Okay, galaxy-dwellers. Lucasfilm’s crazily anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens Comic-Con presentation has begun, and Entertainment Weekly will be in Hall H live-blogging developments.
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 – A photo of Abrams and Kennedy on stage inside Hall H.
Kasdan pays homage to George Lucas, saying none of us would be here without him. “Then a call came and said would you come back and meet these characters again 30 years later,” he says.
Abrams says Star Wars is more than a movie, “it’s deeply ingrained for so many people.”
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, he says as it shuffles across the platform. Many of these beings are background figures, he adds.
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 ask ourselves what feels write. What delights us. That doesn’t mean it has to be silly, it just has to be compelling. To write a 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.”
“When you’re directing a scene on the Millennium Falcon that doesn’t make it automatically good,” Abrams said. “It’s bitchin’… but it doesn’t make it automatically good.” He says they put extra effort to make sure characters had motivation and emotion.
6:00 p.m. PT – 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.
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 leather vest and battle-like fatigues with her hair tightly braided, reminiscent of her Hoth outfit.
Also, Simon Pegg, who denied playing a Stormtrooper extra, was shown in the uniform, giggling maniacally. (No sign of Daniel Craig in such gear.)
6:07 p.m. PT – John Boyega 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 and only hopes her costume in the finished film “reveals my guns,” she says flexing her arm. “I worked hard for these.
To play “badass pilot” Poe Dameron, Isaac says he asked Harrison Ford for some advice about what it means to be a galactic pilot. Ford’s answer: “It’s fake.”
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. A Nigerian man came up and said in a heavy accent, “ ‘Are you Harrison Ford?’ and Harrison said, ‘I used to be…’”
6:18 p.m. PT – The Dark Side of the Force makes its presence known. Kylo Ren star Adam Driver takes the stage, as well as Domnhall Gleason as General Hux, a character never before revealed, and Gwendoline Christie as the chrome Stormtrooper Captain Phasma.
Driver says he and Abrams didn’t talk about evil. “It’s the difference between someone who thinks they’re bad and somebody who thinks they’re right… Or morally justified in doing what they do.”
Gleason says simply: “I’m evil. I mean, I’m British. So, yeah.”
Christie says she was excited to play a female Stormtrooper. “In 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 as 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 Comic-Con-like 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.”
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 walked out and hugged Hamill and shared a kiss with Fisher. Asked how he is, Ford said: “I’m fine.” His leg is still injured, but he said, “My foot? I just walked here.”
How did it feel coming back to Star Wars? “It should have felt ridiculous,” he says. “It was 30-frmmph years ago, and I grew up!”
6:40 p.m. PT – Hamill says he expected Luke to live like Obi-Wan Kenobi, off on his own with only droids for friends. 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 a 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 – “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.”
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