This year, Hall H stood for “Hyperdrive.”
Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel at Comic-Con had aliens, an intriguing behind-the-scenes-video that raised as many questions as it answered, an appearance by the trio of new villains on Team Dark Side, a 6,000-strong nerd-herd hustling to a post-show symphony concert and the first public appearance by Harrison Ford since his terrifying plane crash.
Entertainment Weekly has the complete rundown. Let’s see if you can read it in under 12 parsecs …
5:40 p.m. PT — The Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel begins with moderator Chris Hardwick declaring: “Guys, we are in this! This is happening right now! I know a lot of you guys waited a long time to get here. Decades, really!”
5:43 p.m. PT — Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, director J.J. Abrams, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan take the stage.
“Obviously a lot of people out there know Star Wars is 100 percent dependent on fans around the world and in this room since 1976,” Kennedy says. “We want to say thank you to all of you.”
Where are they in production? “We’re editing. We have a cut of the movie. We’re in this extraordinary movement where we’re fine tuning,” Abrams says. “We’re working hard to make the movie more of what it wants to be.”
5:49 p.m. PT — Kasdan pays homage to George Lucas, saying none of us would be here without him. “Then 30 years past, and those movies never went out of my life or my consciousness, and a call came and said would you come back and meet these characters again 30 years later,” he says. “So there was never any disjunction in my life.” He said when he found out Abrams would be directing the movie, “I went berserk.”
“In a bad way,” Abrams joked, adding that Star Wars holds a similar place in the lives of the fans. “It’s deeply ingrained for so many people.”
NEXT PAGE: An alien pays a visit …
5:50 p.m. PT — Talk turns to practical effects and alien creatures. Bobbajo takes the stage, a puppet first seen in one of Abrams’ Force For Change charity videos. Five people have to operate it, Abrams says, as it shuffles across the platform. Many of these beings are background figures, he adds. “What’s so cool about them is it gives the actors in the scenes things to actually interact with and play with and respond to.”
Bobbajo shuffles across the stage, considers the crowd, and walks back, biting a piece of paper off the table in front of Abrams before ambling away.
5:55 p.m. PT — A break for audience questions. First up — a guy dressed as Batman, doing a gravelly voice: “What influences, what amalgam of concepts did you draw upon to make this film, whether it be comics, video games, or other movies?”
“I couldn’t really understand you,” Abrams jokes. “We tried to sit down and ask ourselves what feels right. The only real mandate we had was, what delights us? That doesn’t mean it has to be fun or silly, that means it just has to be compelling … To be writing a Star Wars script with Larry Kasdan [who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi] — when you say what would Han say, he’d go, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what Han would say …'” With that, Abrams broke into a somewhat nasally impression of the screenwriter, who responded — in exactly the same voice — “Obviously, he can’t do me at all.”
Abrams says he had to do more than deliver nostalgia. “Our job is to not be blinded by that,” he says. “When you’re directing a scene on the Millennium Falcon, that doesn’t make it good,” Abrams said. “It’s bitchin’ that it’s on the Millennium Falcon … but it doesn’t make the scene automatically good.” He says they put extra effort to make sure characters had motivation and emotion, and the team also tried to figure out what would be surprising and break with what came before while still honoring tradition.
6:00 p.m. PT — While answering a question about the interlocked series of films, Kennedy says that Rogue One, director Gareth Edwards’ spin-off film about the raid of the original Death Star plans, begins shooting in three weeks.
NEXT PAGE: Watch the panel’s behind-the-scenes reel!
6:03 p.m. PT — As EW reported earlier in the week, there is no trailer. Abrams says that won’t come until the fall. But they are showing a three-minute behind the scenes reel.
The video shows miniatures of crashed X-Wings and other starships, a masked Stormtrooper marching a handcuffed Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) in a Death Star-like Imperial set, and Carrie Fisher in a brown vest and battle-like fatigues with her hair tightly braided, reminiscent of her Hoth outfit.
