BB-8’s VOCAL COACHES
The bouncing baby droid was puppeteered by Brian Herring and Dave Chapman, but its cooing and purring voice was created with help from comic actors Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz. Hader told Drew McWeeny of HitFix that his contribution amounted to playing around with a sound effects app on J.J. Abrams’ iPad while making noises into a talk box (which is the tube-like device made famous decades ago by singer Peter Frampton.)
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A NUMBERS GAME
In 1977’s original Star Wars, Princess Leia is held by Darth Vader in the Death Star’s detention block AA-23, inside cell 2187. In The Force Awakens, John Boyega’s conscience-stricken stormtrooper is known only by his designation FN-2187. It’s not just an homage to the first film, but the original was a nod to the abstract 1963 short film 21-87 by director Arthur Lipsett, which George Lucas found inspirational.
EWOK NO MORE
Warwick Davis was only 11 years old when he won the part of Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi, and the short actor went on to star as the title character in 1998’s Willow, as well as play the evil sprite in the Leprechaun movies, and Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter films. He returns to the Star Wars universe as the background character Wollivan, a tavern-dweller in Maz Kanata’s caste. You can spot him as the tiny (of course) creature with the short, pink snout and the puckered eyes.
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Maz Kanata’s watering hole is home to all sorts of peculiar denizens. Among them, 30 Rock actor Judah Friedlander, who is credited as one of the bar patrons. (I’ll have to watch again to see if his character is sporting the interstellar version of a trucker hat.) He doesn’t play Grummgar, or Bazine, obviously, but he must rub elbows with them. Also drowning his sorrows at Maz’s place is D.C. Barnes, the Star Wars fan who won a background role in the movie through the Force For Change charity raffle. You can see him as the man in the hooded black cloak at the gambling table just behind Warwick Davis’s Wollivan in Maz’s Castle.
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NEWT JOINS THE DARK SIDE
Fans of The Maze Runner series can spot a familiar Glader in The Force Awakens if they watch closely. Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who plays Newt in the films based on James Dashner’s novels, has a brief role as First Order Petty Officer Thanisson. He’s the one who warns the First Order leadership that they have a TIE Fighter trying to make an unsanctioned departure from the Star Destroyer.
LOST MEETS STAR WARS
A few faces from J.J. Abrams’ Lost TV series resurface in the galaxy far, far away. Greg Grunberg, an Abrams regular who has known the filmmaker since kindergarten, played the ill-fated airline pilot on Lost’s, er … pilot episode, and portrays another flyboy this time: ace X-Wing pilot Snap Wexley. “Snap” is a nickname, however. It’s the now grown-up version of Temmin Wexley from author Chuck Wendig’s post-Return of the Jedi novel Star Wars: Aftermath. Meanwhile, Ken Leung, who was the psychic Miles Straume on Lost, shows up in the galaxy as Resistance Admiral Statura.
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JOIN ME, FATHER…
At the premiere for The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams paid tribute to one person who was in the audience, and another who passed away in 2012. “To my father, who is here tonight, and to my mother, who is not …” Abrams said. “Thank you for taking me to see Star Wars when I was 10. That was a very good idea.” His father, Gerry Abrams, actually got a role in the film as Captain Cypress — named after the Cypress Point Productions company the TV producer has run since 1978. You can spot him to the left of the screen when C-3PO declares they “need a miracle.”
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JOIN ME, GRANDFATHER …
Abrams also honored his late grandfather, Harry Kelvin, which he tends to do in all his movies. (There’s a starship in 2009’s Star Trek named the U.S.S. Kelvin, and the gas station in Super 8 was named Kelvin Gasoline.) In The Force Awakens, Rey tells BB-8: “Niima Outpost is that way. Stay off Kelvin Ridge. Keep away from the sinking fields to the north or you’ll drown in the sand.”
FRIEND OF THE GENERAL
Abrams wasn’t the only one to get a relative into The Force Awakens. Carrie Fisher’s actress daughter Billie Lourd, best known as Chanel #3 from TV’s Scream Queens, shows up in the Resistance headquarters as Lieutenant Connix, seen here monitoring their pilots alongside communications droid PZ-4CO (a.k.a. “Peazy,” a longtime confidante and biographer for General Leia Organa.)
STAIRWAY TO KEVIN
Few filmmakers have paid tribute to Star Wars as frequently as the writer-director of Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Dogma. Throughout his career, Kevin Smith has made his affection for George Lucas’s galaxy abundantly clear, and so seeing the name “Kevin Smith” in the credits as one of the unspecified voices in the film begs the question: Is it a Kevin Smith — or the Kevin Smith? (The same Kevin Smith who raved about his emotional visit to the Star Wars set at Comic-Con.) Sources confirm to EW it is definitely the former New Jersey convenience store worker. So fans of his SModcasts should listen carefully for the sound of their master’s voice.
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