[WARNING: There will be SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead.]
After what felt like years of waiting – because that’s exactly how long it took – the time has come: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens has arrived. And while there are several massive reveals that fans will be discussing for the coming weeks and months, and even more unanswered questions to occupy the minds of every moviegoer, there’s one thing that can’t be overlooked: the easter eggs, hidden jokes and insider references to the original Star Wars saga.
J. J. Abrams’ love for the original Star Wars trilogy was obvious from the time he landed the job, meaning the director has had more than enough time to concoct brilliant secrets for The Force Awakens, and whether it’s a cameo from James Bond himself or seeing a dangling plot from the original trilogy finally closed, fans won’t want to miss any of these hidden gems on repeat viewings.
Be warned: there are a lot of MASSIVE SPOILERS in our list of Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens Easter Eggs, Cameos & References.
43. The Voice(s) Behind BB-8
Nobody takes time to think that the personality behind a droid in the Star Wars universe is really due to the nameless people controlling it from off-screen. That may have been what caused audiences to instantly fall in love with BB-8, the new ball droid with a spunky demeanor R2-D2 could only dream of – but his actual performance in the movie owes its comedic timing to two… well, comedians.
It’s hard to say just when or how J.J. Abrams decided that he needed an actor to actually breathe life into the droid, but speaking with HitFix, Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader confirmed that his listing as a “voice consultant” for BB-8 was no joke (even if it wasn’t exactly serious, either):
“JJ f**king around with this sound effects app on his iPad that was attached to a talk box operated by me. It looked ridiculous but it made BB-8’s voice. At first I tried doing a voice, but we all agreed it sounded too human.”
He wasn’t the only one to offer his tutelage to the team, with Parks & Recreation fan-favorite Ben Schwartz also listed as a vocal consultant for the role.
42. A Familiar Arch
Casual fans of the series may think that it was George Lucas who first dreamed up the space opera’s world and the architecture in it, but much of the credit lies with concept painter Ralph McQuarrie (even Lucas has confirmed that his work helped sell the film to the studio). McQuarrie produced far too much art to ever be adapted as a whole, but when it came time to inject something new into Episode VII, the team returned to those original designs.
The above arch was originally planned to be part of Jabba’s palace on Tatooine (the black robed figure is shown to be Luke in Return of the Jedi). Jabba’s finished palace was a bit less sophisticated, but the arch now appears on Jakku, clearly visible against the horizon as Rey (Daisy Ridley) brings her salvaged goods into the settlement.
41. BB-8’s Origins
While we’re at it, the “ball droid” BB-8 may not be as original a concept as some might think – according to McQaurrie. In interviews since the movie series became an all-time hit, the artist’s insights into creating R2-D2 revealed that Lucas was less than specific when it came to actually designing the droid. He was described only as “a small robot,” leaving it up to the artist to decide what that meant.
One of his early designs, as McQuarrie claimed, was nothing more than a robot perched on top of a constantly spinning ball bearing, with the ability to travel in any direction based on the free-spinning movement. The sketch above is clearly a bit of a difference from BB-8’s final design, but it’s nice to know that such an ingenious take on a droid was actually conceived of before the original film. Only today could it be pulled off technically.
40. Rey’s Goggles
It’s far from a hidden easter egg or reference, but certainly a small enough detail for fans to miss. Although the remnants of the Empire are highlighted explicitly on Jakku – the crashed Star Destroyer Rey is scavenging from, the collapsed AT-AT she’s living in – Rey’s improvised goggles aren’t called out as clearly.
The shape and tint of the eye pieces show that they have been pulled from an Imperial Stormtrooper helmet and re-purposed for her own uses. A subtle touch that will go unnoticed by most viewers, but just as clever and inspired an homage to the previous films as any other.
39. A Rebel Helmet
Rey is quite literally living in the aftermath of the Empire’s war with the Rebellion, as her home of Jakku shows not just crashed Star Destroyers being stripped for parts, but actually making her home inside of a fallen AT-AT walker. When the walker is first revealed, Rey entertains herself by watching the distant ships heading to the stars, and donning an antique helmet, resembling those worn by Rebel pilots during the original trilogy.
