‘Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams brought back Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew to be in his continuation of the film franchise. The actors from “Star Wars” episodes four, five and six create a link for fans of those movies to the new film.
There’s an even bigger link with co-executive producer Lawrence Kasdan, who also penned the screenplay for “The Force Awakens” with Abrams. It was Kasdan who wrote the scripts for “Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” and “Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.”
Kasdan was able to bring a sense of history for the characters from the past films while helping craft the next generation of “Star Wars” characters such as Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren.
The Florida-born writer has already had great success with the franchise, so coming back meant putting that reputation on the line. That was something Kasdan was very willing to do.
“I don’t associate the process with fear. J.J. and I jumped into the thing under a lot of time pressure, and we had fun. And, in fact, the first day that we started real work on it, we said, you know, we must have fun with this every day,” Kasdan says. “It’s really a privilege, and you have to be very lucky to get to write the next ‘Star Wars.’
I think we had trepidation about fulfilling people’s expectations, that they would be satisfied with what we came out with.
Lawrence Kasdan, co-executive producer and screenwriter
“And so we didn’t really have fear. I think we had trepidation about fulfilling people’s expectations, that they would be satisfied with what we came out with.”
Trying to live up to expectations is nothing new for Kasdan. He joined the “Star Wars” universe after “A New Hope” had become a record-breaking box-office hit. He was brought on to finish the script for “The Empire Strikes Back” after Leigh Brackett, who wrote the first draft, died.
The biggest difference between then and now is the explosion of social media. Kasdan’s happy that security has been super tight for “The Force Awakens.” He wants fans to be surprised by what he’s written when they finally see the movie.
Another big difference is that since the “Star Wars” films he worked on were released, there have been a mountain of books, comics and video games that have helped expand the universe.
Kasdan didn’t let that affect the story he and Abrams wanted to write.
“We were aware. We’re respectful of the canon, but we really wanted to tell a story that interested us and delighted us, and we didn’t really want any rules and parameters, particularly. We just said we can do anything we want with this story,” Kasdan says. “What would be the most fun thing to do on this page, and the next page, and the page after that? And that was sort of the guiding principle, I think, more than the canon or anything that had come before.”
This won’t be the end of Kasdan’s “Star Wars” journey, as it’s been announced he will be the writer for an upcoming Han Solo film.
All the writing has been under the watchful eye of Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm and an executive producer on “The Force Awakens.” The veteran producer has known since the announcement of a new “Star Wars” film that there would be a lot of pressure on the project.
Trying to make sure the fans are happy is why “The Force Awakens” has been under such tight security.
The fans have really been the ones focused around making sure that everybody and anybody who walks into this movie gets to be surprised.
Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm and an executive producer on “The Force Awakens”
“The fans have really been the ones focused around making sure that everybody and anybody who walks into this movie gets to be surprised. We have so few things that surprise us anymore when you walk in to see a movie – it’s all told in the trailers; it ends up online way in advance,” Kennedy says.
Along with getting “The Force Awakens” released, Kennedy has been looking ahead to the next episode in the series. She says production will begin in January on episode eight, directed by Rian Johnson.
Kennedy has been working closely with the director to make sure the next film and “The Force Awakens” smoothly blend together.
“We haven’t mapped out every single detail yet. But obviously, everybody’s talking to one another, working together. And that collaboration, I think, is what is going to guarantee that everybody’s got a say in how we move forward with this,” Kennedy says. “J.J. and Rian have already talked at length.”
Until then, both executive producers are just waiting to see how their efforts will play out with the legions of fans waiting to see “Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens” when it officially opens Friday, Dec. 18.