The dark and the light side of The Force were united at a secret location on Sunday afternoon for a press conference to discuss the long-awaited debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 12 days. (Given the extreme anticipation, the event was kept hush-hush to avoid any gate-crashing.)
The entire cast was set to participate, with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, and more appearing alongside director and co-writer J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. One person was conspicuously absent from the list: Mark Hamill.
“Where’s Luke?” could have been the very first question.
Here’s the rundown of the live press conference. (Times are all Pacific.)
2:23 - Mindy Kaling is the surprise moderator for the event! Abrams, Ridley, Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan are the first batch to appear.
“Aren’t you rich? Why did you want to do these movies?” is Kaling’s first question.
“Do you want to borrow money,” Fisher says.
“It was nothing that any one of us took on because it was a gig that was available. It was something they felt like true passion, And each person brought much more than was expected,” Abrams says.
“Who was the most difficult actor to work with?” Kaling asks.
“It was definitely nobody on this couch,” Abrams says. “Oscar Isaac!”
2:28 – Kaling notes that Fisher is known for her sense of humor, and asks if Princess Leia has one, too. “She would have to,” Fisher said. “Wearing those hairstyles? I do now have a baboon-ass hairstyle … I mean that with love. So you need a sense of humor for that sort of thing.”
2:30 – For Adam Driver, Kaling jokes that the villain Kylo Ren looks “hilarious.” “He’s a great cook. He’s a Scorpio,” Driver deadpanned, before turning serious. “He’s very unpolished and unfinished… [The movie] adds a recklessness and something un-neat about it that people don’t normally associate – with the Dark Side being very organized.”
Kasdan says there’s never been a character like Ren in the saga. “He doesn’t have his shit all together,” the screenwriter says. “You’re getting all the contradictions and conflicts that people feel. That’s what’s unique about what Adam has done.”
2:31 – Kaling asks Nyong’o about her thousand-year-old space pirate, Maz Kanata, who now runs a bar. Kaling asks about her relationship with Yoda.“He was my first love,” Nyong’o says. “That’s a movie I want to see,” Kaling adds. “Ideas for Disney,” Nyong’o agrees.
Abrams says that is not something, that happens in this one.
2:40 – Kaling asks Fisher and Ridley about bringing “girl power” to Star Wars. “I am the beginning of girl power!” Fisher enthuses. “Deal with it!” She says she had fun back in the days of making the original trilogy as “the only girl on the all-boys set. It was really fun,” she said. “I got to put things in their drinks and stuff like that. We drank through the whole trilogy in the beginning. This [The Force Awakens] was a sober set,” she added. “That’s what J.J. brought to it. Sobriety!”
2:45 – Abrams says one of the most awkward things for him in making this movie was casting Nyong’o as a tiny alien. “You cast someone as beautiful as Lupita, and you have her a motion-capture character?” he says. “I’m like, ‘Would it be okay if she were ugly?”
2:50 – Driver says the movie reflects the way our own world moves on from war and tragedy. “We have such short memories of huge events, and mass genocide, and then we forget about it, it seems,” Driver says, and then it seems the same horrors repeat themselves. In terms of Star Wars, he says, the heroes we know have evolved, but the problems they face are eternal. “Finding these people, a lot of things have changed, but the circumstances are the same,” Driver says. “I found that very true.”
2:53 - Are there Ewoks in the movie?
“Living?” Abrams replied, to groans and laughs from the crowd. “Listen, if a man can’t joke with friends…” he said. “No, there are no Ewoks in this film.”
“That you know of,” Fisher adds.
“Right, there are rumors some may have snuck onto the set,” Abrams allows. “There are a lot of them in Return of the Jedi.”
2:55 - Driver is asked about Kylo Ren in the history of Star Wars antagonists. “We tried to not think about that as much as possible. And not try to think of him as being bad, or evil, or a villain. Something that was more three-dimensional. He’s more dangerous and unpredictable, and morally justified in doing what he thinks is right.”
2:58 - Will there be an extra scene after the credits? “No, there’s not,” Abrams says.
3:00 - Kylo Ren was the character whose costume took the most work to realize, the filmmaker says, and went through thousands of potential interations, including a version that eventually became the chrome-plated armor of Captain Phasma.
Abrams says Lupita Nyong’o’s costume was only motion-capture but had to go through extensive dotting, so the software could track her facial movements. “She even had dots on her teeth,” Abrams said, apparently not joking. “I’m still finding them in things,” Nyong’o says.
Fisher described General Leia’s appearance and costume, with a vest and durable clothes, as “a classy gas-station attendant look,” which causes Abrams to double-over laughing.
3:03 - One reporter asks Fisher if her dog Gary could ever play a “long-tongued alien” in the Star Wars universe. “I wish!” Fisher says. “I begged J.J. Gary was willing to sleep with J.J.!” The crowd laughs, but Fisher clarifies: “I mean nap – but still.”
VIDEO: J.J. Abrams on Leia’s evolution from princess to general
3:14 - Part two of the press conference starts with Harrison Ford, Kathleen Kennedy, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, and Oscar Isaac.
