'The Force Awakens': J.J. Abrams, Cast Talk 'Star Wars' and Reveal Characters Not in Movie

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'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and the cast of the film particpated in a wide-ranging panel discussion headed by Mindy Kaling.

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens press conference took place Sunday at an undisclosed location, where roughly 300 members of the media filled out the seats at a panel discussion between J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and the cast of the new Star Wars film. The moderator for the event: Mindy Kaling.

“I know when you think of me, you think huge Star Wars fan,” the star of The Mindy Project joked as she introduced the first round of panelists that included Abrams, screenwriter Larry Kasdan, Carrie Fisher, Lupita Nyong'o, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley.

The first question Kaling posed was to the director, who was asked why he would undertake such a huge endeavor.

“This is a project that I was incredibly lucky to be asked to be a part of — expect for maybe Harrison — when I say that this is not a job,” Abrams answered to a roomful of laughter. “I don’t think anyone took it on because it was a gig or because it was available. It was something that felt like a true passion.”

The entire Q&A session went like that — a mix of jokes and very heartfelt answers and anecdotes from the making of the latest Star Wars.

Nyong’o discussed her experience with the motion-capture that was used to create her character Maz, a former space pirate who now runs a cantina (Kaling compared Maz to Ted Danson's Sam Malone on Cheers, adding that Yoda was her Norm).  

“My very first experience with motion-capture was on the set with the actual actors, so I am eternally grateful to J.J. for that, because it was a great way to get into this wonderful crazy thing called motion-capture,” said Nyong’o. "I wasn’t limited by my physical circumstances, and I got to work with my body in new ways.” 

Abrams recalled someone coming up to him and asking, “‘You cast someone as beautiful as Lupita, and you have her a motion-capture character?’ I’m like, ‘Would it be okay if she were ugly?’” 

The director hopes that fans who see the movie following its release do not reveal any of the plot to those who have yet to watch the film, saying, “I ask all of you, when you do see the movie, that we maintain some level of surprise.”

One thing that Abrams was not afraid of spoiling: “There are not Ewoks in this film.”

When asked the difference between the original Star Wars set run by George Lucas and the latest Abrams venture, Princess Leia (Fisher) said it came down to libations. 

“We drank through the whole trilogy, in the beginning,” she said. “This [The Force Awakens] was a sober set. That’s what J.J. brought to it. Sobriety!”

Up next was Kennedy, along with John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie and Harrison Ford.  

Kaling, poking fun at the secrecy surrounding the pic, asked Lucasfilm president Kennedy, "I know you can't tell me what is in the movie, but can you tell me what is not in the movie?"

"Jar Jar is definitely not in the movie," responded Kennedy, adding that Episode VIII will begin shooting in January.

There has been a lot of interest surrounding Christie's foreboding Captain Phasma. "This is a character who we have related to due to her choices and her character and not due to the way because she has been made into flesh," said the actress of the Star Wars franchise's first onscreen female villain.

Christie then revealed that her Captain Phasma pump-up song would be "Kashmir," at which point she, Boyega and Isaac performed an a capella version of the Led Zeppelin classic.

When asked the difference between his experience with the first film and this one, Ford responded, "It feels familiar. It is good to be home, just like Han said in the trailer." He continued: "I am aware of the value that is placed on these films by the audience, and I am grateful that their is still an audience for the original films."

When the original Star Wars film came out in 1977, Ford (as well as Fisher and Mark Hamill) became overnight sensations, and now Boyega, Ridley and the other Force Awakens newcomers find themselves in a very similar position.

"I am not going to tell them how to navigate this very personal space," said Ford, when asked if he has given the younger members of the cast any advice on dealing with instant stardom. "I am not going tell them how to figure a career that they have chosen for themselves. It is decidedly individual."

Said Boyega: "I don't know if I am ready for this whole thing, but all I know is that I am in it." He then recounted when he was at a Hollywood party and someone tapped him on the shoulder, saying "Yo, black Jedi!" Boyega turned around to find it was Samuel L. Jackson.

Star Wars past and present came together when Boyega recalled going into his final audition for Force Awakens and looking to Ford and Hamill for inspiration. "I just needed some inspiration, and I went on YouTube and I found Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford's original Star Wars audition tapes, and that really helped me tap into that Star Wars energy," he said.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set to open in theaters on Dec 18.

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