Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Starwarsviitheforceawakens.jpg
Official teaser poster
Directed by J. J. Abrams
Produced by
Screenplay by
Starring
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Dan Mindel
Edited by
Production
company
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • December 18, 2015 (2015-12-18) (North America)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $200 million[1]

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (also known as Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens) is an upcoming American epic space opera film directed by J. J. Abrams. The seventh installment in the episodic Star Wars film series, it stars John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow, with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker reprising roles from previous films. The story is set approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi (1983).

The Force Awakens will be the first film in the planned third Star Wars trilogy announced after The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of Lucasfilm in October 2012. It is produced by Abrams, his long-time collaborator Bryan Burk, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Abrams directed the film from a screenplay he co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of the original trilogy films The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Abrams and Kasdan rewrote an initial script by Michael Arndt, who also wrote the story treatment. John Williams returns to compose the score, and Star Wars creator George Lucas serves as creative consultant.

The Force Awakens is produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm and Abrams' Bad Robot Productions, and will be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Second-unit filming began in April 2014 in Abu Dhabi and Iceland, with principal photography taking place between May and November 2014 in Abu Dhabi, Ireland and Pinewood Studios in England. The Force Awakens is scheduled for release on December 18, 2015.

Premise

The Force Awakens is set approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and features three new leads alongside characters returning from previous Star Wars films.[2]

Cast

Lupita Nyong'o, Gwendoline Christie,[5] Crystal Clarke, Pip Andersen,[6] Christina Chong,[7] Miltos Yerolemou,[8] Greg Grunberg,[9] Warwick Davis,[10] Billie Lourd,[11] Maisie Richardson-Sellers,[12] Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Cecep Arif Rahman,[13] Amybeth Hargreaves,[14] Leanne Best[15] and Jessica Henwick[16] are cast in unspecified roles.

Production

Development

George Lucas turned over his story treatment for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX to Disney chairman Bob Iger when Lucasfilm was sold to Disney in October 2012.[17] The first screenplay was written by Michael Arndt.[18][19][20] David Fincher[21] and Brad Bird were approached as directors, but Bird was committed to Tomorrowland.[22] Guillermo del Toro was also considered, but was busy with his own projects.[23]

J. J. Abrams was selected as the director of the film.

In January 2013, J. J. Abrams was announced as the director of Star Wars Episode VII, with Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg as project consultants.[24][25] The production announced the exit of Arndt from the project on October 24, 2013 and Kasdan and Abrams took over script duties.[26] Abrams cited time concerns over the change of writers,[27] and expressed relief that the release date was announced for December 2015 instead of a previously discussed summer release.[28] He said the key for the film was to return to the roots of the first Star Wars film and be based more on emotion than explanation.[29]

As creative consultant on the film, Lucas's involvement included attending early story meetings; according to Lucas, "I mostly say, 'You can't do this. You can do that.' You know, 'The cars don't have wheels. They fly with antigravity.' There's a million little pieces... I know all that stuff."[17] Lucas's son Jett told The Guardian that his father was "very torn" about having sold the rights to the franchise, despite having hand-picked Abrams to direct, and that his father was "there to guide" but that "he wants to let it go and become its new generation."[30] Among the materials turned over to the production team were rough story treatments Lucas developed when he considered creating episodes VIIIX himself years earlier; in January 2015, Lucas stated that Disney had discarded his story ideas.[31][32]

In January 2014, Abrams confirmed that the script was complete.[33] In April 2014, Lucasfilm clarified that episodes VII–IX would not feature storylines from the Expanded Universe, though other elements could be included as with the TV series Star Wars Rebels.[34]

Pre-production

In May 2013, it was confirmed that the production of Episode VII would take place in the United Kingdom.[35] Representatives from Lucasfilm met with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to agree to produce Episode VII in the UK.[35] Beginning in September 2013, production spaces at the Bad Robot facility were converted for shooting of Episode VII for the benefit of shooting a minor portion of the film in the United States.[36]

The film's costume designer was Michael Kaplan, who had previously worked with Abrams on his Star Trek films.[37] Film editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, also long-term collaborators with Abrams, were also signed.[38]

In August 2013, it was announced that cinematographer Daniel Mindel would be shooting the film on 35 mm film (specifically Kodak 5219).[39] In October 2013, other crew members were confirmed, including sound designer Ben Burtt, director of photography Daniel Mindel, production designers Rick Carter and Darren Gilford, costume designer Michael Kaplan, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, re-recording mixer Gary Rydstrom, supervising sound editor Matthew Wood, visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, and executive producers Tommy Harper and Jason McGatlin.[40][41][42][43]

Casting




(L-R) Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher all reprise their roles from the Original Trilogy as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia, respectively.

