Since it released late last year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been not only critically well-received, but also ended up with the highest US box office of all time. It's already almost difficult to remember a time when Disney's Star Wars resurgence didn't feel like a sure-fire hit, but people were originally incredibly hesitant. More than a handful of fans felt burned by George Lucas' followup prequel trilogy. J.J. Abrams' recent Star Trek: Into Darkness had met a similar reception from fans of that space-centred franchise. Then there was the involvement of Disney, which, despite their recent successes with Pixar and Marvel, still had a reputation for running properties into the ground.
Abrams originally turned down the gig as director of The Force Awakens. He wanted to try to create more original films, and understandably didn't want the pressure of managing one of his favorite franchises. Kathleen Kennedy eventually turned him around by pitching the idea of a young female protagonist asking the question "Who is Luke Skywalker?" but it turns out Steven Spielberg had a hand in his recruitment as well.
In a recent interview with THR, Spielberg remarked on his involvement in bringing Abrams to the franchise:
I brought J.J.'s name up. I thought J.J. would be the best person to direct Episode 7 and I called J.J. and said 'Would you do it if it was offered to you?' He said, 'I would but my wife won't let me 'cause she doesn't want me to restart any more franchises.' But I went to Kathy and asked if I could get J.J. to say yes to this would you consider it? Kathy said 'Are you kidding? Of course I would. But why would J.J. do Star Wars; he's already done Mission Impossible and Star Trek.'
Spielberg eventually took Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath out to dinner, then asked McGrath point blank "I think there's a chance that J.J. could direct Star Wars. What do you think of that?" She responded "That would be amazing! Really?"
Fortunately, Abrams turned out to be just the man for the job. Most audiences felt his style jived with the adventure-driven Star Wars even better than his Trek films. Plus, his craftsman-like approach to recreating the feel of the classic trilogy paid off, with a film that felt like the perfect franchise palette cleanser before Disney broadens into spin-offs like the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The moral of the story? When the wife and Spielberg tell you to make a Star War, you make a Star War.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now available in DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital formats. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives in theaters 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.