Solo, Finn, and a Creature Known as ‘The Director’
As part of EW’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens double-issue preview, here’s a collection of new images from the film, beginning behind the scenes with John Boyega’s Finn, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, and director J.J. Abrams. We’re going to tread lightly on spoilers, but what you’ll find ahead are more than a dozen new images from this week’s collector’s edition of the magazine.
“It’s a beat up tractor that’s a hand-me-down or scavenged item,” says production designer Darren Gilford. “It was meant to look like a piece of farm equipment, something that’s not going real fast compared to what a sports car would do. But it has high-end torque like a tractor that needs to haul a trailer.”
This Desert Life
It’s a lonely existence scrounging for sustenance on a junkyard planet. Rey was ditched on Jakku by her family when she was a child and has no idea why — or why they never returned. “She’s been alone for a long time,” Ridley says. “When something occurs when you’re 5, you know what went on but you don’t understand the reasoning. She’s hopeful for what lies ahead, whether that involves the past or not.” So why hasn’t abandonment made her bitter, angry, and… prone to the Dark Side? “Hope makes people good, a lot of the time,” Ridley says. “You hope for a brighter future, and resentment is outweighed.”
Portrait of a smuggler as an older man. There’s a lot more gray, but the same swagger. “It could have felt silly, but it didn’t,” Harrison Ford says of getting back into Han Solo’s familiar holster. Today, EW shares our sit-down interview with Ford at his hangar in Santa Monica, where he talks about why he’s now glad no one listened to him about killing off the character. “Well, he’s been living with me. Out back, in the shack,” Ford says with a laugh. “[Thirty-two] years is going to put some rings on the tree, some experience in the bank, and that’s really all I needed.”
Finn and Poe Dameron
We still don’t know the exact nature of their relationship, but here we see the ex-stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) having a longer encounter with X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac.) What we now know for sure? These two have met before, and it was under particularly harsh circumstances. Check out the next image …
We knew Poe Dameron ended up in the clutches of The First Order, and here he appears to be pretty roughed up. Whether he sustained these bloody injuries during his capture or they’re the result of Kylo Ren’s interrogation is still unclear. What this image reveals is that Dameron and Finn do meet before Boyega’s character goes AWOL. All this does is raise more questions about why Finn ends up wearing Poe’s clothes on Jakku — and how the X-Wing pilot goes from handcuffed prisoner to his return to the Resistance base.
Now we see there’s a third element to Finn’s snowy, woodlands duel with Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. Rey is part of the battle, too. We don’t know how she fits in (although this looks a lot like the trailer shot of her weeping over a fallen friend), but as the Darth Vader-obsessed villain ignites the unstable blade of his saber, the untrained Finn is looking pretty unsure of himself. “Obviously that makes things a bit more tricky for Finn,” Boyega says. “That’s genuine fear.”
Hands in the Air
In Star Wars, that term often refers to someone’s limb flying off thanks to a lightsaber blade. Here, Finn, Chewie, and Han are still in one piece, but entirely surrounded by First Order stormtroopers. There’s hope on the horizon, however. The cavalry is
riding flying in …
Tag, You’re Out
One flies through the air with the greatest of ease, the other is on the business end of some blaster strafing. As a Resistance X-Wing screams by overhead, two of Finn’s former brethren in the First Order meet his (or her) demise. That’s right: Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma wasn’t the only female in armor. “We had women in stormtrooper costumes in the movie,” Abrams says, so audiences will be seeing a mixed gender fighting force from The First Order whether they realize it or not. (The armor isn’t form-fitting, of course.)
Shelter From the Stormtroopers
First Order soldiers take fire as they rush into battle from the gangplank of a troop carrier. Although Finn is no longer among them, Boyega says soldiers raised from childhood to serve this remnant of the scattered Imperial forces are fed propaganda about the heroes of the Rebellion. Unlike Rey, he has learned a lot about Luke Skywalker — but he has been taught he was a villain who destroyed the benevolent Empire.