It’s impossible to say who that particular helmet belonged to, but its former owner may not be the point. According to the alien writing on the helmet itself, the markings literally translate to “RHAE,” another form of spelling her own name. Fans can deduce what they will from that, but if the helmet was marked for her in particular before her unknown family left her behind, then its history in the Star Wars universe could hold the answers to her true identity…
38. A Telltale Toy?
If the Rebel helmet wasn’t enough to clue audiences in that Rey’s interest in the elite pilots is something to remember, then they only need to look for the splash of orange fabric seen in the girl’s makeshift home. The object appears to be a doll modeled after the Rebel fighters’ signature orange flight suits and white vest, cobbled together from fabric at hand (so Rogue Squadron can’t be that famous in the movie universe).
Some have taken this, and the helmet, as smoking guns, strongly pointing to her eventual reveal as the daughter of Luke Skywalker. For now, the easter eggs work just as well to show that Rey envies the Resistance and the Rebels before them. It’s not the only thing she has in common with Luke Skywalker, but who knows what the future could hold.
37. Keeping It In The Family
J.J. Abrams is clearly one to give those closest to him a chance to share in his blockbuster spotlight, offering a cameo to his father and father-in-law in the big screen Star Trek reboot. But it’s his grandfather who may sound far more familiar to his fans: Harry Kelvin. As in the U.S.S. Kelvin, the spaceship captained by Jim Kirk’s father in the opening sequence of Star Trek, and for whom the Kelvin Archives of Star Trek Into Darkness are also named.
In The Force Awakens, the same reference comes when BB-8 is first discovered by Rey, and freed to continue roaming about the surface of Jakku. She gives him some advice, pointing him to Niima Outpost in one direction, and warning he should “stay off Kelvin Ridge.”
36. Simon Pegg Cameo
He may be more focused on the upcoming Star Trek Beyond at the moment, but how could Simon Pegg turn down a cameo role from his former Mission: Impossible director? Even if the role in question has Pegg concealed beneath a massive alien head. When the first set photos of Pegg appeared, it didn’t take long to narrow down the list of possible roles, considering the character’s size and presence on Jakku. The cameo is actually a substantial role in Rey’s overall story, with Pegg playing Unkar Plutt, the fat, ugly curmudgeon to whom she turns in her daily scavenged goods in exchange for food.
35. The GNK Power Droid
It’s the underdogs of the Star Wars universe that tend to capture the hearts, and the imagination of fans. And there’s no example that demonstrates the point better than the humble GNK Power Droid. The walking battery stations – commonly referred to as “Gonk” Droids – made its first appearance in A New Hope, appearing as (quite clearly) a human being wearing something similar to a futuristic garbage can.
Nevertheless, the Gonk was a hit with fans and the production crew, and is reportedly visible in every single instalment of the franchise. That includes The Force Awakens, since one of the droids can be seen pacing around Unkar Plutt’s shop while Rey is looking to sell her scavenged goods, then later beneath Poe Dameron’s ship.
34. The Falcon’s New Dish
Once fans have let the idea of the Millennium Falcon being referred to as “garbage” wear off (along with the thrills of seeing exclamatory moments of blaster fire lifted from the original trilogy), there’s one noticable change to the ship’s design which should stick out like a sore thumb. The Falcon was never a particularly beautiful design, but its odd ends gave it some charm – like the large, round satellite dish mounted on its top side.
You can now notice that the satellite dish has been replaced with a smaller rectangular one. Why? Simply watch the final act of Return of the Jedi, and see the previous dish sheered off during Lando’s run in the second Death Star. The update may be a necessary one, but it’s still a literal link between these films and the original trilogy that die-hard fans will want to catch.
33. Hidden Batmobile
It seems like years ago, but during the height of production on both Star Wars: Episode VII and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, directors J.J. Abrams and Zack Snyder had a friendly back-and-forth competition focused on insider easter eggs and crossover gags. There was Superman in a Sith robe complete with lightsaber, and even Batman and R2-D2 sharing a desert hike.
But Abrams took the day, revealing a lengthy video that showed a model of the Tumbler – the version of the Batmobile introduced in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy – spraypainted to match the off-white hull of the Millennium Falcon, and mounted to its underside. It may be difficult to spot in the action of the dogfighting, but it’s definitely there.
32. Captain Phantasm?
The stormtroopers of the Galactic Empire never really enjoyed a single leader, or a face to admire in the original series. But with Episode VII, that comes in the form of Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). The towering trooper is something to behold, mainly due to the polished chrome armor she sports in her few scenes in the story. Even though Christie’s face isn’t seen, her name comes with an origin story worth hearing.
