‘Star Wars’ Strikes Back: Behind the Scenes of the Biggest Movie of the Year
It is a bleak time for the Republic. It is a period of great struggle for the entire planet, and not only is the dark side winning, it’s no longer clear any other side even exists. Seriously, you guys – Earth is messed up. Just ask a polar bear, or an almond farmer, or a GOP debate moderator. Or maybe check in with Luke Skywalker.
“The world is so horrible,” says Mark Hamill, Luke’s closest earthly representative, sitting in the shadow of swaying trees in his rather pleasant Malibu yard. At 64, Hamill is older than Alec Guinness was in the first Star Wars, and is in the process of regrowing a distinctly Obi-Wan-ish beard. “Between the Middle East and gun violence and global warming and racism, it’s just horrible. And people need this. It’s therapeutic.”
The “this” in question is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, out on December 18th and directed by geek hero J.J. Abrams, fresh from rebooting the Star Trek franchise. It is the seventh Star Wars movie, and the first not under the control of the saga’s gnomic creator, George Lucas, who let it all go in 2012, selling Lucasfilm and its franchise to Disney for $4 billion. The Force Awakens will return to the Star Wars galaxy three decades after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi, launching what Disney intends to be an endless series of movies.
Jedi ended with what appeared to be a total defeat for the evil Empire, capped with what Harrison Ford called a “teddy-bear picnic” of dancing Ewoks, complete with smiley Jedi ghosts at the sidelines. The Rebel Alliance might as well have pinned a “Mission Accomplished” banner to a tree on the forest moon of Endor.
“With any movie that ends with going off in the sunset and a celebratory moment, you can ask, ‘Well, what happened the day after?'” says Abrams. “Then decades go past. We were literally asking, ‘Well, what happened to the disbanded Empire? What happened to the Republic?'”
It is perversely comforting to learn that even in that fairy-tale distant galaxy, even with the Force on its heroes’ side, history simply refuses to stop. “Someone’s story doesn’t end with the big triumph,” says screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with Lucas, and returned to script The Force Awakens alongside Abrams (with The Big Chill and much more in between). “Life goes on. In those 30 years, a lot of things had happened in my life, so you have to assume that things have happened to these characters – and that was part of the fun of it.”
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