Fighting For the Wrong Side
First Order stormtroopers lay down intense cover fire within Starkiller Base. Many have been conscripted and indoctrinated with hate and fear of what the Rebellion stood for. Why risk their lives for this cause? They’ve been taught that’s all they’re good for.
An evil end
Producer Bryan Burk says the last major day of shooting on The Force Awakens was this dreary, rainy scene featuring Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren and some masked figures in armor believed to be the Knights of Ren. All we know is that they give Kylo his new name after joining their order. Who they are and what they want will be a mystery answered by the movie, but coming later this week on EW, we’ll offer a little insight into Kylo’s other Dark Side associates: Supreme Leader Snoke (played by Andy Serkis) and General Hux (played by Domhnall Gleeson.)
Frog-Dog For Sale!
One of the first creatures revealed as part of the new Star Wars menagerie was this desert merchant known as Bobbajo. The human performer shares only his legs with the alien, and the rest of his body extends up into the various cages being hauled on Bobbajo’s back. (The actor can see through the mouth of the large amphibian-like creature in the middle cage.) “He was envisaged as this sort of seller who would lumber his way to the market every day, selling these rather weird and strange creatures, which he had in the cages,” says Neal Scanlan, who headed the film’s creature shop. “He’s very slow, he’s very laid back.” Judging by the drowsy look in his eyes, you wonder if Bobbajo may be hustling some herbal products, too.
Puppy Dog Eye
BB-8’s lenses, aerials and panels went through more facial arrangements than a Beverly Hills housewife. “You could move one component and the face would start to have a slight sad look about it or slightly aggressive,” says Neal Scanlan, the head of The Force Awakens creature shop. “You want them to be able to talk to you before they move. And if they can do that, then the movement adds extra [characterization] on top.”
She’s always been more than a princess — diplomat, spy, warrior, undercover agent — but 32 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, we’re going to meet a Leia who is a little more battle weary, a little more broken hearted. Imagine fighting for a cause your whole life and the frustration that naturally comes from being called to fight some more. Later today, EW will share a detailed look at where we find Leia in The Force Awakens, from the perspectives of both J.J. Abrams and Carrie Fisher.
Kylo Ren’s Command Shuttle
The First Order enforcer’s arrival at this Jakku village looks like it should come with thundering bass from the trunk. We still don’t know his motivation (beyond vowing to finish what his idol Darth Vader started). But Adam Driver says every villain has an internal battle. “When you break all of those things down, really it’s just because someone wasn’t loved enough or felt betrayed,” he says. “That’s what makes those movies so universal. I think they can get in your mind in big and sweeping ways.”
“I wish I could say to you, ‘Oh, but of course, the entire thing was designed specifically for me,’” says Gwendoline Christie. “If only that were true — if only!” It turns out, Captain Phasma was tailored just for her. The chrome-plated trooper originated as a design for Kylo Ren, but then J.J. Abrams was inspired to create a new character. “I just thought it would be really cool if we could find someone to play the part who was female, and I’m a fan of Game of Thrones; Gwendoline is in that show, [The Force Awakens casting director] Nina Gold casts it, she knew Gwendoline, obviously,” he says. “We were very lucky to get to have her in the movie. She’s not in many scenes, but her presence is powerfully felt when she’s there.”
Rey the Explorer
“Rey, Finn, and Kylo, they all start off in a place where they have been led to feel like they’re wanting,” says Daisy Ridley. In this sequence, first seen in the Oct. 19 trailer, she is spelunking through the heart of a long-dead Star Destroyer. “She’s never sat around a table and had a meal with someone else. She works to feed herself, and she goes to sleep, and she gets up again. It is a sad life,” Ridley adds. “The film, for Rey, is a journey of finding out that no one is no one.”
