Yesterday in Los Angeles, the Force Awakened for journalists from around the world, as Star Wars held its big press day. There were costumes and artwork on display, new video games to be tried out…and a press conference featuring the stars of the movie, in two groupings.
You may have seen quotes from this at other sites yesterday…but we’re pleased to bring you the whole thing. Moderated by Mindy Kaling, the press conference included J.J. Abrams, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o and Lawrence Kasdan.
Mindy Kaling: I’m just going to start. My name is Mindy Kaling. I know when you think of me, the first thing you think of is a huge Star Wars fan, but I actually am a Star Wars fan, because Star Wars is a series of movies…Carrie, come up here please! [Carrie Fisher arrives onstage.]
Carrie Fisher: Sure, right next to you. Before and after! [laughter]
MK: I was saying the reason I love Star Wars is I think it defies genres. I think that parts of it are better than any romantic comedy you could watch. It’s an action movie, it’s a buddy movie. There’s inter-species friendships. In fact, everything, except the boxing movies that come out every holiday season. It has everything. I thought I would just tell you a little bit more about it.
I’m here to run this press conference for a movie that needs no introduction, but I love to talk, so I’m going to say a little bit more. On May 27, 1977, George Lucas’s Star Wars opened in US theaters. No one could have predicted the huge impact the imaginative movie would have on people. Not just on audiences at the time, but generations to come. The film went on to garner 10 Academy Award nominations, spawned the birth of the special effects industry, and rewrite the future of film making and film makers.
The Force Awakens begins a whole new chapter in the story. Good luck, J.J.! While doing research on this, I saw every interview that these guys have done, and I talked to J.J. I didn’t want to ask them any questions that you could just Google an answer for. For instance, if you asked Daisy Ridley how she felt when she was cast, she was going to say “Very excited!” So I thought I would ask them questions that I’ve never heard.
So, J.J., I thought I would start by asking you the question I think everyone wants to ask you, which is: Aren’t you rich? Why did you want to do these films? [laughter]Don’t you have a hot wife who doesn’t need you to be in Abu Dhabi for months at a time?
Carrie Fisher: Did you want to borrow money from him or something?
MK: I need $50,000 for an invention – I’ll talk to you about it later.
J.J. Abrams: Here’s the thing. This is a project that I felt incredibly lucky to be asked to be a part of. I think I speak for all of us, except for maybe Harrison, when I say this was not a job. I’m kidding – Harrison was unbelievable. But the process of this movie – to a person on the crew, to a person on the cast – this was not a job. This was nothing that I think any one of us took on because it was a gig that was available. It was something that felt like a true passion, and something that every single person brought much more than any of us could have expected. So I do, honestly feel honored to be part of this group.
MK: Who was the most difficult actor to work with? [laughter]I have a guess in my mind who it is. I’m curious what the answer is.
JJA.: It was definitely whoever is not on this couch. [laughter]Definitely Oscar. No, no, no! Everyone was shockingly and eerily wonderful to work with, and to get to work with people like Carrie and Harrison and Mark – people who I was a fan of since I was 11 years old – and also actors like Lupita and Daisy and Adam and John – it was so much fun to see them work together, then to see how that alchemy came out. It was really a spectacular and fun thing every day on set.
MK: Carrie, I have a question for you. I’m a big fan of your writing. I love Postcards from the Edge. You coined one of my favorite lines ever, which is “Do you always speak in bumper sticker?” I’ve seen a lot of interviews with you, and one thing I can say about you is you do not speak in bumper stickers. I think it’s because you get asked a lot of stupid questions.
I was going to ask you – you have an amazing sense of humor. Do you think that Princess Leia has a good sense of humor?
CF: She would have to, wearing those hair pieces. No, I do have now a baboon ass hair style, so – [laughter]– I mean that with love. So you need a sense of humor for that sort of thing. It keeps it lively and fun when you’re getting shot at. No – it’s the hair that really makes you funny. Well, you should know that.
MK: This is all someone else’s hair. Adam – Kylo Ren looks hilarious. Again, I have not seen the movie, but in all seriousness, he seems very focused and obsessed. In my mind, he’s like Robert DeNiro’s character in King of Comedy.[laughter]Is any of this even approximating the truth? Again, I’ve not seen the movie. If so, I’m a genius. If not, then what is he like?
Adam Driver: Kylo Ren…
MK: Is he a Rupert Pupkin? Lawrence, you can answer this question too.
AD: He makes a lot of videos for his mom.
MK: He makes a lot of videos for his mom. [laughter]
AD: He’s a great cook. He’s a Scorpio. [laughter]He’s very unpolished and unfinished, and I think what J.J. and Larry did, keeping all the vocabulary that everyone is very familiar with in Star Wars, and the Dark Side, and keeping that very much intact, but also adding that kind of recklessness or something that’s kind of ‘un-neat’ about it that I think people normally associate with the Dark Side being organized and very in control and calm and in command.
MK: I think of the Dark Side as extremely organized, in a very evil way. Is that something that you’ve continued?
JJA: Well, uh, Larry, I don’t know if you want to speak to this, but one of our thoughts was to try to do something a little bit different.
Lawrence Kasdan: That’s why we were so excited about Adam playing this part, because there’s never been a character like Kylo in Star Wars. He hasn’t got his shit all together. And Adam acts it so beautifully, because what you’re looking at is – you expect “Oh, this is some evil genius,” you know, but what you’re getting is all the contradictions and the conflicts that people feel – any one of us can feel at any moment. That’s what’s so amazing, and I think that’s what’s unique about what Adam has done.
