December 26, 2019 0

J.J. Abrams talks Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | NowThis Nerd

– Hi everyone, I’m Moose,
and a little while ago, I had the chance to sit
down with J.J. Abrams, director of ‘Star Wars:
The Rise of Skywalker,’ mere days after he wrapped production on one of the most
anticipated films of all time. J.J. and I talked about the
mysteries of ‘Star Wars’ past and what we lose by explaining so much, the future of the series and whether it still
has a place in cinema, his thoughts on if the theatrical cuts of the Original Trilogy will
ever see the light of day, and a whole lot more, but first, we talked about what it’s like crunching on a blockbuster with a nine-figure budget weeks before it comes out. – I’m J.J. Abrams and you’re
watching Now This Nerd. (orchestral music) – Who is still involved at
this point of production? – Visual effects usually
being done until the very end. They’re usually a handful of
shots that are still coming in because they’re, like almost 2,000 shots, visual effect shots in the movie. We did a recording session, John Williams last ‘Star Wars’ recording
session with an orchestra and a full choir last week. So it was our last session we had. We’ve had about you 10 or 12 sessions. This was always in the schedule. It was just insane to be
there realizing we have a month before the movie comes out and there are 100 musicians playing music that will go to the movie, so
it just it was super close. – When you’re doing something on such a massive global scale, I imagine, there’s a lot of cuts being
passed between people, a lot of scripts that may or
may not end up in hotel rooms. How do you keep things secret
in a project as big as this? It’s not like the ‘Return of the Jedi,’ where you just call it ‘Blue Harvest’ and no one knows what you’re doing. How do you maintain that secrecy while working with so
many different partners all over the world? – Right, well, it’s a
double-edged sword in a way that the thing that you
desperately hope for is that people care,
that they’re interested. When you have people who
are interested and care, they’re peeking in and
trying to figure out what it is you’re doing. So there are leaks and there are reports and sometimes they’re entirely wrong and other times, they’re
close to what it is. It’s amazing to me how
much has been kept secret despite the number of people who have been working on this project. I mean, when you look at
everyone, not just on the set, which is, hundreds and hundreds of people and the actors and the background actors who aren’t there every day, who might be more inclined to speak about what was going on, but haven’t. But to the thousands of
visual effects people who see this thing, the
people in editorial, the people all through post-production, there are so many people
when you see those nine minutes of credits at the end and literally thousands
and thousands of names. It’s insane to me that
more doesn’t get released. – I can’t think of a single series that has sparked more speculation and imagination and
questions than ‘Star Wars.’ And as it sort of originally existed, there was a lot more mystery, right? The Clone Wars was just
something offhandedly mentioned– – That’s correct. – In that conversation
between Luke and Ben. – You’ve found the Clone Wars? – Yes, I was once a Jedi
Knight, the same as your father. – And when you’re a kid, you’re just like, “What are the Clone Wars? “Was there a mutant army of clones?” – Well, that was why for
me, the prequel trilogy was less my thing, partly because, I don’t wanna know about medical origins. I don’t wanna know that the force comes from something that’s in your blood. I’m not saying that’s not what it is. And if that’s what it is for
George, then that’s what it is. But it just wasn’t
interesting to me the way the idea of energy that
surrounds and binds us together like that to me, feels like
something that I can believe in and invest in, in a way
that it doesn’t necessarily need rational thought and explanation. – I don’t understand. – Do we lose a little bit of the magic when you set things in stone? Where is the balance of like, do I wanna explain this
or do I wanna leave this? To me it’s very–
– That’s the question with every story, which
is how much do you need to explicitly explain? And I would argue, in some cases, a lot and enough and in some cases,
the fun is not knowing. And some movies and some
stories play on that. ‘Pulp Fiction,’ if you knew
what was in that case, they wouldn’t be as good as not knowing. If ‘2001’ ended with a completely logical, easy to explain ending, we might not be talking about it today. Those are examples of extreme mystery. But I feel like, in
something like Star Wars, it ultimately is a family film. And you have to be able to
make things understandable to the whole family on some level. And I think, answers are really important, which is why I doing ‘Rise of Skywalker,’ we wanted to make sure people
were given concrete answers to some fundamental questions, not to demystify everything, but to make sure that people left feeling like it was a conclusion. – Is there one ‘Star Wars’
mystery that like even you given your sort of inside position, is there one thing in ‘Star Wars’ you never wanna learn the answer to? Something you just wanna
stay mysterious forever. – I’m sure there are
a lot of those things. But my favorite thing you
mentioned this earlier. My favorite thing about
the original trilogy was the offhand reference to things that that you didn’t
understand but didn’t need to because it painted a picture on its own of the peripheral vision of
what was happening in ‘Star Wars.’ You knew what you were looking
at, but the references to, the old wars, the references
to the Senate, the emperor. There were these things that
you just you felt the scope and scale of this world without needing to spend time in the
Senate, you just knew. Damn, I can, I believe this entire world because it’s being so
brilliantly referred to. But I don’t necessarily
need to be in that thing or understand the mechanics of that thing. It’s almost like a like a
Japanese fairy tale that, you’d hear and there’d be
references to things culturally that you might not understand,
that I might not understand, but you can infer what the meaning is. And weirdly, sometimes
there’s more resonant power in not understanding
everything than there is in getting to spend time in the Senate. – I subscribed to Disney Plus before I even watched ‘the Mandolorian,’ the first thing I did was cue
up that gorgeous 4K transfer of ‘A New Hope,’ we get to the cantina. There’s the devil guy,
there’s the wolf man. Han Solo sits down with a nice little bounty
hunter named Greedo. – And what does he say? – He says, “Maclunkey”, and
