Star Wars 7: Maz Kanata is Based on J.J. Abrams' High School Teacher

Star Wars: Maz Kanata fan art by Andrew Theophilopoulos
Maz Kanata artwork by Andrew Theophilopoulos

Throughout its decades of historical film creation, Hollywood has become home to the oldest filmmaking industry in the world and garnered no small amount of notoriety in the process. The spell of this renown is so far reaching that many people all across the globe look to Tinseltown as a magical place, separate from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

Hollywood’s reputation thrives on a level that often allows people to forget how even the biggest names in filmmaking and acting started off small, with dreams and aspirations like everyone else. Though we all take different paths, the concept that at some point in our lives someone has influenced us or otherwise impressed something vital upon us is a relatively common one – even for the biggest celebrities in the world.

As such, there’s something genuinely perfect about where one of the character inspirations came from in the recently released Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. In an interview with The Palisadian Post, director J.J. Abrams spoke about the character Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) and what made him base her on his high school English teacher, Rose Gilbert.

"Yes, the character of Maz was originally based on the great Rose Gilbert. We really wanted the story to feel authentic, despite being a wild fantasy. I mentioned Rose in an early story meeting as a sort of timeless, wise figure that I'd actually known in my life... While we experimented with many looks and styles before settling on the character's final design, Rose was always at the center of the inspiration of Maz. Rick and I had hoped to contact Rose and show her what we were doing, but she sadly passed away while we were in the prep of the film."

Gilbert’s influence had also reached another crew member of The Force Awakens - production designer Rick Carter, who was a student of hers a full 15 years prior to Abrams. The two worked together on getting the look of Maz Kanata just right and kept their former English teacher at the centre of the design concept the entire time. Long before The Force Awakens had even hit theaters, Screen Rant had also picked up on word of Maz being called Rose.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens images and posters

Rose Gilbert taught at Palisades Charter High School from 1961 until 2013, when she retired at the age of 94. She passed away in December of 2013, with both Abrams and Gilbert attending her funeral. Her 51 year-long career is nothing short of remarkable, especially when the age at which she retired is considered. She left the school with the dignified honor of being the oldest full-time teacher in the LA Unified School District – not to mention teaching and obviously influencing at least one of the biggest names in cinema today.

Beyond the apparent accomplishments of Rose Gilbert, what’s interesting about this story is its real life connection to The Force Awakens. The Star Wars films have always had an element of a master lending expertise to a student and as such, Gilbert’s humble tutelage of people like J.J. Abrams and Rick Carter had, in its own way, equipped them to go on and spread their own positive force in the world.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, 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: THR

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