3:15 - Kaling asks Ford the same question she asked Abrams: “Aren’t you rich? Why would you want to do this?”
“It’s what I do,” Ford says. “It’s what I like to do. It’s what’s fun for me,” he says, praising Abrams and the rest of the crew. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Later he adds: “It’s fun to play with these toys again.”
3:16 - Kaling says she knows Kennedy can’t talk about what’s in the movie, so she asks what’s not in the movie. “Jar Jar is not in the movie,” Kennedy says, to hoots from the audience. “Ewoks are not in the movie. Harrison insisted on it.”
“It was in my contract,” Harrison says – probably joking. (Probably.)
3:18 - Kennedy says Abrams and Rian Johnson (director of Brick and Looper), who is making Episode VII, have talked a lot about continuity in the story, and that the cast will be heading back to England in January to begin work on that film.
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3:20 - Christie is asked what other character, besides Captain Phasma, she might like to play in Star Wars. “A character I don’t really think I would be particularly suited to be, but would definitely like to play, is, of course, Han Solo,” she says. Ford feigns modesty. “I suppose I’d have a modicum of swagger as opposed to the Grand Canyon of it at the other end of the sofa.”
3:22 - Kaling asks what the difference was in the wrap parties between The Force Awakens and the original trilogy movies. “It was really hard to get a drink at the last wrap party,” Ford says.
3:23 - Ford is asked if his family is impressed to see him returning as Han Solo. “My kids do not think I’m cool, and being in this movie is not going to convince them otherwise,” he said. “They’re just glad to see dad is still working.”
3:24 - Kaling says there’s always a trailer were everyone goes to get high – even though she says she’s sure nobody on set did anything like that. “I went to my trailer,” Isaac says. “It was mostly going between Carrie and my trailers. The party trailers.” He said even his uncle, who visited the set, disappeared and was found in Fisher’s trailer, laughing loudly and hanging out with Gary the dog.
3:27 - Christie is asked if playing Captain Phasma makes it more likely she may play Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She says she was “heartened” by the enthusiasm for Phasma, the first onscreen female villain in Star Wars. “It makes me think this is what people want to see, a more diverse reflection of society. If anyone else wants to offer me any other work, then I am very grateful and willing to listen,” she says.
3:30 - Kennedy is asked about the movie’s secrecy, with the reporter noting that no journalists asking questions have been allowed to see it. “We have so few surprises anymore when you walk in to see a movie. It’s all in the trailers or ends up online well in advance,” she says. “That’s really all that’s driving it. We’ve respected that in all ways we can.”
3:33 – Boyega is asked about playing a black stormtrooper – and the reaction he has received. “I’ve got to be honest, I really don’t care about the black stormtrooper stuff. I coudln’t care less,” he says. “This is a movie about human beings, about Wookiees, spaceships and TIE Fighters. It’s got an undercurrent of courage, a message of friendship and loyalty. I watched the movie with Kathy last week, and I really relate to Rey more than any of the characters. The circumstance to find something bigger than yourself is really important to me. In terms of the kids, all they’re going to be concentrated on is BB-8.”
3:34 - What’s it like to get an action figure modeled on yourself and be a video game character. Boyega laughs. “To be a playable character, I get to play with myself!” he says, making himself and the rest of the room laugh.
3:37 - The actors are asked if they followed any fan theories about their characters. Boyega says he heard the speculation that Finn is the grandson of Mace Windu from the prequels.” I was at a party and someone tapped me on the shoulder, like ‘Yo, black Jedi!’ I turned around it was Samuel L. Jackson!” Boyega said.
3:40 - Asked about using what appears to be the Luke Skywalker lightsaber lost when Darth Vader cut his hand off in The Empire Strikes Back, he said “I was very excited to use that thing, because I think blue suits me.” He says he wonders if Abrams tailored the character specifically to him as a longtime fan. “I get to wear a stormtrooper suit, a Rebel jacket, I use a lightsaber, a blaster, and get to hang out with Han and Chewie!”
3:42 - Kaling asks Oscar Isaac about romance in the movie, and if he has a relationship he can talk about. “Yeah, I think mostly … with BB-8,” Isaac jokes. “Inter-droid? What would you call that. There’s a real warmth there. There’s a give and take, and that’s who’s got his back in that X-Wing. If there’s any romance for Poe, it’s with those two little balls.”
3:43 - Asked what their theme song might be, Christie says Phasma has Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” in her head – which leads the actors to perform an impromptu, a cappella version of the rock anthem.
3:48 - The actors discuss their favorite parts from the original trilogy. Isaac says it was seeing Vader’s mask come off, revealing “a sad, old man inside.” Christie said she was inspired as a young girl by seeing Princess Leia as a fierce action warrior.
Ford speaks up to say, “I assume you’re not talking about the scene in a snake-bikini sitting on Jabba’s lap?”
“No,” Christie says.
“Because that’s my favorite,” Ford says.
That’s a wrap on the Star Wars: The Force Awakens press conference. The film arrives in theaters on Dec. 18.