Apparently, the idea of a chrome trooper standing at the side of Kylo Ren and General Hux came to Abrams even before a proper name did. It was only when he saw the first designs of the armor that he noticed a resemblance (literally and figuratively) between the soldier and the floating, metallic spheres of death from the horror movie Phantasm (1973). Phantasm became Phasma, and the rest is history.
Before the movie was released, Star Wars fans knew John Boyega’s character as simply ‘Finn,’ but the finished movie gives a surprising explanation for the name. Under the First Order, soldiers and stormtroopers are no longer recruited or cloned, but kidnapped as children from their families. As a result, the life of a stormtrooper seems to be the only one Finn has known – and “FN-2187” the only ‘name’ he’s ever been given.
It’s Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) who decides that’s no name at all, and combines the two letters to form the ‘Finn’ nickname, but the numbers should catch the attention of any fan of the original Star Wars. 2187 was the cell number in which Leia was being held aboard the Death Star when Luke and Han come to rescue her. As an added twist, that use of the number was actually a nod to a Canadian short film by Arthur Lipsett that he first encountered in film school.
30. The Wilhelm Scream
By now, even somewhat passionate fans of movie-making in general know ‘The Wilhelm Scream.’ For those who don’t, it’s a simple enough explanation. When a shouting man’s shriek was first recorded for Distant Drums (1951), then reused in The Charge at Feather River (1953), before disappearing completely. When sound designer Ben Burtt needed a similar shout for Star Wars, he remembered the sample, and used it instead of a new recording.
When he did the same for Raiders of the Lost Ark, sound designers everywhere started to take not, using the scream in too many blockbuster action movies to count. It’s been heard by every movie fan dozens of times, and it appears once again in The Force Awakens, uttered by one of the several First Order soldiers blasted by Finn while he and Poe are attempting their escape in a stolen TIE fighter.
29. Luke’s Combat Remote
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) would one day become the last hope of the Jedi, but he started small: trying to deflect blaster shots from a floating combat remote on board the Millennium Falcon. He eventually got the hang of it, slapping away shots without even using his eyes, “taking a first step into a larger world.” Han Solo wasn’t a fan of that idea, but he clearly thought that the remote was worth keeping around.
After Finn and Rey have boarded the Falcon and are rummaging through its contents, Finn can be seen pulling the remote from a bag of supplies, giving it a confused look, and tossing it aside. It doesn’t spend much time on screen, but for those who remember the scene from A New Hope, the memory should be triggered immediately.
28. The Raiding Smugglers
Fans of martial arts had high hopes for the action scenes of The Force Awakens when it was announced that The Raid 2 actors Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, and Cecep Arif Rahman were all going to be playing roles in the film. Unfortunately, it seems like their presence in the finished film may have more to do with J.J. Abrams being a fan of their work, as opposed to work that only martial artists could handle.
The trio can be seen playing members of the Kanjijlub gang, one half of the criminal showdown that takes place when Han Solo first takes back the Millennium Falcon. But before they’re able to do any real fighting, the rathtars on board Han’s ship are set loose. It’s a shame, but a great cameo for other fans of the impressively-choreographed action series.
27. Millennium Falcon Chess
Once they’re done rummaging and actually get to talking about the mission at hand with Han Solo (Harrison Ford), another smaller nod to the original movie arrives. The game of Holo Chess (or Dejarik) springing to life should probably be caught by even casual fans, since the first film showed Chewbacca taking in a game with C-3PO and R2-D2 – before the latter learned that in that game, like all others, it’s probably best to let the wookiee win.
As an added bonus, the brief animation that begins when Finn triggers the game shows the creature who was originally thrown to the ground and defeated turning the table, taking a club to the head of his former tormenter so many years earlier (animated by the original team under Phil Tippett, no less!).
26. 12* Parsecs
How could George Lucas hand off the Star Wars brand without expecting the new director to take a playful shot at one of the original trilogy’s only real physics gaffs. Han Solo initially told Obi-Wan Kenobi that his ship was famous for having completed the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. Since a parsec was a distance measurement, not time, an elaborate mythology sprung up, claiming the Kessel Run required skilful jumps between black holes, meaning distance, not time, really was the factor.
Rey doesn’t challenge that idea, apparently confirming that the Kessel Run is now canonical. But when she claims to have heard the Falcon did it in fourteen parsecs, Han is quick to correct her. To him, two added parsecs is worth a chuckle.