they shoot at the same time. – Maclunkey. (laser gun fires) – Would you, as a fan, like
to see the theatrical versions made available commercially? – Yes, and I have asked about this ’cause who wouldn’t wanna see that? But I’ve been told that, for reasons that I don’t quite understand that that’s not necessarily possible. – Interesting. – Which is too bad because
that was the thing that I love. In fact, it’s funny when we were working on ‘Force Awakens,’ we were
talking about this one scene with Vader and the Emperor and we were having this disagreement about what was said in a way that was, like we both thought crazy. And we realized we were talking about two different versions, because there’s like the
sort of despecialized version which you can see online,
someone got me a version but it’s apparently not
at the quality level that one needs release of a 4K version. And then, there was the official version. So there was the original
theatrical version and then the version that people see now. (screaming) I guess, it’s what George Lucas wanted and that’s what he did,
and so I respect that although I also feel
like there’s something about the original
theatrical version that was, for so many people, the thing
that could be referenced that people are going crazy
about that they loved as it was. And so, it would be great
to have that available for a mainstream audience. – ‘A New Hope’s’ not even
in the Library of Congress because they would only accept
the original theatrical cut. I guess– – You have a lot of information, Charlie. – Well, I’m a nerd, that’s my job. As a director yourself, though, have you ever wanted to go
back and change something? – Oh my God, yes, of course. But I also feel like,
when at a certain point, you have to say, “This is what it is.” And for me, the idea of
going back and making an incremental change or an
adjustment to this or that, it just doesn’t, it’s
not interesting to me. But I respect the impulse
of artists to continue to work on their stuff. – At certain place, it’s
pencil’s down, walk away, right? – Well, it’s like, when
you watch a little kid draw a picture and they’re like, “I’m done”, and they just know that they’re done. How do you know you’re done? Maybe there’s more, you
could do more shading but they did know they’re done. And I think that at a certain point, that can be a very healthy thing. – When did you know you were done with ‘The Rise of Skywalker?’ – We’ve been working on this
story for a couple of years. And as the thing became more clear to us, not what we wanted to do as much as what we could tell was
happening with the story, at a certain point, you can either say, “I’m just gonna continue to
tinker forever,” which I get, or you can say, “This
is telling the story. “This is working, this is
making people feel things.” But when you start to show the thing and people are confused, and they don’t understand something, they don’t think something’s
funny that you did, they think that something isn’t emotional that you’re hoping was, you keep working. There is a moment we can go too far and tinkering to perfect something can actually weirdly get
in the way of something that, while maybe imperfect,
is moving or effective. So I feel like there’s
no perfect science to it but I think at certain
point you know that scene, that sequence, that
reel, that movie is done. – Where do you see ‘Star
Wars’ 10 years from now? Will it still be a theatrical
experience in 10 years? – I think it is a human
natural need to have true, not virtual communal experiences, that the idea of of of being in a room with other people coming together with this group of strangers, to mutually experience this
thing, simultaneously have and to hear other people react
and to have them hear you, there’s something about that that I would hate to
think would ever go away. But it’s increasingly hard to
justify leaving your house, and everyone talks about, “Oh, parents with kids
and the cost of parking,” all that’s real, like it’s actually like. So you think, well, we have
to eventize these movies. But the more you eventize them, the more they become sort
of amusement park rides, the more they become things
that are not necessarily always the deepest, always
the most meaningful, always the most resonant. They become the more bombastic and pyrotechnics, spectacular thing. And that’s not to say those are bad because we all love a great and
well-told spectacular movie. But, I think, it’s important that theaters are not just for ‘Star Wars,’ but for everything are
creating reasons to go. I mean, I don’t know about you, but when you go to a small
theater, not in a major city, it’s often a pretty bad experience. The screens aren’t great,
the picture’s not fantastic, the sound’s not good. A lot of times, the flat
screen TV you have at home is a better viewing
experience than you know. Theaters need to give
people a reason to go and and not just at the
movies have to be great, but that the experience of
being there needs to be special. So I feel like there’s
a lot of conversation about sort of ways to do that. And I think that that the
need to be in a dark room with a lot of people won’t go away. But I love movies as much as anything. And it would be a horrible
thing if those didn’t exist, not just for starters. – I mean, I know, you’ve probably
told yourself this before, but you are done with ‘Star Wars’ now and you’ve just signed you in Bad Robot, just signed a deal with Warner. What’s next for J.J. Abrams? What interests you? What is your next creative challenge? – I feel like there’s a
chapter coming, at least, for Bad Robot that I hope is as much about creating new worlds and stories and characters as anything. And I’m all for, wherever the idea and the inspiration comes from, I think that we all agree, maybe
even especially moviegoers. You just can’t keep cannibalizing the stuff that preexist
and part of the fun of creating something is
creating something from scratch. I know that, we’re here
talking about Star Wars, but ‘Star Wars’ wouldn’t exist if Flash Gordon hadn’t existed. The fact that George Lucas said, “I’m inspired by that,
I’m inspired by Kurosawa, “I’m inspired by Joseph Campbell.” But here’s my take on it. It’s like that sort of
thing which is how Hollywood has typically worked
until somewhat recently. I feel like that’s not a huge shift from seeing something, say,
let’s remake that thing. It’s like, be inspired by it, and then let’s come up with our own thing. So I know what I’ve done
and what I’ve worked on. And I’m very much looking
forward to working on things that are original idea. – What are you doing there, C3PO? – Taking one last look,
sir, at my friends.

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