Casting began around August 2013, with Abrams meeting with potential actors for script readings and screen tests. Open auditions were held in the UK, Ireland and the United States in November 2013 for the roles of "Rachel" and "Thomas".[44][45][46] Casting began in earnest in January 2014, due to changes to the script by Kasdan and Abrams.[47] Screen tests with actors continued until at least three weeks before the official announcement on April 29, 2014, with final casting decisions being made only a few weeks prior. Actors testing had strict non-disclosure agreements, preventing them, their agents or publicists from commenting on their potential involvement.[48]

Though Lucas intimated that previous cast members Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill would return for the new film as early as March 2013,[17] their casting was not confirmed until over a year later.[3] Saoirse Ronan,[49] Michael B. Jordan,[50] and Lupita Nyong'o[51] auditioned for new characters; industry publications reported Jesse Plemons was considered, possibly for Luke Skywalker's son;[52] Adam Driver for an unnamed villain;[53] and Maisie Richardson-Sellers for an unknown character.[54] In March 2014, actor Dominic Monaghan said that Abrams was looking for three unknown actors to play the leads in Episode VII and that rumors of bigger-name stars were untrue.[55]

Daisy Ridley was chosen for the film by February 2014, and by the end of that month a deal had been worked out with Driver, who was able to work around his Girls schedule. By March 2014, talks with Andy Serkis and Oscar Isaac began and continued into April 2014. In April, John Boyega began talks after dropping out of a Jesse Owens biopic.[48] Denis Lawson, who played Wedge Antilles in the original trilogy, was asked to reprise his role, but declined, stating that it would have "bored" him.[56]

On April 29, 2014, the cast was announced with a photo of the first table read of the script at Pinewood Studios near London,[3] picturing director Abrams with Ford, Daisy Ridley, Fisher, Peter Mayhew, producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm president and producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Hamill, Serkis, Oscar Isaac, Boyega, Driver, and writer Lawrence Kasdan. Not pictured but included in the cast are Max von Sydow and Kenny Baker. The announcement was originally planned for May 4 (Star Wars Day), but announced early due to fears of media leaks. More casting is expected, including a major female role.[57] Variety reported that Driver would play a Darth Vader-type villain, Isaac's role would be like Han Solo, Boyega would play a Jedi, and Ridley could play the daughter of Han and Leia.[58] On June 2, 2014. Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline Christie were announced in the cast.[5]

To prepare for his role, Hamill grew out his beard[59] and was assigned a personal trainer and a nutritionist at the request of the producers, who wanted him to resemble an older Luke.[60] Fisher was also assigned a personal trainer and a nutritionist to prepare for her role.[60] The production team built a new C-3PO suit to accommodate Daniels.[61] In May 2014, Fisher's mother, Debbie Reynolds, stated that Fisher had already lost 40 pounds in preparation for the film.[62]

In May, Abrams announced a donation contest for UNICEF from the Star Wars set in Abu Dhabi; the winner was allowed to visit the set, meet members of the cast and appear in the film.[63]

In October 2014, Warwick Davis, who played Wald and Weazle in The Phantom Menace and Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi, announced that he would appear in The Force Awakens, but did not reveal his role.[64] In November 2014, Reynolds confirmed that Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, is in the film.[11]

Oscar Isaac's uncle, a massive Star Wars fan, was cast as an extra in the film at the invitation of Abrams upon visiting the set.[65]

Filming

Skellig Michael in Ireland, one of the filming locations
RAF Greenham Common filming location in England

