Star Wars: The Force Awakens Full Press Conference Transcript 1: Carrie Fisher, JJ Abrams, Daisy Ridley, and More!
Q: I was going to say Carrie – you were my first role model, when I saw this at 7.
CF: I’m your first role model? [laughter]
Q: For J.J., you’re usually very secretive around your films. Was it heart-wrenching for you to go up to the footage in the film?
JJA.: The contrary, actually. It was something that while we were working on the movie, I realized how engaged with the fans and forthcoming Lucasfilm had always been. My nature, which is to keep things quiet, was something that I was certainly – we were going to have fights about, in my wanting to keep the audience surprised when they went to see the movie. But Disney, to my shock, was arguing to not ruin, not reveal, not show every story detail. We’ve all seen trailers for films that literally show you the movie in Cliff’s Notes form, and then you go to see the film, and you’re like yeah – that was literally the movie. I saw it in a two minute, ten second piece.
So I was very grateful that Disney actually took the lead on trying to keep things quieter. Obviously, I asked all of you – we are incredibly grateful for your being here – when you do see the movie, and hopefully talk about it to your fans and readers and stuff, that we maintain some level of surprise so people get to see the movie and not have it ruined for them, just because it’s already been released, which I cannot wait for, by the way.
Q: It’s such a special film, because my husband forbid me from seeing the film by myself, because he said it’s a film we have to experience together, because we’re both Star Wars fans.
JJA.: Yeah, but listening to Carrie, you should just boss him around and tell him you’re going to see it. [laughter]
Q: I’ll try that. I just wanted to know from the cast members, do you have family members or friends – I’ve heard from other people similar stories that they’re forbidden to see the movie without them? I think it’s really funny that people are putting these pressures on people for this particular movie.
CF: Are we going to see the movie without our parents? Is that your question?
Q: No – my husband said it wouldn’t be fair to see the movie without him, because it’s an experience we have to see it together?
CF: I find that it really is a family experience. I’ve had people over the years come up, “I’m showing this to my child, I didn’t want to wait until they were six, so I went with five.” And they children watch the movie and you learn something about your children. We like the same characters, and Halloween becomes more of a Thanksgiving experience without a turkey, but I see all these pictures of entire families dressed as the characters. I find that so moving. Sorry, but I do. It’s just an emotional movie.
Q: I’d like to know from each of you what was the scariest moment on your very first day of production, or what was the scariest scene to write from Mr. Kasdan?
LK: You know, I don’t associate the process with fear. J.J. and I jumped into the thing under a lot of time pressure, and we had fun. In fact, the first day that we started real work on it, we said we must have fun with this every day. It’s really a privilege, and you have to be very lucky to get to write the next Star Wars! So we didn’t really have fear. I think we had trepidation about fulfilling people’s expectations – that they’d be satisfied with what we came out with. But we didn’t want them to know what we were going to come up with, and we wanted this moment that’s coming up next week would be a fresh moment for as many people in the world who were interested in it. The only pressure is can you do something that’s worth that much anticipation?
Q: How about each of you from the cast? What was the scariest moment on your first day of production?
CF: Bad memory. Not remembering my lines! That was scary. I also – I’m the custodian of Princess Leia, so I never got out of character, and I wondered if that would be noticed. [laughing]No, I was very nervous. It’s been 40 years. It’s been a long time. I don’t like looking at myself at this age in a large way, so that was scary, and remains so.
LN: For me, playing a motion capture character was something completely new to me. Walking into a room – I had to do this thing where they had to take my picture from all directions at one time, and I had to stand in the middle, and there was 360 cameras all around me, and that freaked me out. [laughter]
AD: I don’t know. I guess I’m kind of terrified before most jobs, so the prospect of this, Star Wars and all the kind of iconography associated with it – I tried not to think about as much as possible. So maybe, when it first started, and then suppressing that as much as possible, and trying to break it up into moments in that way. But I don’t remember one thing in particular that seemed particularly terrifying.
DR: My whole first day was pretty terrifying. I can’t find a moment that was any less or more than another. I think for me, it’s being cast in a role – as everyone knows, I haven’t really done much before, and so other people saw something in me that perhaps I didn’t see myself, and I’m still not quite sure if it’s there. So the fear of not fulfilling that potential was terrifying.
JJA: People have said to me, “I don’t understand – you cast someone who is so beautiful as Lupita, and then you had her be a motion capture character?” And I think, “Would it be OK if she were ugly?” [laughter]Anyway, I cannot wait for you to see the work that everyone on this couch has done in the movie. The scariest day, for me, was when Harrison Ford was injured, which is just absolutely hideous.
But every day felt like there were challenges, because I knew how important this was to so many people. That was never a presence that went away. So every decision, I knew, had this importance, and yet we had a day to make, we had a story to tell, and it was always about trying to do the best work possible.