MK: Lupita, you play a former space pirate who now runs a bar. I am wondering, because you seem to me like a female Sam Malone from the American TV show Cheers. That would mean that Yoda is Norm. You may not know this, but can you talk about your relationship with Yoda, and is it convivial? Carrie, tell her a little bit about your Cheers…
CF: Sexual, I said. Sexual!
Lupita Nyong’o: He was my first love. [laughter]
MK: That’s a movie I would like to see.
LN: Yeah, that’s a good movie too. Ideas for Disney. [laughter]Yeah, what?
MK: Can you speak about your character’s relationship with Yoda, which is something – [to J.J.]can she?
JJA.: I’ll say this, in an attempt to save my friend Lupita from this slightly awesomely geeky question. I do believe that Maz and Yoda at one point had crossed paths, but that is not something, of course, due to the events of past films, that happens in this one.
MK: OK. You recently were in a play in New York City. I’m wondering what the experience was working with actors versus what I can only imagine in this was a sometimes very solitary experience shooting this movie?
LN: Fortunately for me, J.J. had me be a part of principal photography, so my very first experience with motion capture was on the actual sets with the actual actors. So I’m eternally grateful to him for giving me that, because it was a great way to get into this wonderful, crazy thing called motion capture. I got to be on those sets and see those things and feel them, and the art direction in this – there’s so much detail! Even when you’re standing on that set, it’s mesmerizing. I think audiences are going to be – they’re going to have a very immersive experience, much like we had filming it.
It was good to have that. The physicality is something that carries on into theater, for sure. That was a thing that attracted me to the idea of playing motion capture. The idea of working on a character who wasn’t limited by my physical circumstances, and I could work with my body in new ways, and I continued that onto the stage.
JJA.: Allow me to say one thing that Lupita would not, which is that she was remarkably tireless and willing to experiment with different versions of this character. And it was kind of an amazing thing to discover over various iterations of Maz what she sounded like, how she moved. It was really – I’ve never been through this before with an actor where we got to discover again and again and again how to better tell the story we were telling. I always felt guilty, every time we started up another session, every time we did some reshoots, every single time, Lupita was willing and game and deeply committed and into finding Maz Kanata’s voice, and again, I’m just eternally grateful.
LN: Thank you, J.J.!
MK: It confirmed something I came into this thinking, which was that Lupita Nyong’o is a good actress.
JJA.: I was shocked to discover she’s a fantastic actress. It never crossed my mind! [laughter]
MK: Daisy, I know we have the questions from everyone here, but I have a question for you, which is athletes have a walk-up song. When they’re entering an arena, they have a song that they’ve chosen to pump them up, and it expresses who they are. Ronda Rousey’s is Joan Jett’s song Bad Reputation. I was wondering what your character’s walk-up song would be?
Daisy Ridley: I actually have one. Not to advertise Disney any more, but it’s Mulan – I’ll Make a Man out of You. [hollers]I used to play it on the trailer before I went on.
JJA.: Can we hear a little bit?
DR: [singing]“Mister, I’ll make a man out of you.” [applause]
MK: So I think we should open up for questions. I have more, but I’ll pop in inappropriately.
Q: My question is for J.J. Abrams. What to you was the most important thing to bring to The Force Awakens from the original trilogy?
JJA.: Uh – when Kathy Kennedy and Larry and I started talking about what this was, at the very beginning, the fundamental question was what do we want to feel, and what do we want people to feel when they came to this movie? That was really the beginning of the discussion. The answer was the kind of sense of discovery, exhilaration, surprise – the comedy that George Lucas put into Star Wars was for me, the thing that made me love the movie. But when you look at all the things he got right, it’s impossible and stunning.
So for us, at the very beginning, it was about knowing why we were telling this story, and it was to give people that sense of possibility and magic that we all felt when we first saw the original Star Wars movies. But I would just say this is all to tell you a story. Meaning it’s not a nostalgia trip. We had to go backwards in order to go forwards. If you look at 4, 5 and 6, those are stories that continue. This is 7. So the history of 7 will be what we’ve seen before. So the fabric needed to be that we are familiar with in order to tell a brand new story. Thank you.
Q: This question is for Carrie and Daisy. Can you talk a little bit about bringing out the girl power in the original trilogy, and also The Force Awakens?
CF: No. [laughter]Daisy?
DR: You began this whole thing.
CF: I am the beginning of girl power. [applause]Deal with it! [laughter]I got to be the only girl on the all-boy set, which was really fun – to put things in their drinks and stuff like that. [laughter]We drank through the whole trilogy in the beginning. This was a sober set, so that’s what J.J. brought to this, was sobriety.
Girl power? She’s more powerful than the girl – yes, I’m louder than you – so she takes on the physical power, and then I scream at them until they pass out. [laughter]Not scream – I make fun of them. That’s what was really fun about doing anything girl-power-esque, is bossing men around. I know a lot of you women out there haven’t done that yet – I encourage you to do so later this afternoon. [laughter]
DR: Well, obviously, Princess Leia, and Carrie, is a source of inspiration for girls for the past 30 years, and I’m not quite there yet, but I hope Rey will be something of a girl power figure. I think with writing like J.J.’s and Larry’s, and with a story of which she was woven into richly, and an ultimately important role, I guess there’s no other way except to say she will have some impact in a girl-power-y way. She’s brave and she’s vulnerable, and she’s so nuanced.
That’s what’s so exciting playing a role like this. She doesn’t have to be one thing to embody a woman in a film. And to me, she’s not important because she’s a woman – she’s just important. It just so happens that she’s a woman. She transcends gender. She’s going to speak to men and women. But obviously, it started with Leia, and Leia’s still there, kicking ass. We’ve got Maz kicking ass too, so it’s wonderful to be part of – obviously, with Kathy in the helm as well, a wonderful crew and cast with wonderful women.