25. Ben Solo
It’s the beginning of The Force Awakens‘ most shocking storyline when the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is revealed to actually be the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, having been corrupted and drawn to a twisted idea of finishing the mission started by his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker. It is only later when Han confronts him on board Starkiller Base that he calls him by his birth name: ‘Ben.’
Aside from being a nod to ‘Old Ben’ Kenobi, the name taken by Obi-Wan during his time spent in exile on Tatooine, the name may also be a direct bow to the Expanded Universe novels (which have now been rendered as “Legends,” not canonical stories). In the EU, it was Luke who named his son after Ben, and strangely enough, served as an apprentice to Han and Leia’s son… before he turned to the Dark Side.
24. Starkiller Base
While we’re on the subject, it’s clear that the flare for the dramatic has not been lost in the years since Return of the Jedi, if the naming of the villain’s super-weapon is anything to go by. Where it was the ‘Death Star’ wielded by the Emperor and Vader in the first trilogy, The Force Awakens sees an even larger structure completed, capable of draining all the energy of a single star, before releasing it on a target.
The star is, of course, killed, making its moniker ‘Starkiller Base’ a fairly direct one. But the name is no coincidence, since it was actually Luke’s last name in George Lucas’ original script. The name would also go on to be used in The Force Unleashed video game series.
If you thought the regular stormtroopers are faceless killers, then the snowtroopers are the stuff of nightmares. Making their debut in The Empire Strikes Back, the longer helmets, coats, and even-more-blank-helmets of the specialized troops were an instant hit, once again, with Ralph McQuarrie deserving a lot of credit. His artwork for the attack on the Rebels’ Echo Base set the standard, but The Force Awakens sticks even closer to the original design.
Overlooking the armor plates, the movie’s costumes include the helmet design, the twin intake valves on the faceplate, and even the shape of the ‘backpacks’ they’re carrying. The greatest easter egg comes in the strange insignia McQuarrie placed on the troopers’ helmets. We don’t know what it means, but the crew of The Force Awakens made sure to incorporate it proudly on the snowtroopers’ chests.
22. Banner Spottings
When Han, Finn, Rey and BB-8 seek out Maz (Lupita Nyong’o) in her temple-like cantina, it’s hard to miss the massive array of colorful banners hanging over the entryway – but picking out details from within them isn’t so easy. On closer inspection, banners bear that mark of Ziro the Hutt’s tattoos, and characters from Episode I‘s pod race. But the most interesting is the Mythosaur skull, also known as the symbol of the saga’s most notorious bounty hunter, Boba Fett.
It’s hard to know if any real significance should be put into the banners just yet (since they seem to be little more than decoration honoring those who may have frequented the establishment), but with a Boba Fett solo movie on the way, any evidence is worth studying.
21. The Crimson Corsair
Fans of the Expanded Universe of novels, comic books and video games may still be sore that their beloved history and rich mythology was written off overnight. But the story group has attempted to replace the comic book racks and book store shelves with new stories following canonical heroes and villain in The Force Awakens universe. One can even be seen lounging around the cantina while Han, Finn, Rey and Maz debate their next move.
The character is Sidon Ithano, the star of one of the “Journey to The Force Awakens” short stories available digitally, spinning out of the events of the Clone Wars animated series. Operating under the nickname the Crimson Corsair, the Blood Buccaneer, or the Red Raider, this Delphidian pirate (with an unforgettable helmet) is directly referred to by Maz, when she tells Finn that he’s the one to talk to about disappearing to the Outer Rim (his stomping grounds in the short story).
20. Bazine Netal
The same cameo treatment is delivered in the form of an unmistakable woman with eyebrows that could stop an X-Wing in its path. She can be seen when Han, Finn and Rey first enter Maz’s cantina, and later when she reports in their presence to a First Order contact. Although her screen time isn’t anything to brag about, she too is the star of a “Journey to The Force Awakens” short story, “The Perfect Weapon.”
The brief appearance doesn’t do Bazine Netal justice, since she has used the years in between Return of the Jedi and the latest film to become the deadliest mercenary currently on the job. Why she didn’t use those skills to bring the fugitives to the First Order personally is a hard question to answer. But the simplest explanation is that, just like Boba Fett before her, she doesn’t work unless she’s getting paid.