Q: This question is for J.J. Abrams. Since the original trilogy, we’ve sent probes to lots of the planets in our solar system, and we’ve discovered hundreds of new extra-solar planets. Did anything we’ve learned from science make its way into the design of planets in this movie?
JJA: No. [laughter]
Q: J.J. – since you guys are really the brain child behind the story, how much did you guys look at the extended universe and the extremely large canon of books that have been written around the Star Wars universe when you decided to make this? Or was it more looking at Return of the Jedi, and you guys figuring out how it should have gone?
LK: I think it had more to do with Jedi and the continuation of 4, 5 and 6. This is 7. I think, you know, we were aware, we were respectful of the canon, but we really wanted to tell a story that interested us and delighted us, and we didn’t really want any rules and parameters, particularly. We said we could do anything we want with this story – what would be the most fun thing to do on this page and the next page and the page after that? That was the guiding principle, more than the cannon or anything that had come before.
Q: For the cast, many of us have been thinking about what happened after Return of the Jedi for the past 32 years. Did all of you have those questions, and when you got to finally answer them, did it live up to, or surprise your expectations?
CF: I didn’t understand the question.
DR: I wasn’t a huge fan of the whole thing. I’d seen them, and I had a kind of interest, but I missed the Star Wars boat, so I didn’t wonder that, so much. But even so, it was very exciting finding out what did come after Jedi.
AD: I would say that that it’s still called Star Wars for me was really – that sounds kooky, but in a way, it’s 30 years later, but the exact same things are going on, which I thought was so telling, so true to life. Even though I feel like we have such short memories of huge events, mass genocide and then we kind of forget about it, it seems. The same people are in charge, and the same group of people, younger or older – one comes on and feels that their problems are unique, and it’s all a cyclical thing. It seems like finding these people, and a lot of things have changed – the setting – but really, the circumstances are the same. I thought that was very true. And that, for me, was what I took, less than plot points. I always knew that Leia would be doing this, or Solo would be doing this. Nothing really changes.
Q: This is for J.J. and Lawrence. The names of the characters have always been really unique in Star Wars. What’s the process that you guys used to come up with new ones, and did you use any that were left over from Mr. George Lucas?
LK: I don’t know if there were any left over. I think the criteria was, did we like it? That was it. Really tough criteria. [laughter]Did it sound good to say it? Did it feel good to type it? [to J.J.} Don’t you think?
JJA: Yeah, and a lot of names came and went, and some names stuck. I remember when we wrote down BB-8, it was the first and only name that droid ever had, but we called him BB-8 and still do. Rey and Finn and Poe went through many iterations. Kylo Ren was Kylo Ren fairly early on, and there was sort of back story, and Maz Kanata I think was always Maz Kanata. We changed Leia’s name. No, we didn’t. [laughter]
CF: It’s a product of spell check.
Q: This question is for J.J. Are there Ewoks in the movie? That’s all I want to know? [laughter]
JJA: Living? [huge laughter]Listen, if a man can’t joke with friends….uh, no. There are no Ewoks in this film…
CF: That you’re aware of! [laughter]
JJA: That’s right. There were rumors on the set. But there are a lot of them in Return of the Jedi. [laughter]I think Mindy had a question.
MK: I have some more questions. Lawrence, this is a question for you.
MK: As a writer, I find I get a lot of inspiration from movies that have nothing to do with what I’m writing about. I always look to the movie The Fugitive, because I love the script. I was wondering – and the answer could be ‘no’ – is there any movie that you look to or thought about while writing this one?
LK: Oh yeah. All the movies of Akira Kurosawa have influenced me throughout my career. That’s because he was sort of the Shakespeare of cinema. He did comedies, he did action films, he did Shakespearean drama, and all of life is contained in each one of his films. Seven Samurai may be the greatest film ever made. It’s a personal drama, it’s an action picture. So when J.J. and I were working, we kept referring to that.
And then we would talk about the great American movies that we loved, things that had influenced the first Star Wars: Howard Hawks, John Ford, all the Flash Gordon. When George made A New Hope, he was influenced very much by Kurosawa and by Flash Gordon and by Wizard of Oz. I think that all those movies, you can feel them in A New Hope, and everything that was in A New Hope has come down through the movies, to this day.
MK: And J.J., you drew inspiration from the movie Clueless – you were talking about it!
JJA: That, to me, was the fundamental…[laughter]
MK: The relationship between those girls…
JJA: Yes, you know…I don’t want to talk about it.
MK: Am I wrong?
JJA: You? No! You’re absolutely right. It was Clueless.
Q: Hi, this question is for Adam. Star Wars has a legacy for really great antagonists. Can you talk about carrying that forward with Kylo Ren?
AD: Well, I think a lot of it’s not beyond my control. Again, I feel like I was so aware of the movies – my friends’ kids now, they don’t know anything about – they haven’t seen the movies, but they’re somehow still aware of everything that happens. I think that’s how I was introduced to them, was through the merchandising and toys and storm trooper helmets and things like that. So we tried to not think about that as much as possible.