Also, it shows Simon Pegg, who denied playing a Stormtrooper extra, dressed in an apparent alien costume with a wet rag on his head (presumably to ease the heat) while he laughed. (No sign of Daniel Craig as a Stormtrooper, though.)
6:07 p.m. PT — John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Daisy Ridley take the stage.
Boyega shows a photo of him incognito in a Clone Trooper mask, having a lightsaber battle with a fan at April’s Star Wars Celebration convention. A guy in the crowd begins shouting, “That’s me!! THAT’S ME!!” No rematch, though.
6:10 p.m. PT — Ridley says she went through intensive training for the action scenes. “We were running through 125 degree heat and those explosions were real,” she said. “I think John had it harder.”
“I’d just like to thank J.J. Abrmas for shooting in Abu Dhabi in the desert and making me wear a Stormtrooper outfit,” Boyega joked.
Rey said she only hopes her costume in the finished film “reveals my guns,” she says flexing her arm. “I worked hard for these.”
To play “best friggin’ pilot in the galaxy” Poe Dameron, Isaac says he asked Harrison Ford for some advice about what it means to be a galactic pilot. “How should I do it? Is there any special things I could do? How do I work with the controls?” Isaac said. Ford’s answer: “It’s fake.”
Isaac said Dameron was probably a little kid who grew up with the Star Wars history the same way many in the audience grew up with the fictional stories. “Poe was probably there on Yavin [in the original Star Wars] when the medal ceremony was happening thinking, ‘I want to be that, I want to be a hero and take up that mantle,'” Isaac said. “And so he does, although sometimes recklessly.”
6:12 p.m. PT — A fan asks Abrams if he will include any Asian actors in major roles. Abrams says there some in The Force Awakens, but doesn’t specify who. He says they didn’t write any of the characters to be any color or ethnicity, and tried to mix up the casting to represent what our world looks like. Kennedy adds that the future films will prioritize diversifying the human denizens of the galaxy.
6:17 p.m. PT — What was it like working with the veteran actors? Boyega says his favorite memory was taking Harrison Ford to a Nigerian restaurant in Southeast London. A Nigerian man came up and said in a heavy accent, “‘Are you Harrison Ford?’ and Harrison Ford goes, ‘I used to be…'”
Asked what color their lightsabers would be if they were Jedi, here’s how the panel answered:
Kennedy: “Blue, right away.”
Abrams: “Listen, I’m going to say red.”
Kasdan: “I would like to have the first black one.”
Boyega: “I’d say gold.”
Ridley: “And I’m going to say silver.”
Isaac: “Are there rainbow colored?”
NEXT PAGE: Meet the new villains of Team Dark Side …
6:22 p.m. PT — The Dark Side of the Force makes its presence known. Kylo Ren star Adam Driver takes the stage, as well as Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, a character never before revealed, and Gwendoline Christie as the chrome Stormtrooper Captain Phasma.
Can Driver tell the fans anything about his connection to the Dark Side? “No,” the Girls star says.
“Say something,” Abrams says.
“What do you want me to say?” Driver asks.”We didn’t have a lot of conversations about bad or evil. Instead it was the difference between someone who thinks they’re bad, and somebody who thinks they’re right … That’s almost more evil, a group of people who’ve decided they’re morally justified in behaving a certain way.”
“No character really goes, ‘I am evil!'” Hardwick says.
Gleeson says simply: “I’m evil. He’s British. So, yeah.” Hardwick says General Hux is using a large weaponized machine that contains something, but Gleeson doesn’t take the bait to reveal more.
Later he says Hux is “in charge of people on a Starkiller base, whu — uh-oh, hang on. Is that all right?” he says looking at Abrams.
Abrams shrugs. “The name of the base of the First Order, in honor of the original last name of Luke Skywalker, is Starkiller Base — spoiled by Domnhall Gleeson.”
