitarian aproch to the any film.

    Excluding a older method does not mean it is outdated just because CGI exists, for example stop motion and reverse camera effects. Going from the start and only planning out a shot CGI could mean losing something that only real world whimsy can provide. Just taking an easier path does not make things necessarily better nor treating filmmaking as have a industry standard of the day. If a shot works well in camera and knocks your socks off use what works.

  • August 17, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    The practical VFX of the PT dwarf the OT. Models, miniatures, costumes, props. matte paintings etc. It used everything including puppets.

    The number of exterior and interior sets built for the PT is I don’t know how many times the OT (3 to 4 times I guess). The same “practical” methods the PT used were the same ones that the OT started but could only take so far due to analog technology and the limitations of making a movie on film.

    It’s not “practical” vs CG it’s analog vs digital. This is going to be a digital movie but shot on film like TPM.

    Sure you could make a digital film without any CG at all but that would be denying yourself all the incredible advantages that it allows you. I don’t think they are going back to models on wire with motion control cameras.

    I don’t know what RJ, Kevin Smith or anyone else commenting on this don’t know. My guess is they are not fully informed of the truth of the situation and think there is far more CG than there actually is.

    For some reason I can’t really fathom there seems to be some clarion call for “real” suits for Stormtroopers as opposed to the Clonetroopers. Never mind “real” suits are hot and heavy and get in the way of performance due to all sorts of issues of sight and safety. I mean why would you want to have really awesome looking troopers who look dangerous as opposed to trying to make men in suits look credible?

    • August 17, 2014 at 8:44 pm

      What? You mean the new Star Wars movie is using practical effects? I’ve never heard about that! Morons.

    • August 17, 2014 at 8:53 pm

      “Never mind “real” suits are hot and heavy and get in the way of performance due to all sorts of issues of sight and safety.”


      Enjoying your retirement Mr Lucas?

  • August 17, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    “So I don’t know if it’s a generational thing.”

    Aha, so he finally admits VII’s target audience is old men.

    • August 17, 2014 at 11:35 pm

      Or 30-40 year old men who grew up with the OT, or that same audience that made Lord of the Rings or The Dark Knight hugely successful grossing films. You don’t always have to cater to kids to make a boatload of money.

    • August 17, 2014 at 11:49 pm

      If being 38 constitutes me an old man, than I’d be more than happy to learn they are making the new trilogy with “old men” such as myself in mind as a key demographic…yay me! Lol.

    • August 18, 2014 at 8:56 am

      To a child any adult is old.

  • August 17, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    It´s funny how many people talks about cgi, blue screen, green screen, practical effects, how star wars guys talks about the new movies using more practical building etc…..seems like all of you forget the sets of the criticized prequel trilogy. I didn´t – I still remember ALL THAT PRACTICAL STUFF around – buildings outside, inside, mos espa market, pod racers, jedi starfighers…today everyone just says that PT was all about green screen and cgi, which is absolutly not true. Besides, if today technology was available 30-40 years ago, the original trilogy would be as cgi as any other sci-fi/fantasy movie of this time…

    • August 17, 2014 at 9:29 pm


      Yeah look at those beautiful real non-cg non-cartoon looking practical effects in the prequels..


      “today everyone just says that PT was all about green screen and cgi, which is absolutly not true.”
      Oh come on. That statement that the prequels are all about CG is clearly an exaggeration, but the point still remains. Of course there was practical effects in the prequels, but the problem is that it wasn’t utilized well. The phantom menace was shot on film and mostly used practical effects, but it all went down hill afterwards. By revenge of the sith, the amount of real locations, sets, and practical effects were almost non-existent. That’s not an exaggeration. The problem is that there was too much CG. The problem is that it looked like a video game. Yes of course there was some practical effect use, but the balance and the use was way off. It’s like complaining about the lead vocals in a song, and then you argue back saying there was backing vocals too.. So what? The problem still remains.

      • August 17, 2014 at 9:53 pm

        “By revenge of the sith, the amount of real locations, sets, and practical effects were almost non-existent. That’s not an exaggeration.”

        You are right. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s a falsehood. True III didn’t shoot with the actor’s on “real” locations. The “problem” is that you can’t find Coruscant, Kaahyyyk or Mustafar or Utapau or Polis Massa or any of the other half dozen worlds seen in the movie on Earth.

