Lately, Star Wars has become a touchy topic. Solo hardly made an impression, The Last Jedi infuriated a toxic minority of fans, and Disney's management of the property seems to lack any real vision outside of the episodic films. Remember when things were simpler — back in 2015, when Star Wars was gone for a decade before making a grand return?
Under the supervision of Disney, J.J. Abrams was tasked with continuing the Skywalker saga and surpassed many fans' expectations. The Force Awakens has had plenty of time to sink in. While it has its fair share of critics, it has become one of the most beloved Star Wars films to date. For younger viewers, this has become the definitive Star Wars film of an entire generation. As for the older fans, it gave them what they wanted — it made them feel like kids again.
It may seem like ages ago that The Force Awakens hit theaters, so amidst the flurry of sequels, spin-offs, and Star Wars news, let's take a look back on what made its return so great with some behind-the-scenes trivia. For this list, we collected a handful of behind-the-scenes pictures that show fans just how The Force Awakens was made. We're not just talking about technical stuff either — we'll be covering on-set photos, the actors' experiences, deleted scenes, cameos, and so much more.
How well do you know The Force Awakens? Let's take a look behind the curtain.
Here are 25 Behind-The-Scenes Photos That Completely Change The Force Awakens.
25 Inside BB-8
BB-8 might have a simple-looking design, but bringing him to life is anything but!
To put it simply: BB-8 consists of a large pendulum, several magnets, and internal rails. These are used to keep his head in place as it moves. He also has lots of internal wiring to enable remote controls for puppeteers.
The little droid actually has a handful of different models for different uses.
Some are for action scenes, some are for extreme terrain, and some are for stationary expression. Pictured above is just that — an unfinished BB-8 on a stand, made for scenes where he's only supposed to turn or wobble, and not roll around.
24 Kylo Ren's Arrival
This is actually pretty practical for Star Wars special effects. The prequels would have had Kylo Ren strut down a walkway that led to nowhere — and the walkway would have been made of green screen too.
Kylo Ren's first appearance has him arrive on Jakku via a First Order dropship and invade a small village. The Jakku background is completely digital, as well as most of the ship.
Although interactive environments tend to be partially-built, the set designers created the geometry for the ship without any texture. The green screen allows for a texture to be added in later, but it does make the big bad Kylo Ren look a little silly.
23 Finn Is A Fan
The return of Star Wars surely made a lot of fans happy, but few were as excited as Finn himself. As a relatively unknown in Hollywood, John Boyega was suddenly cast as a lead in the biggest movie of the decade — and he was already a super-fan.
Boyega is a self-proclaimed Star Wars geek and was ecstatic to work with Star Wars legends.
He was such a big Han Solo fan that he asked Harrison Ford to autograph one of his figures!
Any fan would love to meet Han and get his autograph, but Boyega probably felt blessed getting to share the screen with him.
22 Return of the genius
Older fans were apprehensive when Disney announced more Star Wars movies, but much of the uneasiness dissipated when Lawrence Kasdan returned to the franchise.
While the original script was written by Michael Arndt, Kasdan came on to rewrite The Force Awakens alongside director J.J. Abrams. Kasdan famously wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and had been unattached to the franchise for some time. He felt so far removed from Star Wars that he was hesitant to return.
Initially, he joined the project only so he could write for Han Solo once again — his favorite character. He and Abrams ended up really hitting it off, which led to his enthusiastic, full-on collaboration.
21 Outside BB-8
If you thought BB-8 was always controlled remotely, then this is really going to ruin the movie magic.
Puppeteers David Chapman and Brian Herring would often control BB-8 manually, with large claw-like apparatus that would move his head and roll his body.
Pictured above is Brian Herring wheeling BB-8 around on the Jakku set.
Even in those fast-paced action scenes, BB-8 needed to keep up. They would often sprint behind him while wearing green body suits so that they could be edited out of scenes in post-production.
