Star Wars: The Force Awakens (also known as Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens) is an upcoming American epic space opera film directed by J. J. Abrams. The seventh installment in the main Star Wars film series, it stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Max von Sydow. The story is set approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi (1983).
The Force Awakens is set approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and features new leads Finn, Rey, and Poe Dameron alongside characters returning from previous Star Wars films.
The Force Awakens is the first film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, announced after Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm in October 2012. The film is produced by Abrams, his long-time collaborator Bryan Burk, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Abrams co-wrote the film with Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote the original trilogy films The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi. Abrams and Kasdan rewrote an initial script by Michael Arndt. John Williams, composer and conductor in the previous six films, returns to compose the film score.
Star Wars creator George Lucas discussed ideas for a sequel trilogy several times after the conclusion of the original trilogy, but denied any intent to make it. In October 2012, he sold his production company Lucasfilm and with it the Star Wars franchise to Disney. Speaking alongside the new Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, Lucas said: "I always said I wasn't going to do any more, and that's true, because I'm not going to do any more. But that doesn't mean I'm unwilling to turn it over to Kathy to do more."
As creative consultant on the film, Lucas attended early story meetings and advised on the details of the Star Wars universe. Among the materials he turned over to the production team were his rough story treatments for Episodes VII–IX ; he later stated that Disney had discarded his story ideas and that he had had no further involvement with the film. Lucas' son Jett told The Guardian that his father was "very torn" about having sold the rights to the franchise, despite having hand-picked Abrams to direct, and that his father was "there to guide" but that "he wants to let it go and become its new generation."
Episode VII's first screenplay was written by Michael Arndt. David Fincher and Brad Bird were approached as directors, but Bird was committed to Tomorrowland. Guillermo del Toro was also considered, but was busy with his own projects. In January 2013, J. J. Abrams was announced as the director of Star Wars Episode VII, with Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg as project consultants.
The production announced the exit of Arndt from the project on October 24, 2013, and Kasdan and Abrams took over script duties. Abrams cited time concerns over the change of writers, and expressed relief that the release date was announced for December 2015 instead of a previously discussed summer release. He said the key for the film was to return to the roots of the first Star Wars film and be based more on emotion than explanation. In January 2014, Abrams confirmed that the script was complete. In April 2014, Lucasfilm clarified that Episodes VII–IX would not feature storylines from the Expanded Universe, though other elements could be included as with the TV series Star Wars Rebels.
In May 2013, it was confirmed that Episode VII would be filmed in the United Kingdom. Representatives from Lucasfilm met with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to agree to produce Episode VII in the UK. Beginning in September 2013, production spaces at the Bad Robot facility were converted for shooting of Episode VII for the benefit of shooting a minor portion of the film in the United States.
The film's costume designer was Michael Kaplan, who had previously worked with Abrams on his Star Trek films. Film editors Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon, also long-term collaborators with Abrams, were also signed. In August 2013, it was announced that cinematographer Daniel Mindel would be shooting the film on 35 mm film (specifically Kodak 5219). In October 2013, other crew members were confirmed, including sound designer Ben Burtt, director of photography Daniel Mindel, production designers Rick Carter and Darren Gilford, costume designer Michael Kaplan, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, re-recording mixer Gary Rydstrom, supervising sound editor Matthew Wood, visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, and executive producers Tommy Harper and Jason McGatlin.
The cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con International (L–R: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford)
Full Cast Intro
On April 29, 2014, the cast was announced with a photo of the first table read of the script at Pinewood Studios near London, picturing director Abrams with Ford, Daisy Ridley, Fisher, Peter Mayhew, producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm president and producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Hamill, Serkis, Oscar Isaac, Boyega, Driver, and writer Lawrence Kasdan.
Not pictured but included in the cast are Max von Sydow and Kenny Baker. The announcement was originally planned for May 4 (Star Wars Day), but announced early due to fears of media leaks. More casting is expected, including a major female role. In June 2014, Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline Christie were announced in the cast.
