J.J. Abrams Responds to "Rip-Off" Criticism About 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

J.J. Abrams - H 2016
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"I knew that, whatever we did, there would be a group of people ... that would take issue with any number of things," the director tells THR.

J.J. Abrams knew exactly how fans would respond to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Or, at least, a certain section of Star Wars fandom.

"I knew that, whatever we did, there would be a group of people — and I was just hoping and praying that it would be smaller than not — that would take issue with any number of things," Abrams says in the latest episode of THR's Awards Chatter podcast, admitting that everything about the project initially scared him. "But I knew we weren't making the movie for any other reason than we believed that it could be something meaningful and special and entertaining and worthy of people's time."

And sure enough, he has a response to complaints that The Force Awakens leans too heavily on homages from the original trilogy. "I can understand that someone might say, 'Oh, it's a complete rip-off!' " he says, adding, "What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards."

As to what lies ahead for the Star Wars series, Abrams reveals that he did have the opportunity to stay on the series for future installments, but demurred. "I realized when I was working on [The Force Awakens], the amount of energy that was required to tell the story, and do it justice, knowing when Episode VIII would start shooting, there was no way — if I wanted to still have my children talk to me in my old age — that doing that would make any sense," he says. "If The Force Awakens worked, it was the perfect place to say, 'I got to make a Star Wars movie,' and not be a greedy bastard. If it didn't work, no-one would want me doing it anyway."

That doesn't mean that he doesn't have any idea what's coming for Luke, Rey and the rest of the team. "Larry [Kasdan] and I had a bunch of thoughts of where certain things could go and we shared those things with Rian Johnson, who's directing VIII," he says. "He had things that he came up with where he asked if it was possible if we could make some adjustments with what we were doing at the end, most of which we did — there were just a couple that didn't feel right, so he made adjustments — but it was just collaboration."

Abrams' also discusses in the podcast his concerns about accepting the Star Wars job in the first place, the influence of the Harry Potter movies on Force Awakens casting, the differences between Star Trek and Star Wars and where Abrams' loyalties lie as a fan. The episode is available on iTunes or can be listened to here.