        Anymore than you could find Dagobah or Cloud City or an asteroid field on Earth. ESB by the way is the most “fake” OT film. When you actually figure out how much “real” shooting was done with the actors on location it wasn’t that much. A few shots of Luke and Han and then the Rebels troops. Even much of the backgrounds were miniatures. How do you like the most “fake” OT movie?

        Why is it that the shot of the Jedi temple with Yoda, Mace and Obi-Wan seems to be the only one ever pulled out to show how “cartoony” “CG” is. You do know that is not CG but a matte painting? It’s specifically done in the same style as the OT mattes like Cloud City or the Death Star. How come you don’t complain about how “fake” those are?


        III had many live action plates shot and incredible number of sets, models, miniatures, matte paintings, costumes, props, special effects (meaning on set effects explosions etc). If VII has anywhere near as many practical effects as III I’d be surprised.

        It’s seems to convince people you are being “practical” then you’ll simply have to scale down from the PT because of all the people who think that it was CG work.

        • August 17, 2014 at 10:17 pm

          Stop saying the PT is not CG driven. Do you know why AOTC and ROTS look so bad? Because they had CG in every single shot. Lucas himself saya that very proud when talking about Episode II (there’s no shot without CG), and III wasn’t different.

          • August 17, 2014 at 10:28 pm

            Hey don’t get mad at Ryan. He apparently likes cartoony CG.

        • August 17, 2014 at 10:30 pm

          Ryan, are you seriously sticking by the TFN talking points about the PT looking as real as the OT? Tatooine was filmed in Tunisia, Hoth was filmed in Norway, & Endor was filmed in California. Geonosis, Mustafar, Kamino, Coruscant, Kashyyk were all pretty much CG environments filmed on green or blue screen. And you can tell because the PT looks like one big video game with real actors. And if you don’t believe me watch the Behind the Scenes bonus stuff on PT DVD’s as 90% of it is shown with green/blue screen. Go back to TFN where nobody is allowed to criticize the PT without getting banned!

        • August 17, 2014 at 11:00 pm

          “True III didn’t shoot with the actor’s on “real” locations.”

          Yes. Exactly. Thank you for proving my point..

          “The “problem” is that you can’t find Coruscant, Kaahyyyk or Mustafar or Utapau or Polis Massa or any of the other half dozen worlds seen in the movie on Earth.”

          That’s right. Hence the argument for sets. Dagobah, hoth, tattooine, are not real either you see. You say Coruscant as an example. So there are no big cities on earth? There’s no way they could have created a miniature? Would a huge miniature city not have been really impressive? No? Ok, bury your head in the sand even more. You also use Mustufar as an example. You do realise they did actually use a lot of practical effects in the mustafar duel? So therefore your copout argument about not being able to use practical effects because it’s not a real location is therefore completely ridiculous. Kashykk is also another brilliant example. Jungles and trees don’t exist at all do they? There’s no way they could have gone to different places on earth to shoot parts with trees in a film? (They also did actually use some practical effects in the kashykk battle. A lot of the trees in the background were miniatures. But, you’re saying they can’t use practical effects because it’s not a real location? Yeah.. sure.. You see, that’s why a multi million dollar budget is also very handy. Because you can get to locations and construct, what is referred to as a ‘set’. Is Dagobah a real place? No. Hence why they built this wonderful thing called a ‘set’.

          “Even much of the backgrounds were miniatures.”
          Yes. Good. They were real physical photographed crafts and sets.

          “How do you like the most “fake” OT movie?”

          You are simply showing your arrogance once again. By ‘fake’, people are referring to CG. Because obviously CG is not actually photographed, so it’s fake. It’s not real. You aren’t even defining ‘fake’ in the correct context. You’re being too literal. I mean literally speaking, the whole FILM is fake. The characters and dialogue are not real, actors are not their characters, sets are not real places, etc etc etc. But the actual argument people are stating, which you clearly don’t understand, is that all those components have been brilliantly put together to be photographed, instead of generated in a computer.

          “Why is it that the shot of the Jedi temple with Yoda, Mace and Obi-Wan seems to be the only one ever pulled out to show how “cartoony” “CG” is.”
          .. It’s called a ‘good example’. You’re just embarrassing yourself now..

          “You do know that is not CG but a matte painting?”
          Seriously? It IS CG. That is a computer generated background! You are now just making up sheer lies. Sorry, but do you actually expect me to take you seriously?

