Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (also known as Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens)[2] is an upcoming American epic space opera film[3][4] directed by J. J. Abrams. The seventh installment in the Star Wars film series (excluding spin-offs), 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 their roles from previous films. The story is set approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi.[5]

The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm in October 2012 and announced plans for a third Star Wars trilogy. The Force Awakens will be the first film made after the acquisition,[4] produced by Abrams, his long-time collaborator Bryan Burk, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.[4][6] Star Wars creator George Lucas serves as creative consultant on the film and the others that will comprise the planned trilogy.[7] 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.[8][9]

The Force Awakens is produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm and Abrams' Bad Robot Productions,[6][10] and will be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Second-unit filming began in April 2014 in Abu Dhabi and Iceland,[11] 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[edit]

The film is set approximately thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and stars "a trio of new leads" alongside returning actors from the previous installments.[5]

Cast[edit]

Lupita Nyong'o, Gwendoline Christie,[13] Crystal Clarke, Pip Andersen,[14] Christina Chong,[15] Miltos Yerolemou,[16] Greg Grunberg,[17] Warwick Davis,[18] Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd,[19] Florence Welch and Maisie Richardson-Sellers[20] are cast in unspecified roles.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

George Lucas turned over the story treatment for Episodes VII, VIII and IX to Disney chairman Bob Iger when Lucasfilm was sold to Disney in October 2012.[21] The screenplay was written by Michael Arndt.[22][23][24] David Fincher[25] and Brad Bird were approached as directors, but Bird was committed to Tomorrowland.[26] Guillermo del Toro was also considered, but was busy with his own projects.[27]

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.[6][28] The production announced the exit of Arndt from the project on October 24, 2013 and Kasdan and Abrams took over script duties.[29] Abrams cited time concerns over the change of writers.[30] Abrams expressed relief that the release date was announced for December 2015 instead of the previously discussed summer release.[31] He said that the key for the film would be for it to return to the roots of the first Star Wars film and be based more on emotion than explanation.[32]

As creative consultant on the film, Lucas' involvement includes attending story meetings; he told Bloomberg Businessweek: "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. Or I can say, 'He doesn’t have the power to do that, or he has to do this.' I know all that stuff."[21] It was reported from George Lucas' son, Jett Lucas that George Lucas was "very torn" about selling the rights to the franchise, despite having hand-picked J.J. Abrams to direct.[33]

In January 2014, Abrams confirmed that the script was complete.[34] In April 2014, Lucasfilm clarified that Episodes VIIIX will not feature any of the storylines from the Expanded Universe, though other elements could be included as with Star Wars Rebels.[35]

Pre-production[edit]

In May 2013, it was confirmed that the production of Episode VII would take place in the United Kingdom.[36] Representatives from Lucasfilm met with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to agree to produce Episode VII in the UK.[36] 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.[37]

Costume designer Michael Kaplan, who worked with Abrams on his Star Trek films, will work on Episode VII.[38] Film editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, also long-term collaborators with Abrams, have also been signed for Episode VII.[39]

In August 2013, it was announced that cinematographer Daniel Mindel will be shooting the film on 35 mm film (specifically Kodak 5219).[40] 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.[41][42][43][44]

Casting[edit]

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".[45][46][47] Casting began in earnest in January 2014, due to changes to the script by Kasdan and Abrams.[48] 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.[49]

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,[21] their casting was not confirmed until over a year later.[citation needed] Saoirse Ronan,[50] Michael B. Jordan,[51] and Lupita Nyong'o[52] auditioned for new characters; industry publications reported Jesse Plemons was considered, possibly for Luke Skywalker's son;[53] Adam Driver for an unnamed villain;[54] and Maisie Richardson-Sellers for an unknown character.[55] 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.[56]

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.[49] 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.[57]

On April 29, 2014, the cast was announced with a photo of the first table read of the script at Pinewood Studios near London,[9] 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.[58] Variety reported that Driver would play a Darth Vader-esque villain, Isaac's role would be like Han Solo, Boyega would be play a Jedi, and Ridley could play the daughter of Han and Leia.[59] On June 2, 2014. Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline Christie were announced in the cast.[13]

To prepare for his role, Hamill grew out his beard[60] and was assigned a personal trainer and a nutritionist at the request of the producers, who wanted him to resemble an older Luke.[61] Fisher was also assigned a personal trainer and a nutritionist to prepare for her role.[61] The production team built a new C-3PO suit to accommodate Daniels.[62] In May 2014, Fisher's mother, Debbie Reynolds, stated that Fisher had already lost 40 pounds in preparation for the film.[63]

In May, Abrams announced a donation contest for UNICEF from the Star Wars set in Abu Dhabi; the winner will visit the set, meet members of the cast and appear in the film.[64]

In October 2014, Warwick Davis, who played Wald and Weazle in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi, announced that he will appear in Episode VII, but did not reveal his role.[65] In November 2014, Fisher's mother confirmed that Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, is in the film.[19]

Filming[edit]

In February 2014, Abrams said filming would begin in May and last about three months.[32] 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 will 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 are being shot in the 65mm IMAX format.[72] On July 8, Bad Robot reported on Twitter that the film will 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 around the location practicing driving vehicles they will use 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 will 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 recovers.[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. Filming on Episode VII is expected to wrap up in late 2014.[85][86] In August, Adam Driver stated he did not believe Lucas was present on set.[87] Principal photography ended on November 3, 2014.[88]

Post-production[edit]

Cinematographer Daniel Mindel stated that The Force Awakens will use real locations and scale models over computer-generated imagery to make it aesthetically similar to the original Star Wars trilogy.[89] Rian Johnson, director of Episode VIII, reiterated that Abrams will 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.”[90]

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.[91]

Music[edit]

John Williams was confirmed to compose the score for Episode VII in July 2013.[92] According to various reports, Williams was expected to travel to Los Angeles in mid-November 2014 to begin work on new music for the teaser trailer.[93]

Release[edit]

In November 2013, The Force Awakens was given the release date of December 18, 2015.[94] In March 2014, Disney confirmed that Episode VII will be released in IMAX.[95] On November 6, 2014, the title of the film was announced as Star Wars: The Force Awakens.[96] Though the title does not include "Episode VII", Episode VII will be included in the opening crawl.[97]

Marketing[edit]

The first teaser trailer made its debut on November 28, 2014; from the 28th through the 30th, the trailer aired prior to every film being shown in 30 theaters across the United States and Canada, and will appear globally in theaters in December 2014.[98] Although it was originally reported that the trailer would be exclusively exhibited in theaters, the trailer was also released online the same day.[99] The trailer generated a record 58.2 million views on YouTube on its first week since its debut, surpassing Avengers: Age of Ultron with 50.6 million views and Jurassic World with 53.9 million views.[100] On December 11, 2014, J. J. Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy released a series of eight mock Topps trading cards revealing the names of several characters in the upcoming film: Poe Dameron (portrayed by Oscar Isaac), Rey (portrayed by Daisy Ridley) and Finn (portrayed by John Boyega). The name of the red lightsaber-wielding villain in the trailer was revealed to be Kylo Ren, although the actor has not yet been officially named.[12]

Sequels[edit]

Rian Johnson, director of Brick (2005) and Looper (2012), confirmed in August 2014 that he would direct Episode VIII.[90] Like The Force Awakens, filming for Episode VIII will take place in London.[101]

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External links[edit]