J.J. Abrams Based a 'Star Wars' Character on His High School Teacher
Maz's character was based on his late Pacific Palisades English teacher.
J.J. Abrams' late high school teacher is now forever a part of The Force.
The Star Wars: The Force Awakens director revealed in an interview with The Palisadian Post that his late high school English teacher, Rose Gilbert, was the inspiration for one of the characters in the space film.
"Yes, the character of Maz was originally based on the great Rose Gilbert," Abrams said. "We really wanted the story to feel authentic, despite being a wild fantasy. I mentioned Rose in an early story meeting as a sort of timeless, wise figure that I'd actually known in my life."
Gilbert, whose large glasses are similar in size and aspect to Maz's, was a Palisades Charter High School teacher since it opened in 1961 and retired at the age of 94 in 2013 as the oldest full-time teacher in the L.A. Unified School District, according to the Post. Before her retirement, she was teaching three AP English classes in the same classroom she held for 51 years.
Abrams revealed that Star Wars' production designer Rick Carter was also a student of Gilbert. "Turns out the production designer, Rick Carter, had also been a student of Ms. Gilbert, 15 years before me," Abrams said.
He said of the look given to Gilbert: "While we experimented with many looks and styles before settling on the character's final design, Rose was always at the center of the inspiration of Maz. Rick and I had hoped to contact Rose and show her what we were doing, but she sadly passed away while we were in the prep of the film." The director and production designer both attended Gilbert's funeral service in January 2014. She died at the age of 95 on Dec. 16, 2013.
See the side-by-side photos here.