Anytime BB-8 is running from an explosion, remember that a man in a green spandex suit is directly behind him!
20 Blue Screen Battle
Although a lot of scenes were shot on location, much of The Force Awakens was created in the UK's Pinewood Studios. This includes the lightsaber battle — though it's a lot more practical than you'd think.
The final confrontation in the forests of Starkiller Base was a set made up of fake trees, fake snow, and a whole lot of blue screen. The practical environment gives their immediate vicinity a sense of realism, while the blue screen was used to expand the forest and give it a sense of scale.
Fans and snow machines simulate the falling snow, and our heroes — after months of rigorous swordsmanship training — do the rest. The result? One gorgeous lightsaber fight.
19 Surprise Cameos
The Force Awakens features plenty of cameos, and many of them are extremely hard to spot.
To name a few: J.J. Abrams' lucky charm Greg Grunberg shows up as Resistance pilot Snap Wexley. Ewan McGregor and Frank Oz make voice cameos during Rey's Force vision.
Simon Pegg gets a costumed-cameo as abusive junk trader Unkar Plutt.
Warwick Davis, Billie Lourd, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and composer Michael Giacchino all make appearances too, and we've still hardly scratched the surface.
Probably the best cameo of all is stormtrooper Daniel Craig, who suffers an embarrassing Jedi mind trick at the hands of Rey. Bond might be calm and collected, but he's no match for the Force.
18 A Rare Image Of Harrison Ford Laughing Out Loud
It's difficult to find a picture of Harrison Ford looking this happy — especially since this is from The Force Awakens.
Early in production, Harrison Ford's leg was crushed by a hydraulic door on the Millennium Falcon. He required major surgery, a long period of recovery, and he hardly wanted to be in the film in the first place.
Harrison Ford has never been the biggest Star Wars fan, and even admits to participating in The Force Awakens as an obligation. He "doesn't give a rat's a--" about the franchise's future, and only returned to have Han Solo written out for good.
At least he had some fun while it lasted.
17 The First Order Armory
Plenty of CGI stormtroopers get shot, blown up, and thrown across the screen in Star Wars. That doesn't mean an army of extras aren't on standby.
Any major blockbuster requires a ton of extras and background actors, and this is especially true of Star Wars.
We're not just talking about The Force Awakens either — extras often have outfits made custom, and many of the more exotic characters need to have actors fitted for masks, body suits, and all kinds of alien features.
As for stormtroopers, it's a little bit simpler. While certainly some people have to be fitted for armor, Lucasfilm has plenty of identical suits lying around for any actors having costume trouble.
16 Not-So-Lonely Rey
Rey lives a lonely life on Jakku. She spends the beginning of The Force Awakens bored, sad, and yearning for adventure — but from behind the camera, things look a bit more lively.
In the scene depicted here, Rey is having a meal outside her home while she watches a ship take off. It's quiet and lonely, but ironically, she is surrounded by J.J. Abrams and his crew.
Obviously, it takes a lot of people to make a movie — that's not some big behind-the-scenes secret — but it'll be hard to watch this scene again knowing that lonely Rey is actually surrounded by dozens of people only inches away.
15 Creatures Unmasked
Star Wars wouldn't exist without Lucasfilm's incredible costume department. They're responsible for creating creatures that are far more elaborate than they look.
Here, actor Dilu Miah is suiting up for the scene in Maz Kanata's castle. The alien is taller than the actor, requiring eye holes in the creature's neck. His right arm holds the pipe that supports the head, and his left carries a prop in the final film. His arms were always busy, and he could barely see his surroundings.
Not only is this a strenuous role to play, but he's probably boiling underneath that mask.
Thankfully the costume department is there to keep everything looking perfect and cool off the actors too.