In February 2014, Abrams said filming would begin in May and last about three months.[29] Sources told Hitfix that filming would wrap in September 2014.[66] The official announcement came on March 18, when Disney and Lucasfilm announced that principal photography would commence in May and be based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England.[67] In March, it was revealed that pre-production filming would be taking place in Iceland prior to the start of official filming in May, consisting of landscape shots which would be used for scenery in the film.[68] On April 2, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn confirmed that filming had begun,[69] filming in secret in the U.A.E. emirate of Abu Dhabi by a second-unit.[70][71] Later that month, it was revealed that in addition to 35mm film, segments of the film were being shot in the 65mm IMAX format.[72] On July 8, Bad Robot reported on Twitter that the film would be at least partially shot on IMAX cameras.[73]

In early May 2014, the studio posted a selfie taken by Iger with Chewbacca. Iger stated the photo was taken while visiting Pinewood Studios two weeks earlier to discuss the shoot "which was just about to start" with Abrams, Kennedy, and Horn.[74] Principal photography began in Abu Dhabi on May 16, 2014.[75][76][77] Abrams and members of the cast went to Abu Dhabi in early May, where large sets were built at the location, including a shuttle-like spacecraft, a large tower and a big market, and explosives were used to create a "blast crater". Cast members were spotted practicing driving vehicles that would be used during filming.[78] Production moved to Pinewood Studios in June.[79]

On June 12, Harrison Ford fractured his leg while filming at Pinewood after a hydraulic door fell on him, and was taken to a hospital. Production was suspended for two weeks to accommodate Ford's injury.[80] Ford's son Ben stated that Ford's ankle would likely need a plate and screws and that filming could be altered slightly, with the crew needing to shoot Ford from the waist up for a short time until he recovered.[81] Jake Steinfeld, Ford's personal trainer, said in July that Ford was recovering rapidly.[82]

On July 29, 2014, filming took place over three days at Skellig Michael island off the coast of County Kerry in Ireland with a cast including Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley.[83][84] Production was halted for two weeks in early August 2014 so Abrams could rework shooting in Ford's absence, and resumed with a fully healed Ford in mid-August.[85][86] In September 2014, the RAF Greenham Common military base in Berkshire, near Pinewood Studios, was used as a filming location and featured set constructions of several spaceships from the Star Wars Universe.[87][88]

Principal photography ended on November 3, 2014.[89]

Post-production

Cinematographer Daniel Mindel stated that The Force Awakens would use real locations and scale models over computer-generated imagery to make it aesthetically similar to the original Star Wars trilogy.[90] Rian Johnson, director of Episode VIII, reiterated that Abrams would use little CGI and more practical, traditional special effects, saying: "I think people are coming back around to [practical effects]. It feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back toward it. I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick.”[91]

In February 2014, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) announced plans to open a facility in London, citing Disney's Star Wars films as a catalyst for the expansion. ILM's Vancouver branch will also work on the special effects for the film.[92]

Music

In July 2013, John Williams was confirmed to compose the score.[93] Williams composed original music for the film's first trailer.[94] The score will be recorded by Los Angeles musicians over several months.[95]

Release

In November 2013, The Force Awakens was given the release date of December 18, 2015.[96] In March 2014, Disney confirmed that Episode VII will be released in IMAX format.[97] On November 6, 2014, the title of the film was announced as Star Wars: The Force Awakens.[98] Though the title does not include "Episode VII", Episode VII will be included in the opening crawl.[99]

Marketing

On December 11, 2014, Abrams and Kennedy released a series of eight mock Topps trading cards revealing the names of several characters.[4]

Merchandise

The film will be accompanied by numerous books. Disney Publishing Worldwide and Lucasfilm announced that a combination of 20 titles in book and e-book formats, entitled "Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens" with releases starting in late 2015, prior to the film. The collection will include books by Del Rey and Disney-Lucasfilm publishers and comic books from Marvel Comics. All titles under the program are canonical to the Star Wars universe.[100]

The first novel, Star Wars: Aftermath, will be released in September 2015 and is written by Chuck Wendig. The story is set shortly after the film Return of the Jedi and deals with the consequences of the deaths of both the Emperor and Darth Vader, as well as the power vacuum formed in the Empire's rule over the galaxy and the actions of the Rebellion during the following months. It is intended to be the first in a trilogy of novels that will bridge the Star Wars timeline between the original trilogy and The Force Awakens.[101]

Sequels

Rian Johnson confirmed in August 2014 that he would direct Episode VIII.[91] Like The Force Awakens, filming for Episode VIII will take place in London.[102] It is scheduled for release on May 26, 2017.[103]

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