        • August 17, 2014 at 11:02 pm

          If the PT had all of these practical shots then why did Lucas say he could have never made that trilogy in the 80’s? Because its mostly CGI!!!!

        • August 18, 2014 at 7:13 am

          Damn dude…calm down

      • August 18, 2014 at 2:54 am

        The hilarious part is there’s no CG in that temple shot at all. It’s a matte painting.

    • August 18, 2014 at 9:02 am

      It’s not the cgi. I think the vfx people gave GL what he wanted. And what he wanted for the pt was dull unimaginative cartoonish crap.

  • August 17, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    To be the next 3 billion dollar movie, it’s gonna have to be released in 3D. Will it? I hope the 3D looks good.

    • August 17, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      Yogi, I have zero doubt it will get a 3D release because they are doing the whole IMAX thing and it’s Disney who’s been doing a lot of 3D and Dolby Atmos releases lately. Theatrical 3D is sort of being held up by technological limitations… we’ll be stuck with “stereoscopic” 3D for a while in theaters… I think 2015 3D won’t look much better than current 3D. Here’s my recommendation if you see it in 3D… find a theater that has a 4k laser projector. Laser projectors are very bright so diminish the dimming quality of 3D… and the increased resolution looks amazing with 3D. If any of you guys saw the trailer for the next Hobbit in 3D then you’ll know what I mean… wow!

      At home is a different story. Glasses free 3D TV’s will be hitting the market this winter, so I believe that will help for those people who get eye strain from watching 3D.

      I highly, highly, highly recommend that all you theater tech geeks watch this video @ 45 min… holographic 3D is just a few mere years away! :


      • August 18, 2014 at 1:53 am

        There’s no way that Episode VII will gross 3 billion worldwide. It’s just not going to happen.

        • August 18, 2014 at 6:18 am

          Avatar made 2.7 billion. Everyone went to see it because they heard how incredible the effects and 3D were. It didn’t have nearly the level of hype surrounding SW7 and still became the highest grossing movie of all time. I think it’s possible.

  • August 17, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    As much as I’d love to see J. J. Abrams come back to do Episode IX, I’m hoping that Alfonso Cuarón gets to direct the last movie of the Sequel Trilogy, or at least gets to direct a Star Wars movie in the near future. Nonetheless, it would be cool to see the creative minds behind both VII and VIII directly collaborate with one another, and I think that would make a lot of sense on a practical level.

  • August 18, 2014 at 12:24 am

    I can only say this… For now JJ Is the chosen one. Just check the Star Trek reboot; Its an absolute hommage to star wars in many ways.
    Hope the lensflares are dimmed this time. But for the rest, i’m so excited to maybe relive my childhood from the originals…

  • August 18, 2014 at 2:58 am

    Why is it that Star Wars is the only series where people bitch about CGI? No one had any complaints about it in Star Trek or Guardians of the Galaxy. Hell, the effects where the most PRAISED thing about Avatar.

    • August 18, 2014 at 5:13 am

      Please understand that it is widely known that George Lucas wanted to “pioneer” a new way of film making and wanted to illustrate this by pushing the limits so other film makers could see what his experiment could yeild. He pushed it too far in loyalist’s eyes.
      In a situation where he could of utilized in cramera tricks instead of CGI he chose not to.
      So we got different kind of films that parted themselves distinctly from the original trilogy.
      Now we can see a blend of the two in ways that are more beneficial to the overall feel of what Star Wars can be.
      Lucas wanted other directors to go digital with film and editing as well. The CGI capabilities paved the way for the superhero movies we see now.
      Lucas was showing off a commercial with Star Wars PT for Ilm to benefit from and show what they really could do.

    • August 18, 2014 at 9:34 am

      I think that people see how flat and lifeless the pt are and the mistakenly think that it is all due to an inherent weakness of cgi. But in fact Lucas could have made the pt more immersive and lifelike but he chose the kind of cartoonish sci fi Look of the pt

  • August 18, 2014 at 9:43 am

    These women are interviewing the next director for Star Wars and they can’t shut up about themselves. Worst interview ever…

  • August 20, 2014 at 1:57 am

    Can’t anyone see that they’re screwing themselves and the fans over with this ridiculous production schedule of a film every two years? The films of the first two trilogies were all evenly paced by three years, and that extra year was VITAL. When studios film back to back the results are usually for the worse see the Matrix and the Pirate trilogies, where the latter two films of never stood up to the first.

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