14 Daisy Ridley's Emotional Audition
Back in 2015, Daisy Ridley was new to the Hollywood spotlight as well as the galaxy far, far away. Rey was her first mainstream role, and nobody knew what to expect from her. Casting The Force Awakens' lead characters was a competitive process, but even in her audition, she demonstrated incredible talent.
Daisy Ridley's audition tape has her performing the interrogation scene. Her preliminary performance is so intense that she actually cried real tears, and the casting directors at Lucasfilm were immediately impressed.
Ridley is easily one of the best performers in the new trilogy. Lucasfilm chose well — and after seeing her audition, it's hard to argue otherwise.
13 Kylo Ren's Fashion Spread
Can you guess which scene this photo corresponds to?
Actually, you can't. This is from a Vanity Fair photoshoot on the set of The Force Awakens. At the time, the magazine had exclusive coverage on the then-secretive production.
This one of the earliest looks at Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, whose hair looks even more glamorous blowing in the wind.
As for the location, it might have been used for extraneous scenes. It looks like the exterior of Starkiller Base, where Rey and Finn also appear in a deleted scene. It may have been used in the photoshoot for convenience or Kylo Ren may have appeared here in a deleted scene of his own.
12 Lightsaber Lock
Here's an image of J.J. Abrams carefully directing the film's lightsaber battle. Before Finn gets knocked out, Kylo Ren pins him up against a tree and burns Finn's shoulder with the crossguard of his lightsaber. Abrams is probably specifying what he wants in the shot, as this appears in the film as a close up of Finn's injury.
One thing to note about the new films is their use of actual lightsaber replicas as props. Older films used lightsabers with wooden or plastic blades, but using replicas helps simulate the blue and red lighting on faces and the environment.
Lightsabers rarely reflect on surroundings in the older films, so this is a nice touch.
11 X-wing Under Construction
Practical effects don't get much more "practical" than this. No, this real-life X-wing doesn't fly or shoot lasers, but it looks pretty darn convincing when it's all painted and polished.
Most sets and vehicles in Star Wars are physically constructed at some point.
While most of them end up digital in the films, they usually start out as small, hand-crafted models. If they seem too unnecessary (or too costly) to recreate in larger proportions, they're made with CGI using the models as reference.
X-wings are common vehicles that get plenty of screen time, so it helps to build a few for as cheap as possible. This one still needs a bit of work.
10 Creating Maz Kanata
Motion-capture is an incredible filmmaking tool that continues to bewilder audiences.
What looks like a bizarre jumpsuit behind-the-scenes turns into a living creature on screen.
Here, Black Panther's Lupita Nyong'o she can be seen comforting Rey after her force vision as Maz Kanata, literally on her knees to simulate Maz's height.
Production footage shows Nyong'o crawling around the set covered in ridiculous lights and dots, as her performance would be rendered on a nearby monitor. This, along with coaching from costar and motion-capture pro Andy Serkis, helped her create of one the most beloved new Star Wars characters to date.
9 Kylo In The Falcon
This might look like a screenshot from the movie, but it's actually a deleted scene that can only be found on the home release.
After Finn, Han, and Chewie land the Falcon on Starkiller Base, Kylo Ren and a group of stormtroopers set out to investigate. They board the Falcon in search of the gang but come up empty handed. Kylo Ren walks into the cockpit for a moment before hurrying out the door to the see the Resistance pilots attacking the base.
It's not essential to the plot but it tells that audience that Kylo Ren recognizes the ship, hinting that he may have been closer to Han than he lets on.
8 Rey's first teacher
As her first mainstream role in one of the biggest franchises ever made, Daisy Ridley was under a lot of pressure to deliver a good performance.
While Lucasfilm was very impressed with her audition, Ridley's first day on set wasn't so smooth.
J.J. Abrams reportedly called her acting "a bit wooden" while shooting her early scenes. Ridley was disheartened by the comments, though his words were not said with any malice.
After some criticism and adjustments suggested by Abrams, her performance turned out exactly as he envisioned. They ended up getting along extremely well, and Ridley reportedly looks forward to working with him again on Episode IX.
