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Abrams recalls first cut of ‘Force’ – Lucas felt like divorced father watching ‘Star Wars’ film

Models present a creation during the 12th Chanel Metiers d’Art show ‘Paris-Rome’, an annual event to honor craftsmanship that artisan partners bring to the house’s collections on Dec 1, at the Cinecitta studios in Rome. (AFP)
Models present a creation during the 12th Chanel Metiers d’Art show ‘Paris-Rome’, an annual event to honor craftsmanship that artisan partners bring to the house’s collections on Dec 1, at the Cinecitta studios in Rome. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES, Dec 2, (Agencies): On a recent visit to “The Howard Stern Show,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams recalled his experience of screening the first cut of the movie, which had no visual effects, for Disney execs Bob Iger, Alan Horn and Alan Bergman.

“We screened the movie, and it was horrifying,” Abrams admitted. “I’m nervous beyond words, I’m showing this movie that I know is so far from finished, there’s not an effect in it…”

Abrams said he was even trying to temper their expectations before they saw the film: “It was a lot of me giving excuses before the screening,” he said. “I’m reading their body language while they’re watching it … I couldn’t tell if they were miserable or in ecstasy.”

Apparently, he needn’t have worried, because hearing their positive reaction after the screening was “the biggest relief of my life. And then of course I laughed and all I could think was ‘what do they know? They spent four billion dollars, they have to love it!’” Abrams chuckled. “I’m so critical about it, and their response was so kind. I’m like, ‘they’re just being nice.’”

Abrams also shared what led him to direct the film, after initially turning it down because he was tired of directing sequels and, as a “Star Wars” fan, just wanted to go to the theater and watch it like everyone else. After being invited to sit down with producer Kathleen Kennedy, Abrams said the story just started to flow.

“We just started talking about what the story could be and as we were talking about it I found myself suddenly on fire about what this movie could be,” Abrams said.

Excited

The idea that Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia would be myths to people was what excited Abrams, especially if the story was told from the perspective of “a new, young female character,” who ended up becoming Daisy Ridley’s Rey.

“That question of this young woman asking ‘who is Luke Skywalker?’ I don’t know why, but it made me feel like ‘that’s so cool,’” Abrams admitted. “These would be essentially kids who didn’t see ‘Star Wars’ themselves, in this movie, who would be in this universe,” Abrams continued. “The idea of discovering or re-discovering this world that had been created.”

The “Force Awakens” director also spoke, for assuredly the umpteenth time, Luke’s absence from the trailers.

“I hate when I go and see a trailer and I feel like I’ve just seen the whole movie in an encapsulated form,” Abrams said. “I’d rather be asking questions and feel that they’d been answered for me [by the film].”

He also touched on the controversy that emerged following the casting of John Boyega as Finn, a Stormtrooper who happens to be black.

“All I know is that John Boyega is extraordinary in the movie,” he said. “I think the people who are complaining probably have a lot bigger problems than [that] there’s a black Stormtrooper.”

 “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, who was not involved in making the long-awaited new film, “The Force Awakens,” said he is as ambivalent about seeing the movie as a divorced father would be about attending his child’s wedding.

Lucas, who sold the franchise to Disney three years ago for some $4 billion, told the Washington Post in an interview he had no connection with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which opens worldwide on Dec 18.

Despite initial reports that Lucas would act as a consultant, the director said Disney “didn’t like” the stories he had outlined for the three sequels.

“There is no such thing as working over someone’s shoulder,” Lucas told the Post in the interview published on Monday.

“You’re either the dictator or you’re not. And to do that would never work, so I said ‘I’m going to get divorced.’ …I knew that I couldn’t be involved. All I’d do is make them miserable. I’d make myself miserable. It would probably ruin a vision — J.J. (Abrams) has a vision, and it’s his vision.”

At the time of the interview, about two weeks ago, Lucas said he had yet to see the film, which reunites original 1977 cast members Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill and is directed by J.J. Abrams.

Decision

Lucas said watching it would be like a divorced man going to the wedding of a grown child. “My ex will be there, my new wife will be there, but I’m going to have to take a very deep breath and be a good person and sit through it and just enjoy the moment, because it is what it is and it’s a conscious decision that I made.”

Lucas also defended his controversial decision to change a key scene in the original 1977 movie in which pilot Han Solo (played by Ford) opened fire first on bounty hunter Greedo.

When the digitally enhanced version was re-released in 1997, it was Greedo who shot first, creating one of the most enduring and divisive debates among “Star Wars” fans.

“Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, ‘Should he be a cold-blooded killer?’ “ Lucas told the Post, adding he thought of the Han Solo character as a John Wayne type hero. “When you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people (first) — you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.”

Carrie Fisher has revealed that she was pressured to lose weight for her role in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

In an interview with Good Housekeeping, Fisher said she was pushed to lose more than 35 pounds for the new film.