In May, Abrams announced a donation contest for UNICEF from the Star Wars set in Abu Dhabi; the winner was allowed to visit the set, meet members of the cast and appear in the film.
In October 2014, Warwick Davis, who played Wald and Weazle in The Phantom Menace and Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi, announced that he would appear in The Force Awakens, but did not reveal his role. In November 2014, Reynolds confirmed that Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, is in the film.
Isaac's uncle, a massive Star Wars fan, was cast as an extra in the film at the invitation of Abrams upon visiting the set.
view over Skellig Michael showing stone beehive structures and Small Skellig island in the distance
concrete missile silo covered in grass
Skellig Michael in Ireland (top) and former RAF Greenham Common in England served as filming locations.
In February 2014, Abrams said filming would begin in May and last about three months. Sources told Hitfix that filming would wrap in September 2014. The official announcement came on March 18, when Disney and Lucasfilm announced that principal photography would commence in May and be based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. In March, it was revealed that pre-production filming would be taking place in Iceland prior to the start of official filming in May, consisting of landscape shots which would be used for scenery in the film. On April 2, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn confirmed that filming had begun, filming in secret in the U.A.E. emirate of Abu Dhabi by a second-unit. Later that month, it was revealed that in addition to 35mm film, segments of the film were being shot in the 65mm IMAX format. On July 8, Bad Robot reported on Twitter that the film would be at least partially shot on IMAX cameras.
In early May 2014, the studio posted a selfie taken by Iger with Chewbacca [pictured below.]
Iger stated the photo was taken when he visited Pinewood Studios two weeks earlier to discuss the shoot, "which was just about to start", with Abrams, Kennedy, and Horn. Principal photography began in Abu Dhabi on May 16, 2014. Abrams and members of the cast went to Abu Dhabi in early May, where large sets were built at the location, including a shuttle-like spacecraft, a large tower and a big market, and explosives were used to create a "blast crater". Cast members were spotted practicing driving vehicles that would be used during filming.Production moved to Pinewood Studios in June.
On June 12, Harrison Ford fractured his leg while filming at Pinewood after a hydraulic door fell on him, and was taken to a hospital. Production was suspended for two weeks to accommodate Ford's injury. Ford's son Ben stated that Ford's ankle would likely need a plate and screws and that filming could be altered slightly, with the crew needing to shoot Ford from the waist up for a short time until he recovered. Jake Steinfeld, Ford's personal trainer, said in July that Ford was recovering rapidly. Coincidentally, Abrams also injured his back when he was trying to help lift the door after Ford's accident. However, he kept this to himself and did not tell anyone about it for over a month.
On July 29, 2014, filming took place over three days at Skellig Michael island off the coast of County Kerry in Ireland with a cast including Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley. Production was halted for two weeks in early August 2014 so Abrams could rework shooting in Ford's absence and resumed with a fully healed Ford in mid-August. In September 2014, the former RAF Greenham Common military base in Berkshire, near Pinewood Studios, was used as a filming location and featured set constructions of several spaceships from the Star Wars Universe.
RAF Greenham Today
Principal photography ended on November 3, 2014.
Cinematographer Daniel Mindel stated that The Force Awakens would use real locations and scale models over computer-generated imagery to make it aesthetically similar to the original Star Wars trilogy. Rian Johnson, director of Episode VIII, reiterated that Abrams would use little CGI and more practical, traditional special effects, saying: "I think people are coming back around to [practical effects]. It feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back toward it. I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick.” Abrams' intention in prioritising practical special effects was to recreate the visual realism and authenticity of the original Star Wars. To that end, the droid BB-8 was a physical prop that was developed by Disney Research in partnership with Sphero, created by special effects artist Neal Scanlan and operated live on set with the actors.
new adition BB8 droid
In August 2015, Abrams gave the estimated running time of the film as 124–125 minutes.
In February 2014, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) announced plans to open a facility in London, citing Disney's Star Wars films as a catalyst for the expansion. ILM's Vancouver branch will also work on the special effects for the film.
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