7 The Crew On Skellig Michael
The final moments of The Force Awakens were shot in a very unique location. Although the scenes only last a few minutes, it took tons of effort just to get those shots.
Luke's hideout (Ahch-To) is located on Skellig Michael Island, a nature reserve and ancient monastery off the coast of Ireland. Its terrain is steep and dangerous, and the island is inaccessible for most of the year even as a tourist attraction.
Dozens of crew members had to carry heavy equipment up roughly 600 medieval steps to the top of the island without railings, and all the way back down again. Let's hope nobody was afraid of heights.
6 Han's End
It only takes one look for this iconic scene to become downright hilarious. No, obviously, Harrison Ford and Adam Driver weren't on a real bridge over a real bottomless pit, but apparently not even Kylo's lightsaber was real.
The background wasn't partially built or painted. It was all green screen. Surely nobody expected Lucasfilm to dangle expensive actors over a railing-less walkway, but none of that set actually existed.
This only makes this scene more impressive — Ford and Driver had nothing to work with other than their costumes and imaginations.
Thankfully they're both tremendously talented, as Han's final scene manages to be one of the most moving moments in the entire series.
5 You Need A Teacher
Here's another great shot of the lightsaber battle, when Kylo pushes Rey up against a steep cliff.
In reality, there was no giant crevice to fall into. There wasn't even a drop with a safety mat at the bottom. This abyss was created with some trusty digital effects. However, you can still see the edge of the blue screen set off to the right, along with a fan that is blowing the snow around. All of this was edited out in post.
This also gives us a better look at the toy lightsabers shining real light on their faces. It was only enhanced with special effects, rather than created from digital scratch.
4 Luke's Big Reveal
It took a small army to prepare Luke's big scene on Skellig Michael Island. Because the crew only had a limited amount of time to shoot there, everything had to be perfect. Hence, the scene needed a lot of preparation.
It looks like the're checking for proper lighting on Mark Hamill, with a crew member holding a reflector and J.J. Abrams standing back and observing (in the light blue shirt).
This was likely right before shooting the ending, which has now become one of the most iconic scenes in Star Wars history.
Wildlife? Ancient history? Now Skellig Michael has a new reason for people to visit — it's the new home of Luke Skywalker.
3 A New Hope
Here's where it all started. The movie was shrouded in secrecy until this image: The Force Awakens' first script reading.
This was the first look at the movie's production (albeit in black and white), and it was the source much speculation. Who were the villains? How much would we see of the old cast? Was Rey a Solo because she sat between Han and Leia?
The best part about this photo is that they actually made Mark Hamill show up. He didn't have any lines in the movie at all — he was there to be the narrator.
Ironically, Mark Hamill talked more on this day than he ever would have in The Force Awakens.
2 Scavenging Rey
One of The Force Awakens' biggest selling points was its emphasis on practical effects, unlike the digital and overly-fabricated aesthetic of the prequels. However, while the movie does use a lot of tangible sets and props, there is a whole ton of CGI carefully blended in.
In Rey's first appearance, she is climbing around the inside of a crashed Imperial ship scavenging for parts.
While the object she hangs on is real, the rest of the environment is completely made of green screen.
Usually backgrounds like this are partially constructed (or painted, in the case of the original trilogy) but sometimes green screen is too handy to pass up.
1 Half-Finished Falcon
Here’s another great mix of practical and digital effects: a half-finished Millennium Falcon on the Resistance base. The crew only built the Falcon on the side that the cameras would be facing. The gang preparing for Starkiller Base and their return at the end of the movie all take place on the cockpit side of the Falcon.
The other half of the Falcon is never actually shown on camera other than in wide shots from very far distances. To save on resources, the other half is only made of scaffolding, and is filled in with digital effects in the final cut.
What did you learn about The Force Awakens? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!
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