Spoiler-free gossips behind the scenes of Star Wars – the Force Awakens with the cast and director

Don’t be afraid to read this column as it’s pure spoiler-free gossips behind the scenes of Star Wars – the Force Awakens with the cast and director JJ Abrams. The Force has officially awakened so in this piece I am shedding some light into what went on behind such a colossal film production. At the European press conference for Star Wars – the Force Awakens this week, I could feel a wave of excitement in the air among the journalists who arrived from all over Europe. We all knew we would be part of a very special moment in the history of film making and entertainment.

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Meet the cast – the Star Wars – the Force Awakens family

The cast was incredibly relaxed most certainly tired from the London post-premiere party the night before – John Boyega (Finn, the Stormtrooper who deserts the dark force) arrived late and candidly admitted he had overslept and Harrison Ford (Han Solo) was a bit sleepish and not willing to answer questions with more than a yes or no.

Star Wars - The Force Awakens troopers at world premiere

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Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) was a real surprise. In the films she was never my favourite character but contrary to my lifetime impression of her, she was so funny that I have to admit I loved her the most at the press conference.

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I will definitely watch the first original films again in a new light. This is why it is always important to meet the stars in person at official events. You often change your mind about actors and actresses behind the camera.

What the new recruits and starlets all shared was a feeling of belonging to a big family where the eldest crew members take care of the youngest. They all said that none of the superstars, i.e. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, made them feel uncomfortable. In fact they were all humble and supportive during filming and beyond.

John Boyega, in particular, was the most enthusiastic newcomer having started a collection of his own film dolls. In Star Wars – the Force Awakens he plays the role of a Stormtrooper who has a change of heart, rejects his uniform and fully embraces the Resistance group against the First Order led by super villain and Darth Vader’s grandson.

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London born Daisy Ridley plays the role of a modern age heroine, Rey. We don’t know much about her background. We find her in a desert searching for precious things she exchanges for food.

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We follow her in her adventures in space while she becomes strong and discovers to have Jedi powers along the way. That might be a clue for future episodes.

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Rey is most certainly a great role model for young women like a Suffragette in a galaxy far far away.

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Visionary director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Lost) said in various occasions that he wanted to make a movie that was funny and brought back the light-hearted tone of the original trilogy. He also wanted to go back to the original production style and relying less on technology but more on props, real people and costumes. He mentioned a nice anecdote of his friend Simon Pegg’s young daughter who noticed that Yoda was real in Episode V while he was a computerised character in episodes I, II and III which relied so much on CGI. JJ said he was very passionate about bringing back the physicality of the old school approach because that felt that was Star Wars. He brought to the sets physical creatures and enjoyed making the film like a Muppet movie.

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Costumes by Michael Kaplan are a big deal in this movie like in the original movies (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi). According to Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) and Gwendoline Christie both their villains’ costumes were extraordinary and practical armours. Christie said that her costume helped her get into character and portrait an imposing and high functioning woman. J.J. Abrams admitted that Kylo Ren’s costume was the most difficult to make but one of the greatest costumes ever seen.

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Adam said that he was nervous in being fully cloaked, because as an actor you have to rely mainly on the power of thought. Then J.J. took out the eyes out of the mask, to make it a void, which made it interesting. The costume says a lot about Kylo before he says anything. His helmet is unpolished and unfinished. Kylo Ren is obsessed with Darth Vader. He’s a fan of his work. He feels that he was actually onto something, even though in his Vader’s final moments he returned to the good side of the Force by saving his son. Kylo seems to interpret that as just a moment.

36-year-old Guatemalan-American Oscar Isaac plays the new character Poe Dameron and everyone is talking about him because he’s kind of sexy with his charming ‘Venus gaze’.

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Poe is a Resistance hotshot pilot who is naturally good at flying anything like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Anakin Skywalker /Darth Vader. In this film, Poe has multiple opportunities to shine with his X-Wing plane. In the original Star Wars, Luke was the best pilot and the one destined to walk the path of the Force. But J.J. Abrams decided to split those roles, and Poe is the Head Pilot while Rey is the Jedi hope.

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Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) is the one everybody is looking for, but we see him only at the end. He has aged and will certainly play an important role in Episode VIII.

Oscar Winner and stunning actress Lupita Nyong’o plays the character of Maz Kanata, a female pirate with a colourful past and owner of a quirky bar (these are the only words she was allowed to use to describe her character). She seems to have been the keeper of Luke Skywalker’s light saber but we don’t know yet why.

Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson plays evil General Hux who resembles the right hand of Adolf Hitler. He is brilliant in this role.

Peter Mayhew, who plays the legendary Wookiee warrior and Han Solo’s co-pilot aboard the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca, returns and this time he is more expressive than in the original series.

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‘Chewie, we’re home’ (Han Solo looking at the Millennium Falcon) will go down in history among the best quotes

The droids

Star Wars - The Force Awakens droids at the world premiere

For Star Wars newbies droids, less commonly known as Robots, are mechanical beings that possessed artificial intelligence.

Anthony Daniels, who plays the posh English speaking ‘butler’ C3PO with his Golden outfit, has a new red arm but unfortunately does not have a huge role in this film. It’s a shame as he has always been my favourite droid. I missed his quintessentially Britishness.