Christie says she found it “exciting that there was a female Stormtrooper,” a character “who is totally not about the way she looks in the flesh. That armor is not only the exterior, but it’s the outside feeding in. I just found it exciting that underneath that armor is a woman, and I find that more relevant than ever.”
6:27 p.m. PT — Carrie Fisher is introduced. “It was like a flashback. They were right about the acid flashbacks,” Princess Leia says. “It was a little like the first time, but we looked more melted this time. … We’re known as the ‘Legacy People,’ so I think of us as a tap dancing troop.”
6:29 p.m. PT — Mark Hamill joins the stage and a picture of him at fan convention in 1976 is shown onscreen. “We only had photographs, no footage. We had R2-D2 as a prop and C-3PO, although Anthony Daniels wasn’t inside it,” Hamill says. “With only 25 photographs to show, it was hard to describe it.”
NEXT PAGE: Harrison Ford is back on the clock as Han Solo!
6:34 p.m. PT — And now … Harrison Ford! The actor is making his first public appearance since being injured in a March plane crash.
The crowd in Hall H fills with deafening roars! It’s enough to rival an auditorium full of Wookiees.
He has a limp, but walks out and hugs Hamill and shares a kiss with Fisher. Asked how he is, Ford says: “I’m fine.” His leg is still injured, but he seemed determined to avoid the issue of his crash. “My foot? I just walked here. I’m good. I really appreciate, and thank you for asking.”
How did it feel coming back to Star Wars? “It should have felt ridiculous,” he says. “It was 30-frmmph years ago, and I sort of grew up! Here I was doing something that I did so long ago. But I can tell you that it felt great. I wasn’t so sure it would, but the company was the right company. The director was the right director, Larry you wrote us a wonderful story, and I was proud and grateful to once again be involved.”
“The original Star Wars that I was a part of really was the beginning of my working life, and I was very, very grateful for the opportunity that I had in that film, and for the success of that film. So it’s great to be back.”
6:40 p.m. PT — “I was just glad I didn’t have to go to Tosche Station and pick up any power converters,” Hamill says, quoting one of his more whiny lines from the original film. That set off the other two veterans to quote their most hated lines.
“I have placed information vital to the survival of the Rebellion into the memory systems of this R2 unit,” Fisher said. “I don’t want to do that again. We were more grown up this time, I think.”
“I didn’t have to say, ‘It will take a few minutes for the navi-computer to calculate the coordinates,” Ford said as Fisher completed the final words of the sentence with him.
Where did the actors think their characters would have ended up before The Force Awakens told them?
Hamill says he expected Luke to live like Obi-Wan Kenobi, off on “in some igloo in the desert with no human contests, just droids.” He says he imagines Luke was distressed to learn the only woman he fell for turned out to be his sister. “That must have been quite the traumatic experience, you know, because we were both after her.”
Ford rubbed his shoulder, and rolled his eyes. “How many times do I have to say I’m sorry?”
6:50 p.m. PT — As the panel wraps up, the audience is surprised with a treat. “Who wants to see a live Star Wars concert right now?” Abrams says. “We only have room for all of you!”
He says all 6,000-plus Hall H attendees can exit the auditorium and get a badge that will gain entrance to a performance of John Williams’ score. New score? No, a performance of his classic Star Wars soundtracks.
6:50 p.m. PT — As all of Hall H vacates the premises, Hardwick says: “I want to apologize to Kevin Smith, who has the next panel.”
7:50 p.m. PT — More than an hour later, the thousands of fans from the hall — plus a couple thousand more, crowd into the makeshift theater along the water to hear the San Diego Symphony Orchestra perform selections from Williams’ previous Star Wars compositions.
Every fan was given a plastic, glowing lightsaber and the audience is a field of swaying laser swords as the actors again emerge onstage. Ford hobbles out jokingly using one of the toy lightsabers as a cane.
As the sun sets, the music begins … and another Star Wars reveal fades to black.
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