And then I remember early on, we – not think of him being bad or evil or a villain, and try to make something that was more three dimensional, because that to me, when we were talking originally, seemed more dangerous and more unpredictable – someone who feels morally justified in doing whatever they need to to publicly state that what they’re doing is right. Seems kind of more active to play than just being evil for the sake of it. That’s not really fun to play, I guess.
MK: Adam, I was going to ask you – you’ve worked with two of my friends. One of them was Lena Dunham, and one of them is J.J. Abrams. Are they in any way similar? [laughter]
AD: Huh. Yeah, actually, they have an amazing ability to compartmentalize. I mean, they do this both in very different ways.
AD: Sociopaths. They’re both crazy. [laughter]I think that I would imagine the weight of something like Star Wars – if it was me, I would go nuts. It had to be like having a spear head above it, with everybody looking to you, asking you questions. J.J. was consistently calm and couldn’t have been more collaborative, and I felt the same with Lena. I mean, much is made about how young she is, but just because you can’t help but compare or imagine what you were doing at 22 or 23.
MK: She’s not that young. She’s 28 or 29.
AD: Now, yeah. [laughter]
MK: She’s kind of young, but she’s not, like, a wunderkind. It’s OK. [laughter]Thank you for answering that!
Q: I love to stay to the end of the credits for every movie. I’m just wondering if there’s an Easter egg or an extra scene at the end of this that we should look forward to?
JJA: No, there’s not. All the scenes are actually in the movie.
Q: I have a question about costumes. My first question is about J.J. Which was the most difficult costume to put together? And then for each of the characters, I’d like to know how long it took you to get into costume?
JJA: So the costume that was the most challenging, I think, for us to arrive at – and Michael Kaplan, the costume designer – I cannot wait for you to see what he’s done in this movie. There are so many cool, and many that you have not seen at all, costumes that are extraordinary. The most difficult one was Kylo Ren. It went through I don’t know how many hundreds, and probably thousands of iterations and different versions.
One of the great things about that was over the course of that, the costume for Captain Phasma was designed, that was actually pitched as a Kylo Ren costume originally, and for story reasons, it didn’t make sense, it didn’t work. But we suddenly realized, oh my god, this is one of the greatest looking costumes I’ve ever seen, and he, then she, became one of my favorite characters in the movie.
But the design of Kylo Ren was the most difficult one. When we finally saw the mask and the beginning of that design, it was really instantly clear that was the winner, and I’m very grateful to Michael and his whole amazing team.
Q: How long did it take to put Rey together?
DR: 20 minutes. Does that seem long or short?
JJA: That’s amazing! [laughter]
DR: Putting the arm things on takes a while, and the wraps and everything. I had a wonderful girl called Callie helping me.
AD: The first time took an hour and a half, and then we got it down to like 20 minutes.
LN: Well, I didn’t have a costume, because I was a motion capture character, but to get suited up – in the beginning it took like 2 1/2 hours, maybe 3, and then by the end, we had it down to about an hour, an hour fifteen.
JJA: Lupita had dots on her teeth – everywhere. She had dots all over the place. Actually, not until today have I met her without dots. [laughter]
LN: I’m still finding them in things. [laughter]
LK: I was ready like that! Show up, ready to go.
CF: How long did it take to get into costume? About 10 minutes. I’m older – I do it faster. [laughter]No, really, 20 minutes – I have a kind of classy gas station attendant look. [laughter]
JJA: That’s my favorite thing, it’s a classy gas station attendant look.
CF: Well, look at it! Or I would say I was an airplane repair mechanic, with a nice vest over that. And different hair than most airplane mechanics would normally have. I don’t mean the baboon ass hair. It’s other. The end.
MK: I’m going to figure out that analogy of the baboon ass by the end of this.
CF: No you won’t.
Q: There’s been so much amazing publicity for this film. Lots of hype and product tie-ins, and SNL sketches. This weekend, Carrie’s amazing interview on Good Morning America went viral, and that’s been my favorite piece so far. So I was wondering when we could expect to see Gary [Carrie’s dog] as some kind of long-tongued alien in the film?
CF: I wish! I begged J.J. – Gary was willing to sleep with J.J., and I mean nap. Still.
JJA: Yeah, that was the enticement. [laughter]
CF: That’s why it didn’t go forward. He didn’t like having him on the set!
JJA: That’s not true!
CF: Oh, it is too!
JJA: It is not! [laughter]
CF: I’m going to go get Jerry, and Jerry…
JJA: His name’s Gary! [laughter]
CF: His name’s ALAN! He was not allowed here today because of the whole tongue rule. Anyway [laughter].
MK: J.J. Abrams not a fan of animals, and on that note…
[Tune in tomorrow for part 2, featuring Harrison Ford, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Gwedonline Christie and Kathleeen Kennedy, plus some fun Stormtrooper helmet art]