The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams reacted to George Lucas‘ reported criticisms of The Force Awakens, and also revealed what surprised him in Rian Johnson’s script for The Last Jedi in a new interview.

While chatting with Rolling Stone, Abrams was asked about the Star Wars creator’s reported disappointment with the 2015 film Force Awakens. In Bob Iger’s book The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years as CEO of The Walt Disney Company, the Disney CEO claims George “didn’t hide his disappointment” and said “there’s nothing new,” and that in each of the films in the original trilogy, it was important to him to present new worlds, stories, characters, and technologies. Also, that when Disney first told Lucas about the film’s plot, “George immediately got upset as they began to describe the plot and it dawned on him that we weren’t using one of the stories he submitted during the negotiations … George felt betrayed.”

Asked about the comments, Abrams said: “I’ve only had gratitude for George. It’s probably a complicated thing for him. To decide you’re going to sell this thing that you created, that was your baby, to anyone — that must be more complicated than signing a check and smiling about it. But he’s been incredibly gracious. He’s been super-generous … He came over, we had a meeting when we first started working on this [new movie], talked through a ton of different ideas and stories, and heard from him what was important. And we’ve done nothing but try and adhere to some fundamental aspects of the story. It wasn’t a difficult thing to try and do. And again, he was really gracious. So I’m only grateful. Do I wish that [Force Awakens] had been his favorite movie of all time? Yes, I only wanted to do well by him. I would just say that I have nothing but profound respect for the guy and am still truly, even more so now, working on these movies in awe of what he created.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)Daisy Ridley, BB-8, John Boyega
Credit: David James/Lucasfilm

The writer-director was also asked what surprised him about Johnson’s second film in the Disney trilogy, The Last Jedi, which some have speculated may have derailed what Abrams originally planned. Specifically, Johnson killing off the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke.

“When I read his first draft, it made me laugh, because I saw that was his take and his voice. I got to watch cuts of the movie as he was working on it, as an audience member. And I appreciated the choices he made as a filmmaker that would probably be very different from the choices that I would have made. Just as he would have made different choices if he had made Episode VII … I felt the biggest surprise was how dark Luke was. That was the thing that I thought: ‘Oh, that was unexpected.’ And that’s the thing The Last Jedi undeniably succeeds at, which is constant subversion of expectation. The number of things that happened in that movie that aren’t the thing you think is going to happen is pretty fun.”

Also, read EW’s interview with Abrams in our The Rise of Skywalker cover story, and check out our eight new exclusive photos.

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