“They don’t want to hire all of me — only about three-quarters!” Fisher said. “Nothing changes, it’s an appearance-driven thing. I’m in a business where the only thing that matters is weight and appearance. That is so messed up. They might as well say get younger, because that’s how easy it is.”

She added, “When I do lose the weight, I don’t like that it makes me feel good about myself. It’s not who I am. My problem is they talk to me like an actress but I hear them like a writer… We treat beauty like an accomplishment and that is insane.”

Fisher’s revelation echoes her recent comments to “Force Awakens” co-star and franchise newcomer Daisy Ridley. “You should fight for your outfit,” Fisher said in a conversation with Ridley for Interview Magazine. “Don’t be a slave like I was… I am not a sex symbol, so that’s an opinion of someone. I don’t share that.”

You’d think Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Broadway hypemagnet “Hamilton,” would have hit peak pop-culture saturation by now, but then he had to go and top himself: The writer-composer-actor also wrote new music for a cantina scene in the upcoming blockbuster “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The film’s director, J.J. Abrams, revealed Miranda’s participation on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” throwing in a little of the backstory of how the Broadway creative got involved in “The Force Awakens.”

In the clip, Abrams recalls that he met Miranda at intermission during one of the performances of “Hamilton” in which Miranda wasn’t appearing. Miranda introduced himself and made a jokey offer to write new cantina music — not knowing that Abrams was on the hunt for someone to write a tune for a “Force Awakens” version of the famous cantina scene in “Star Wars: A New Hope.” (Composer John Williams, who wrote the original cantina music, had wanted to bow out and concentrate on the rest of the new film’s score.)

Miranda confirmed the news on his own, very active twitter feed.

Cultural

Exact details of the song, and the scene in which it appears, remain under wraps. But however the tune is used, it’s just one more thing that makes Miranda the it-boy of musical theater, and “Hamilton” the kind of cultural juggernaut that Broadway hasn’t spawned in years.

If the teasers, trailers and hints haven’t sated your appetite for all things Star Wars in advance of the latest entry in the franchise, then it’s time to tap into the force of fan films.

These sometimes hilarious, sometimes awe-inspiring and always off-canon creations are showcases for the creativity of Star Wars fanatics. You’ve got to give them credit for piecing together trailer hints into logical themes, pulling off low-budget special effects, and acting in generally cheesy fashion.

And fear not — the Disney empire won’t be striking back. The company encourages these mash-ups, having revived the annual Star Wars Fan Film Awards in 2014 two years after buying Lucasfilm.

Here’s a mini-marathon playlist to get you primed for the premiere of “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens”:

  1. A musical tribute to Star Wars fans set to Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” http://bit.ly/1PP5tFy
  2. A low-budget remake of “The Force Awakens” trailer. http://bit.ly/1kTP8To
  3. A special-effects laden duel, complete with Kylo Ren’s wicked lightsaber crossguard. http://bit.ly/1N892Ac
  4. The crew of the US aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower remade the teaser trailer, complete with real-life fighter pilots. http://bit.ly/1MRNtVe
  5. A clever stitching together of various teasers and trailers to date, including bits from international trailers and voice-overs from previous films. http://bit.ly/1NdffPN
  6. A lightsaber fight that gets extra points for the choreography (note the behind the back parry) and alternate endings. http://bit.ly/1QIxSxc
  7. Lightsaber boomerangs make this fan film scream “From Down Unda.” http://bit.ly/1Xrp6CK
  8. An officially sanctioned fan film that riffs on characters from the prequel trilogy and “The Clone Wars” animated series. http://bit.ly/1kTPGIZ
  9. A Boba Fett spin-off teaser premised on his escape from the sarlacc that swallowed him in “Return of the Jedi.” http://bit.ly/1Tf9B09
  10. Yet another lightsaber battle — this time taken to deliberately ridiculous extremes. Watch for the Minecraft reference. http://bit.ly/1LA5O7o

 “Star Wars” fans might be making a journey to the Midwest for future franchise releases.

The Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain has opened a “Star Wars”-themed movie theater in Omaha, Nebraska. The theater comes with all the bells and whistles that a fan of the series could want.

The light panels inside are replicated from Imperial ships; the concession stand (above) also draws from Death Star/Star Destroyer architecture; there is a 10-foot Death Star hanging in the lobby that includes a green superlaser. The big pull is the Emperor’s throne, though. It has controls that allow you to turn on the lobby’s Death Star. This theater is fully operational.

“The idea behind the lobby is that we wanted to construct and install a lobby theme that would make us unique in our Omaha market as well as the Midwest,” Drafthouse’s Omaha team said in a statement to EW. “We also wanted a theme that was built around an iconic film and to completely own that theme to immerse our guests in the experience. That is when ‘Star Wars’ came into the picture and it just so happened that we timed it out just right with the announcement of the huge plans for a new ‘Star Wars’ legacy starting this December. It is a permanent installation and will be the destination to see all of the new ‘Star Wars’ films.”

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