As the debut of Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens draws ever closer, the marketing push behind the film is currently in full swing. New TV spots seem to arrive every other day, with additional ads aimed squarely at longtime fans' nostalgia. The advertisements are supplemented by tantalizing new details about the upcoming film, as the creators begin to open up about the project.
A Star Wars film sounds like a dream project, but director J.J. Abrams was initially reluctant to helm Episode VII. The director's body of work was largely made up of franchise films and he wanted to turn his attention to some original work. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy finally convinced Abrams to come on board with a simple question: "Who is Luke Skywalker?"
Speaking on the Howard Stern Show, Abrams recounted the meeting he had with Kennedy about Star Wars and what finally convinced him to join the project. Speaking about story possibilities, the director suddenly found himself excited about the project. When asked what it was that kickstarted his excitement, he said the following:
"The idea that Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, [that] was forty years ago. So for someone who's nineteen years old, they're myths. Who knows what they know about them? People wouldn't even know who some of these characters are. The thing that grabbed me was that feeling of a new, young character... asking 'who is Luke Skywalker?' And I don't know why, but f*** that's so cool. The idea that there would be a discovery, these would be kids who didn't see Star Wars themselves, but would be in this universe."
The director created a parallel between the main characters of The Force Awakens and a younger audience. These characters will help introduce new viewers to the world of Star Wars and the mythology that's been laid out over the last forty years. Working in tandem, the inclusion of classic characters and the numerous ties back to the original trilogy will help prevent the film from alienating older fans.
Later in the show, Abrams confirmed the reasons that Luke Skywalker did not appear in any of the trailers for Episode VII.
"I really wanna make sure we're not ruining the movie for people, that they're not seeing too much of it before it comes out. I hate when I go and see a trailer and I feel like I've just seen the whole movie... it drives me nuts. You don't have to do that to sell the movie."
Abrams' previous project, Star Trek: Into Darkness, employed heavy secrecy in its marketing campaign, never revealing that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing the iconic villain Khan Noonien Singh. Unfortunately, many thought the character was an obvious choice and the director was forced to lie about Cumberbatch's role on numerous occasions to try and maintain the secret. Those lies earned him the ire of many filmgoers when the truth came out.
The secrecy clearly didn't work out in the director's favor, and Into Darkness writer/producer Damon Lindelof admits it was a mistake. Abrams has previously stated that he's confident he's learned from his work on Into Darkness and, as such, isn't likely to repeat the error. Thankfully, it appears the secrecy behind Luke Skywalker is much better orchestrated (and respectful of fans' intelligence).
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: Howard Stern