19. Warwick Davis
It isn’t just new characters in the Star Wars universe who get a cameo in the crowded, cantina, but returning favorites as well. Warwick Davis was just a kid when he landed on the set of Return of the Jedi, and only a stroke of luck that had him wearing the costume of Wicket, the first Ewok discovered on the surface of Endor’s forest moon. Since then, Davis has gone on to become one of, if not the most prolific little person to step in front of a camera.
Davis has also appeared in the Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace as a podrace spectator, but he returns to The Force Awakens in the role of Wollivan, “an interstellar scout and hyperspace trailblazer” in Maz’s cantina, impossible to psot behind the facial prosthetics used to create the ‘Balrina’ race. Look for the two-eyed, large-nosed, pale-skinned alien in a camouflage flight suit when Maz first shouts out Han’s name, and you’ll spot him.
18. Cantina Music
Believe it or not, the director also makes a cameo in the cantina scene… but not in the way you might think. When J.J. Abrams was in the thick of Star Wars post-production, he took some time to see the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda. When the two crossed paths at the show, Miranda jokingly told the director that if he was in need of some new cantina music (after John Williams’ original became as famous as the movie series), he should give him a call.
Not long after, Abrams did place that call, with the two collaborating on the music that plays while the heroes take a break at Maz’s watering hole. Apparently, Abrams and Miranda can both be heard singing in the second portion of the music, with the director lending supporting vocals to the just-as-catchy tune.
17. Luke’s Lightsaber Recovered
When Rey is drawn into the basement of Maz’s cantina, it’s an old wooden box that grabs her attention. Or more specifically, the lightsaber contained within it. When a single touch sends Rey into a spell, seeing visions of Imperial structures, the Knights of Ren, and even Luke Skywalker giving R2-D2 a final command, fans knew this was no ordinary lightsaber – a fact Maz soon confirms herself.
The lightsaber is that of Luke Skywalker. Or, perhaps more accurately, the lightsaber of Anakin Skywalker, which was taken by Obi-Wan Kenobi upon the fall of his former Padawan. The saber would remain with Kenobi for years, until he delivered it to Anakin’s son in A New Hope. But the lightsaber was thought lost when Luke’s hand was sliced off by Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, sending it into the bowels of Cloud City (and forcing Luke to build a green one from scratch). Is it the residue of Luke, or Anakin giving Rey her visions?
16. Yoda’s Return
Aside from visions of the future to come (and what’s happened already), Rey also experiences a rush of voices and images that are nearly impossible for fans to dissect in a movie theater. Home video will let fans seek out every detail, but one character from the original trilogy and prequels has been confirmed: Yoda, voiced once again by Frank Oz.
Although Oz was all too eager to lend his talents to the next chapter of the Star Wars saga (since Yoda, like all other Force users, can potentially survive as a ‘Force Ghost’), his new lines written for The Force Awakens couldn’t match the scenes and dialogue from the previous films. So even if the little green Jedi may not make a physical appearance in the movies, he was there when Rey first heard the call of the Force.
15. The Voice of Kenobi(s)
It isn’t just Yoda who makes his voice heard in Rey’s rush of premonitions and impressions, but the man who trained Anakin Skywalker in the ways of the Force, before hiding his children to save from the Dark Side, and eventually falling to Darth Vader’s lightsaber. But the most important question is also the most obvious one: which version of Obi-Wan Kenobi are fans hearing? The answer: both.
Ewan McGregor, who played a younger version of the character made famous by the late Alec Guinness, also returned to the recording booth to inform Rey that “these are your first steps.” But J.J. Abrams revealed to EW that Guinness is the one who calls out Rey’s name. The audio wizards managed to take the name from a recording of Guinness saying the word “afraid,” with the tone resulting in Obi-Wan calling to Rey in the exact way the director would have hoped.
14. A Familiar Hallway
When Rey first comes into contact with Luke’s lightsaber, it isn’t a person or even plot point that she glimpses, but a hallway. It should look familiar, since it’s the same one Luke and Darth fought next to in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s not the most memorable part of Cloud City, but considering it was the place Anakin first turned the fight (and eventually took Luke’s hand), it makes sense for it to have some Force-significance.
13. The Hosney-an System
Audiences don’t actually know too much about the First Order’s target when it first fires up its Starkiller superweapon. As the energy beam roils out, it divides into several beams, destroying the new seat of the Republic (and untold millions in the process). We soon learn that the target was the ‘Hosnian System,’ one that clearly doesn’t carry much larger significance for fans of Star Wars lore. But it carries plenty of weight for fans of Hollywood filmmaking.
The system is named for Jim Hosney, an English teacher who formerly taught at Santa Monica’s Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences – along with a side job teaching graduate studies at the American Film Institute. The average moviegoer probably doesn’t known Hosney’s name, but hundreds if not thousands of people working in Hollwood today certainly do, with the likes of Lost producer Bryan Burk, Star Trek writer Alex Kurtzman, and Jon Kasdan (son of Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan) to name a few.
12. Daniel Craig Cameo
The James Bond star was just one of several actors rumored for a small part in The Force Awakens, but it’s so small a cameo that fans are likely to miss it completely. When Rey is captured by Kylo Ren, he leaves her restrained, with a single stormtrooper guard. For no real reason, Rey decides to try her hand at forcing the trooper to do as she commands – an idea which doesn’t go… smoothly. The stormtrooper is initially stunned, asking her to repeat herself, before she finally taps into her true power, and he really does release her (and leaves his blaster behind, too).
The truly devoted fans of 007 (or simply Craig’s full filmography) may catch his unique dialect despite only having a line or two, but once you know to look for it, his posture, attitude and walk are hard to miss.
11. Musical Footsoldiers
Why keep the stormtrooper cameos to just super secret agents? We may never know just how many famous faces are hidden behind the white helmets in the finished film, but we can confirm that longtime collaborator on both Alias and LOST, composer Michael Giacchino makes a cameo as FN-3181, delivering Poe Dameron to Kylo Ren after he’s first been captured (this is the first Abrams movie not scored by Giacchino).
He appears alongside Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich as FN-9330, although his appearance has yet to be nailed down.
10. Admiral Ackbar & Nien Nunb Return
That’s right, it isn’t just the heroes who took all the credit for Return of the Jedi‘s victory that lived on to return in The Force Awakens, but Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb, commanding the troops in their attack on the second Death Star, and taking the co-pilot’s chair beside Lando Calrissian, respectively.
Thankfully, Ackbar doesn’t feel the need to warn any Resistance commanders that their pilots are heading into “a trap,” instead helping to coordinate an assault on the Starkiller Base. Nunb, on the other hand, has taken the yoke all to himself as a fighter pilot (not too surprising, considering who he used to be flying alongside).
It isn’t just returning alien characters that fans should watch out for, since one of the most heart-wrenching droids ever introduced into the Clone Wars series has also made the leap to live action. The story of ‘R2-KT’ began when Albin Johnson, founder of the 501st Legion – made up of fans dedicated to recreating costumes, props, and other items from the Star Wars universe – saw his daughter, Katie, diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. Since the love of Star Wars was strong with the family, he decided that a pink R2 unit – named “KT” for his daughter – was the least the Legion could do.
A member’s existing R2-D2 unit was painted pink (Katie’s favorite color) and shipped off. The story struck a chord with every fan who heard it, which led to the droid’s appearance in the animated TV series – and when the producers of The Force Awakens heard the story, R2-KT was shipped to the set, to appear among the rest of the Resistance’s noble droids. It can be spotted right underneath Poe’s fighter as he descends for his reunion with Finn.
8. The Story Behind “Poe Dameron”
Oscar Isaac doesn’t actually appear in too many scenes in the finished film, once he’s taken hostage and presumed dead. But he does get the chance to claim an incredible victory for the Resistance, taking down the Starkiller Base almost singlehandedly once the shields are dropped. It’s a level of heroism that J.J. Abrams decided to name for two women in his life.
First off, he took “Poe” from his daughter, who used the same name for her toy bear. The pilot’s last name was taken from Abrams’ longtime assistant Morgan Dameron. Dameron (the real one) can also be seen making a cameo appearance in the final act, playing a surprised and worried Resistance officer.
7. Lost & Found
It isn’t just Giacchino who makes a connection between the galaxy far, far away and the LOST island. Once Finn starts to work alongside the Resistance leadership, LOST fans will recognize two different faces. There’s Resistance Admiral Statura, played by Ken Leung, who famously played the psychic Miles Straume on the ABC series. There’s also X-Wing pilot “Snap” Wexley, played by Abrams’ longtime friend and collaborator Greg Grunberg (whose role was shortlived, as the pilot who survived the crash only to be consumed by the smoke monster).
Thankfully, better fates await them this time around.
6. Lieutenant Connix
Fans didn’t know what to think when word broke that Billie Lourd, daughter of Carrie Fisher had joined the cast of The Force Awakens, with some even guessing that she would be playing a young version of Leia in a flashback sequence. The actress was quick to silence those rumors, and makes a small appearance in the finished movie (confirming it was a cameo, not a supporting role). Lourd can be seen a few times in the Resistance’s base of operations, playing Lieutenant Connix. She can even be seen working alongside a communications droid named PZ-4CO (“Peazy”), credited in the movie universe as Leia’s biographer.
5. The X-Wings
As proof that no detail of McQuarrie’s artwork can be overlooked, his initial designs of the X-Wing – the signature fighter of Rebel pilots – were a bit different than the ones seen in the original trilogy. The idea of a twin-engine fighter capable of splitting its wings and engines into two (what fans would call “locking s-foils in attack position”) was a novel one, but the finished design simply slapped an engine onto each separating wing.
But with the upgraded versions of the spacecraft introduced in Episode VII, the designers decided to just go with McQuarrie’s gut, and divide each engine into two halves: one on top, one below. It’s a minor detail in the grand scheme of things. But considering how iconic and everlasting the original X-Wings proved to be, seeing another bit of McQuarrie injected into the updated version is the kind of fan service we can get behind.
4. Director’s Daddy
As mentioned earlier, fans of J.J. Abrams’ filmography (who also possess a photographic memory) will also know to look for his father, Gerry Abrams. The elder Abrams appeared in the Star Trek reboot as one of the bar patrons watching Jim Kirk try (and fail) to pick up Uhura, but receives a significant promotion for his blink-and-you-miss-it appearance in The Force Awakens.
Officially, Abrams plays ‘Resistance Captain Cypress.’ He can be spotted during the final battle on the surface of Starkiller Base, back at Resistance headquarters, standing off-center behind a tactical viewscreen.
3. Ello Asty
J.J. Abrams has made it perfectly clear that he’s a fan of The Beastie Boys, having used their song “Sabotage” during a memorable introduction to Jim Kirk in Star Trek. He followed it up by using a Fatboy Slim remix of the group’s hit “Body Movin'” in the sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness. The trademark has stuck, since the first trailer for Star Trek Beyond is set to “Sabotage” once again – but Abrams hasn’t given up his own homages, either.
The stoic fans of the Star Wars universe may shudder at the idea of The Beastie Boys being injected into the fabric of the faraway galaxy, but the results are funnier than you might expect. The reference comes in the form of ‘Ello Asty,’ an alien pilot flying beside Poe Dameron. The name is a play on “Hello Nasty,” the group’s fifth studio album (and an accented way of spelling LOST).
Not only that, but the writing on the side of his helmet can be translated to “Born to Ill” – itself a play on both Full Metal Jacket‘s famous “Born to Kill” message, and The Beastie Boys’ debut studio album, “Licensed to Ill.”
2. The Trench Run
Perhaps the hardest reference for fans to miss, it still deserves distinction as one of the best in The Force Awakens. When the team inside Starkiller Base has succeeded in giving the Resistance fighters a fighting chance, Poe Dameron and his fellow aces take one devastating run on the superweapon’s defenses. How? By making a high speed attack run through a trench running along the base’s surface, of course.
A comparison between the Death Star and Starkiller Base is explicitly made earlier in the movie, but with the trench appearing from nowhere, the stormtroopers operating turbo laser batteries, X-Wings dodging their attacks, and winning the day with a massive explosion, it’s the best kind of trip down memory lane possible.
1. Lightsaber on Ice
The frozen environment of Starkiller Base actually does make sense, along with providing a wintery backdrop for the First Order’s blood-chilling goals and actions. Since the base moves through space, things will get pretty chilly when a warming star isn’t within range. But that also means the superweapon is the only location where an homage to The Empire Strikes Back can be planted – specifically, Luke’s encounter with a Wampa on the planet Hoth.
It’s in a different context, but the shot of Kylo Ren, then Rey attempting to pull Luke’s lightsaber from a snowbank is sure to conjure images of the same act in Episode V. It’s an iconic scene, demonstrating that drawing a lightsaber to themselves is one of the first skills a budding Jedi must learn. And Rey pulls it off just as well as Skywalker himself.
Those are all the easter eggs, celebrity cameos and connections to the original series that we could spot, but if you know of any we missed, be sure to let us know, since the movie’s secrets will become clearer and clearer upon repeat viewings.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is in theaters now.