Vanity Fair posted online their full article on The Force Awakens from their June issue. There are several interesting bits of information that were not covered in their previous report. Read on to find out John Williams’ opinion on the movie as well as what part of Michael Arndt’s script was actually used, and what was the initial idea of George Lucas for the Sequel Trilogy…
Excerpts from Vanity Fair’s article:
George Lucas’ initial plan for the Sequel Trilogy:
He [Lucas] sketched out ideas for episodes VII, VIII, and IX, to be set initially several decades after Return of the Jedi, and approached Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill about re-upping. He shared his story outlines with Disney during their courtship phase. But after the deal was done, “Disney and Kathy decided they should consider other options,” as Abrams (not then involved) diplomatically put it. He said Lucas’s treatments had centered on very young characters—teenagers, Lucasfilm told me—which might have struck Disney executives as veering too close for comfort to The Phantom Menace and its 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker and 14-year-old Queen Amidala. “We’ve made some departures” from Lucas’s ideas, Kennedy conceded, but only in “exactly the way you would in any development process.”
As he [Lucas] told Bloomberg Businessweek while his new Star Wars ideas were still on the table, “Ultimately you have to say, ‘Look, I know what I’m doing. Buying my stories is part of what the deal is.’ I’ve worked at this for 40 years, and I’ve been pretty successful.” But another part of the deal was that he was paid a handsome sum to cede control, and however he felt about having his story ideas rejected, Lucas (who turned down an interview request for this story) is by all accounts supportive of the new films and eager to see them for the first time in theaters like any other audience member. “I talk to him and see him frequently,” Kennedy said. “And I’m telling you, every time I say, ‘Is there anything you want to know?’ And he’s like, ‘No, no, I want to be surprised.’ ”
Michael Arndt and the issues with the first script.
Summer of 2015 was the release date for the first picture—a very quick turnaround for an effects-heavy movie that didn’t even have a wisp of a story. “I was the one raising my hand and saying, ‘Ah-ah-ah, might be a little difficult, as nothing’s in place, including a script, a director, a plan,’ ” Kennedy said. She began by assembling what would become a formal story department, charged with generating ideas for the new movies along with TV series, games, and other Star Wars products. “I would say it took a good year, to be honest, in the early development stage, where we immersed ourselves in Star Wars, understanding the values George used to create the mythology, understanding what it meant to him, understanding what it means to all of us.…
But there was still the matter of what would actually happen on-screen. “We were struggling to come up with a story,” Kasdan, 66, admitted. “There were elements that we would come up with and say, ‘Oh, that’s good! That’s strong!’ But it was not coming together.” With Abrams now part of the development team and the already tight summer 2015 release date looming ever closer, Michael Arndt was having difficulty finishing a script within the necessary time frame. “There was a ton of ideas and outlines, a lot of cards on the wall, a lot of writing on whiteboards,” Abrams said, but no screenplay.
With pre-production chores already well under way in London, where much of the film would be shot at Pinewood Studios, Abrams and Kasdan took over the screenwriting process, starting more or less from scratch. “We said, Blank page. Page one. What do we desperately want to see?” Abrams told me. Though Abrams said both men had pet ideas from the development process they wanted to incorporate, and did, Kasdan made the process sound like more of a teardown: “We didn’t have anything,” Kasdan said. “There were a thousand people waiting for answers on things, and you couldn’t tell them anything except ‘Yeah, that guy’s in it.’ That was about it. That was really all we knew.”
This was in early November 2013, six months before filming was now scheduled to begin, in May of 2014. (This was when the release date was pushed back to December 2015.) By mid-January, Abrams and Kasdan had a draft, most of it hashed out in plein air conversations recorded on an iPhone as they walked and talked for hours at a time.
At any rate, whatever Abrams and Kasdan came up with apparently pleased everyone concerned—though everyone concerned may have had no choice but to be pleased at that point. Kennedy described the script’s mix of old and new characters in terms of audience expectations: “It’s sort of like going to a concert where you want to hear the new stuff that they’ve written, but really you want to hear some of the old songs.
John Williams praises The Force Awakens.
The movie’s P.R. campaign is still being worked out, including an as yet nebulous Star Wars presence at San Diego’s Comic-Con in July. But given Disney’s and Lucasfilm’s combined expertise in this arena, the summer and fall promise to be one long, exquisite tease for anyone with a HAN SHOT FIRST T-shirt in his or her closet. If skeptics will accept a not disinterested view of what Abrams has accomplished, they can take the word of composer John Williams. When we spoke in April, Abrams had shown him about three-quarters of the movie in a rough assembly, and he said, “What I have seen is absolutely delightful and witty and funny and engaging. The extensions of the mythology are very cleverly and beautifully written, I think. If I can quote Steven Spielberg”—citing one of the director’s favorite phrases—“J.J. has hit it out of the ballpark. I’m having a lot of fun with it.”
And last but not least, here’s a footage description from the movie shown to Vanity Fair’s Bruce Handy.
The several minutes of footage I saw backed Williams up, as much as any several minutes from any movie could. Case in point: At the effects session, Abrams was demonstrating his commitment to the more retro, more tactile filmmaking Kasdan had talked about. One scene featured an alien creature that abruptly pops up out of the desert landscape with glowing, flashlight eyes that make it look like a distant cousin to the Jawas of A New Hope. Abrams later called it “a classic, old-school seesaw puppet. We just buried it in the sand, and Neal Scanlan, the creature guy, pushed down on one side and the thing came up on the other side.” At the session, the scene, with the alien suddenly sticking its head over a dune, got a big laugh. Some perfectionist suggested a few digital polishes, but Abrams was wary. “It’s so old-school and crazy,” he said. “We could improve this thing, but at some point do we lose the wonderful preposterousness?”
The question was tabled, but “wonderful preposterousness” isn’t a bad descriptor of the Star Wars ethos at its best. Reviewing another scene, with spaceships blasting away at each other with phasers or whatever, Abrams could briefly be heard making ray-gun noises, the way a kid lying on his bedroom floor and drawing his own spaceships might. That galaxy far, far away appeared to be in good hands.
Really fantastic article, make sure to head over to Vanity Fair and read the full piece HERE. December 18th can’t come quick enough…