The Way the World Looks
That’s what J.J. Abrams said he wanted his cast for The Force Awakens to resemble. Rey was conceived as a female protagonist from the get-go, but both she and Finn were written without any specifications to race. Then the filmmakers went searching for actors with a mind toward opening up the galaxy to new faces. Boyega says young Star Wars fans see heroes, not color. “They’re not talking about race the way we grown folks are. They’re not talking about how much melanin is in someone’s skin. That should teach us something. We’ve been having a continuous struggle with idiots, and now we should just force them to understand — this is the new world. There are loads of people of different shades and backgrounds. Get used to it.”
It’s a Shame About Rey’s Staff
Some fans speculate that Rey’s weapon of choice looks suspiciously like the staff lightsaber of Darth Plagueis, the Sith lord who served as master of Emperor Palpatine back in his Darth Sidious apprenticeship. Daisy Ridley has heard that guesswork, too. “I mean everyone is praying that it’s Darth Plagueis’s staff. But… it’s just a staff,” Ridley says. “She’s a young woman in a galaxy by herself. It’s not primarily a weapon, it’s useful as well. It does all sorts of things roamin’ around Jakku. She uses it to defend herself. That’s really as far as it goes, unfortunately.” Asked if it’s electrified, like a cattle prod, and the actress tries — and fails — to stifle a laugh. “Cattle prod! No, she doesn’t have a charger!” she says. “It’s just a plain old staff!” (If it does turn out to have lightsaber capabilities, we’ll be pleasantly surprised and forgive her for maintaining secrecy.)
The power of Star Wars starship design is that it began in the model-making era before the advent of digital effects, which kept the shapes simple rather than too intricate or complicated. “The shape, overall, commands a graphic presence. And then you can detail it all you want,” says production designer Rick Carter. But if you get too cluttered in the shape, audiences don’t connect as strongly. “[Designers] throw everything they can at it just because they can do it,” Carter says. “And I’ve been there, so I understand what that is, but you have to hold back sometimes.”
Upgrades and Additions
The Millennium Falcon has gone through its share of maintenance over 30-plus years. The major alteration is obvious. “We decided to go with a rectangular radar dish instead of a circular one because it got knocked off at the end of Jedi,” says Gary Tomkins, senior art director for vehicles and spaceships (coolest job title ever.) “So we liked to imagine they replaced it with a more up-to-date one.”
“You feel the shape of the Millennium Falcon — almost like a crab, right?” says production designer Rick Carter. “You feel the TIE Fighter, almost like a bat. The X-wing is literally an X. Or a Star Destroyer is a triangle, it’s an arrowhead.”
Finn, on Alert
“It’s about looking for a greater purpose, rather than thinking, ‘This is the only thing I can do,’” Boyega says of his runaway stormtrooper. “He wants to change. He wants to make a difference. He’s trying to find some kind of moral dignity in this war.”
Rey, Ready to Fight
Ridley’s first scene was less combative — the reaction shot of her watching a starship take off in the distance. “I was kinda terrified the whole way through, but the terror kind of went into casual nerves,” she says. “I remember it being boiling hot, and I remember it being just insane, that you drive through the desert and there’s this village and world you’ve never seen before.”
Han Solo, Striking a Familiar Stance
Can we expect much of the old Han from, well, Old Han? “I can’t imagine that Han Solo would ever not be a smartass. On the other hand, I’d like to think that he is very different at 30 than he is at around 70,” says J.J. Abrams. “When you live a life, you’ve had loss, you’ve experienced love and family and epiphanies and tragedies and disappointments and surprises. Those things accumulate.”
Artoo and Threepio, Chilling
We still have no explanation for how C-3PO got that mysterious red arm, but the man inside the droid dubbed “Goldenrod” by Han Solo says this Star Wars film was more open to experimentation from the actors. “J.J. made a field, a playpen where you were allowed to take your time and suggest things, all within the budget, I guess,” says C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels.