Disney Uses the Force to Keep 'Star Wars' Premiere Top Secret

Invites may have already been handed out, but venue information for the first public screening of J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated film (which only the likes of Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford have gotten an early look at) is still under wraps.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

The Force must be strong with Disney because it looks like the studio will pull off a rare feat by keeping its next movie — Star Wars: The Force Awakens — completely secret until its big unveiling at the world premiere in Los Angeles on Dec. 14, just four days before it hits theaters worldwide. Traditionally, critics and other press are able to see a film ahead of time at industry screenings, but Disney and Lucasfilm went so far as to forgo all early showings — including the all-important awards screenings for critics groups — in order to keep the J.J. Abrams-helmed sequel under wraps.

Intense secrecy has made the Star Wars: The Force Awakens world premiere in Los Angeles on Dec. 14 the hottest ticket in town in years. Sources say Disney has been inundated with requests, and those who did receive an invitation Nov. 25 are in the dark about the location: The invite states the event will take place in Hollywood but doesn't list a venue. (Most Disney premieres, including The Avengers films, are hosted simultaneously in multiple theaters, such as the TCL Chinese, El Capitan and Dolby.)

Meanwhile, members of Disney, Lucasfilm and Abrams' inner circle are waiting until the premiere or opening day (Dec. 18) to see The Force Awakens. Sources say fellow franchise helmers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who will be directing the Han Solo spinoff) haven't seen The Force Awakens yet, and neither has Colin Trevorrow, who will be directing Episode IX.

Greg Grunberg, who has a role in the film, tells THR: "J.J. is my best friend, and I talk to him every day, but I don't want to know anything. When I was a kid, I loved watching the new Star Wars when it came out, just like everyone else. Now I want that same excitement."

Sources say much of the cast also is waiting for the premiere, although there was a cast-only screening in L.A. on Nov. 24. The leads, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, however, have finally seen the film as of early December.

Drew Goddard, who wrote the Abrams-produced Cloverfield and visited the Force Awakens set, likewise insists he's waiting until opening day.

"I've said to [J.J.], 'If you don't need me to see it, I don't need to see it,'" Goddard tells THR. "I'm excited to dress up and show up on Friday or the Thursday night midnight screening. You don't get a lot of these opportunities anymore where it's really an event, rather than just a movie."

However, Episode VIII director Rian Johnson has seen a cut of The Force Awakens (he's finished a draft of the script for VIII, which will be released in May 2017) as has Star Wars: Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, who is now shooting his spinoff.

Others who've gotten an early look include Disney execs Alan Horn (who has seen it a handful of times at least), Bob Iger and Alan Bergman, while Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios chief John Lasseter has seen around 20 minutes of it.

Steven Spielberg, an Abrams mentor and longtime colleague of Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, tells THR: "Have I seen the new Star Wars? Yes, I have! J.J.'s like my brother — we've known each other since he was 14."

But like a good brother, Spielberg is keeping what he knows in the family.