A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (it feels like), a seventh installment in the Star Wars franchise was announced. Since Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4.05billion in October 2012 and plans for a new trilogy were unveiled, opening with The Force Awakens, the project has been so shrouded in secrecy that frustratingly few details have emerged, but here’s what we do know…
IT’S AGE APPROPRIATE
In order to realistically bring back members of the cast from the original trilogy – Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and the most costumed-up characters – The Force Awakens is set 30 years after the final film in the sequence, The Return Of The Jedi. Hamill has grown a beard for his elder statesman role, Fisher has lost over 40 pounds and a new C-3PO suit has been built for Anthony Daniels. Don’t expect the characters to be any wiser though, as screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan told Entertainment Weekly: “OK, these people have lived — they’re in a different place in their lives, Han and Leia and so on. They’ve lived the same 30 years I have. What would that be like? How would you see things differently?’ And I was trying to figure out how I saw things differently, and one of the surprises is that you don’t learn all that much. You haven’t become much wiser than you were, and things are not clearer to you, and the world is just as confusing as it always was – and that’s a kind of lovely thing to get to write about again. Age does not necessarily bring wisdom; it just brings experience.”
IT’S PEPPERED WITH ‘UNKNOWNS’
While open auditions were held in Ireland, the UK and the US for smaller roles, many of the leads have been given to relatively unknown actors, mirroring the very first film of the series. You might well recognise Adam Driver (Dark Sider Kylo Ren) from his roles in the show Girls, as well as films Lincoln and While We’re Young and Oscar Isaac from Ex Machina and Inside Llewyn Davis, and Andy Serkis, going all motion-capture again to play Supreme Leader Snoke, will be a familiar figure for Golum and Ian Dury fans. But you might be hard pressed to place one of the lead actors playing a runaway stormtrooper called Finn, John Boyega, since his highest profile UK part was in aliens vs hoodies flick Attack The Block, and Daisy Ridley – playing one of the female leads Rey, a desert planet scavenger who, she claims, is “completely self-sufficient and does everything for herself, until she meets another character and an adventure begins” – counts appearances in Casualty, Mr Selfridge and a Wiley video among her biggest roles to date. Still, expect a cameo from Warwick Davies, who played an Ewok in Return Of The Jedi and Wald and Weazle in The Phantom Menace, and Simon Pegg as an alien, since he’s in fucking everything these days. Meanwhile, Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd also has an undisclosed role, but not as a young Princess Leia.
EXPECT BANGS FOR YOUR BUCK
David Fincher, Brad Bird and Guillermo del Toro were all considered to direct until the gig fell to JJ Abrams, the man behind the Star Trek reboot and the latter Mission Impossible flicks. The story was conceived by original Star Wars creator George Lucas (although Lucas has said Disney has thrown out his ideas) and all we know about it so far is that it’s based around the familiar story of a small rebel alliance (this time called the Resistance) taking on a tyrannical empire (now called the First Order). Boyega’s Finn is introduced “in incredible danger, and the way he reacts to this danger changes his life, and launches him into the Star Wars universe in a very unique way” and runs into Isaac’s hotshot X-wing fighter Poe Dameron who has “been sent on a mission by a certain princess, and he ends up coming up across [Finn], and their fates are forever intertwined.” Plus there’s a space pirate called Maz Kanata and a baddie called Chrome Trooper Captain Phasma (named after the 1979 film Phantasm) involved, a First Order base called Starkiller Base somewhere and rumours abound that Leia comes across Luke’s hand along the way, Vader’s lightsaber still attached and hopefully having become sentient.
REN IS THE DARTH
Ubervillain Kylo Ren is a member of the Knights Of Ren who, like Darths vader and Maul, take their name from their evil order. This particular Ren is like a Darth Vader copycat killer, making a kick-ass three-beamed lightsabre and a mask like an evil armadillo in Vader’s image. “The movie explains the origins of the mask and where it’s from, but the design was meant to be a nod to the Vader mask,” said Abrams. “[Ren] is well aware of what’s come before, and that’s very much a part of the story of the film. The lightsaber is something that he built himself, and is as dangerous and as fierce and as ragged as the character.”
THERE’S COOL NEW MONSTERS
Photos from the set feature a ‘luggabeast’ (imagine a massive carrier rhino).
IT WAS A GLOBAL SHOOT
Filmed at least partially on IMAX cameras and primarily at Pinewood Studios in the UK from May until November last year, scenes were also shot in the US, Iceland, the United Arab Emirates and on the Irish island of Skellig Michael. Thankfully they didn’t decide to revisit the original set for Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine in Tunisia, which was taken over by Isis fighters in March.
HAN WAS FROZEN AGAIN
Off screen, anyway. During filming Harrison Ford fractured his leg when a hydraulic door in the Millennium Falcon fell on it, putting him out of action for a fortnight.
THEY’VE LEARNT THEIR LESSON FROM JAR JAR BINKS
To capture the feel of the original series, the new film relies more on scale models, real locations and physical props than on CGI. A spinning ball-droid called BB-8, for example, was developed by Disney Research and operated live on set.
He must do, he’s in Episode VIII, set to be directed by Looper‘s Rian Johnson.
IT’S GONNA BE MASSIVE
As if this wasn’t blatantly obvious, the teaser trailers broke all records for the most viewed YouTube clips of all time, with the second trailer hitting 30 million views inside 24 hours. When premiered at the Star Wars Celebration convention in California, a room of 8,000 people leapt to their feet and roared “like a rock concert”.