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Last but not least the new droid BB8 is the absolute star of the film. All the action revolves around him who (like R2D2 in the first movies) carries vital information for the Resistance.

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Video of the European Press Conference on 17 December 2015

Watch the cast and creators here joking and laughing with one another at the London press conference.

Here is my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and here is my vlog.



The PR and the GREAT Britain campaign

Disney / Lucasfilm have kept their cards very close to their chests in the series of trailers they’ve released across the world media over the past year. The PR campaign for the film started a year ago and has culminated now with all premieres and events involving cast and production teams.

Fans knew names of characters they didn’t know yet well before the film release. Merchandising and a lot of product tie-ins were already seen at the Disney Store months before the film release. It sounds a bit over the top but by the time Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released nobody could wait any longer. The teasing campaign certainly worked for me but some critics suggested it was a bit over the top.

The campaign has been an amazing promotion for Britain as the new Golden Galaxy for filmmakers. Actually all six films were made in England.

The UK Government’s GREAT Britain campaign, Disney and Lucasfilm recently announced a unique collaboration that celebrates the British inspiration, creativity and innovation involved in the Star Wars saga.  A series of upcoming videos featuring British icons such as Sir Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and Jessica Ennis-Hill will profile the incredible British talent that has made Star Wars the global phenomenon it is today, celebrating almost 40 years of GREAT British filmmaking. Each video tells the story of the nation’s contribution to Star Wars through pillars such as innovation (Sir Richard Branson), inspiration to future generations (Jessica Ennis-Hill) and the legacy behind the films (Jamie Oliver).

Almost 40 years ago the incredible story between Great Britain and Star Wars began with the production of Star Wars: A New Hope at Elstree Studios. The imagination, inspiration and innovation of the filmmakers included the original lightsaber design by British set decorator Roger Christian – who fashioned it from spare camera parts and collected junk, Academy Award®-winning costume designs from British-born John Mollo – the man who brought Darth Vader’s iconic look to life; and the key roles of the London Symphony Orchestra and Abbey Road – the birthplace of one the most iconic themes in the galaxy.

The story continues with Star Wars: The Force Awakens which was filmed in the UK using some truly GREAT British talent in both the production team and amongst the on screen stars including the droid-building skills of two British fans, Oliver Steeples and Lee Towersey, who were recruited to bring R2-D2 to life plus British actors Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Gwendoline Christie who play Rey, Finn and Captain Phasma in the new film.

In addition The Industry Trust for IP Awareness, the UK copyright education body, is launching a Star Wars: Made GREAT in Britain 55” trailer as part of its Moments Worth Paying For campaign.

Believe it or not, even the UK’s Chancellor George Osborne was involved  in the making of Star Wars. In 2013 he announced the production of Episode VII and said that he fought hard for two years to bring the production of this saga here. The GREAT Britain campaign is the Government’s largest ever international campaign promoting the best of Britain.  Active in 144 countries, it encourages the world to visit, study and do business with the UK with a goal of promoting jobs and growth for the UK.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens used some truly GREAT British talent to help bring it to the big screen such as the droid-building skills of two British fans, Oliver Steeples and Lee Towersey, who were recruited to bring R2-D2 to life plus British actors Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Gwendoline Christie who play Rey, Finn and Captain Phasma in the new film.

The Official Site for Britain which has offered most locations and studios for the production of this masterpiece is http://starwarsunitedkingdom.co.uk


Record breaking box office takings

I am not surprise to read that the UK and Ireland had record breaking takings for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film enjoyed not only the biggest opening day of all time but also the biggest single day in UK industry history. Opening at midnight fans flocked to cinemas to be the first to see the hugely anticipated next episode in the Star Wars saga which has taken an estimated £9.6 million on its opening day setting a new UK and Ireland industry record. Midnight screenings alone accounted for £2.4 million of the days box office smashing all previous records. Tickets for the highly anticipated film went on sale in October and sold more than 200,000 tickets in 24 hours. Exhibitors continually added screens to accommodate demand which resulted in a total of 2 million booked tickets ahead of the release – breaking another record for advanced ticket bookings. There are still many available seats left in cinemas across the UK for fans who want to see the film during opening weekend.


The Star Wars Merchandising

Fans can now find new playsets, figures and lightsabers featuring the latest characters, including Rey, Kylo Ren, BB-8, Poe Dameron and General Leia.

From Rey’s glowing blue lightsaber and the deluxe figurine playset, to the die-cast figures of Kylo Ren Unmasked and Rey with lightsaber and BB-8, fans will love the new range of exclusive products only available at Disney Stores. Check London Mums’ list of Star Wars merchandising which came out before the film release. 

‘Star Wars’ is back

What next? Episode VIII

Star Wars: The Force Awakens did justice to the classic characters and trilogy and introduced amazing new characters like Rey, Finn and Poe. Producers have more or less confirmed that all cast members including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o, Max von Sydow, and Adam Driver will return. There’s also the possibility that Benicio del Toro will be joining the cast as a villain.

So it’s official! The stars will resume filming Star Wars: Episode VIII after the Christmas break (Rey confessed that she is due on set from January 2016) and Episode VIII will land in cinemas on 26 May 2017. Guess where I will be in May 2017!

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