Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a genuine global phenomenon when it was released in December 2015. A triumphant return for the world’s favourite franchise, the movie was as critically acclaimed as it was a box office success. And with a worldwide haul of over $2 billion, the movie somehow managed to exceed even the highest of expectations financially. And that’s not even including the money made by all the merchandise and various tie-ins!
In the end, the movie was a money-making machine that pleased die hard fans and newbies alike, and successfully set the reinvigorated franchise on a course towards world domination once again. We will now be treated to a Star Wars related movie every single year, with entries in the main franchise and spin-off anthology films pencilled in until 2020, at least.
Before the release of the first highly anticipated spin-off movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, this December, directed by Godzilla‘s Gareth Edwards and starring the likes of Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker, we’re casting our minds back to the making of The Force Awakens. We invite you to take a peek behind the curtain at some candid pictures taken before, during and after filming of the movie. You might even read some interesting tidbits of trivia along the way too. Enjoy!
15. Filming Kylo Ren’s Entrance
Kylo Ren (aka Ben Solo), played by the wonderfully odd Adam Driver, was the main antagonist of The Force Awakens. The character wound up being fairly controversial, with some fans not enjoying the moral complexities he showed. They felt that he wasn’t quite evil enough throughout the movie… right up until he did the ultimate evil thing that shocked the world! Namely, killing his father, the beloved Han Solo.
This image is from the filming of Kylo’s dramatic entrance at the beginning of the movie. He arrives on Jakku to retrieve a map with the co-ordinates for Luke Skywalker’s location, killing an elderly vicar named Lor San Tekka and capturing Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) in the process.
14. J.J. Abrams Directs R2-D2
Before J.J. Abrams was tasked with bringing Star Wars back to the masses, a franchise he has loved with all his heart since he was a boy, he made a couple of movies set in another beloved sci-fi universe. These movies, of course, were Star Trek and its sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness. The huge success of these movies, which made Trek more of a fun action spectacle and propelled the franchise to its highest ever box office numbers, had to be what put him on Lucasfilm’s radar.
What might not be so well known is that J.J. actually managed to sneak R2-D2, everyone’s favorite droid from the original Star Wars trilogy, into both his Star Trek films! They’re both ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ affairs, in which you would have to play the scene frame by frame in order to see the 1-2 seconds R2-D2 appears for, but he’s definitely in there. It must’ve been a kick for Abrams to direct the droid in an honest-to-goodness Star Wars film, finally.
13. BB-8 Receives Some Instructions
Considering that Abrams and his cohorts were going to use R2-D2 and C-3PO sparingly in The Force Awakens, it only made sense to introduce another droid character to hopefully capture the imaginations of a whole new generation of fans. And, boy oh boy, did BB-8 do just that.
Arguably the biggest breakout new character of the film, BB-8 instantly charmed everyone as soon as it appeared on-screen. With a deceptively simple design and a personality that made the world take him into their hearts, BB-8 was an absolutely wonderful piece of character design and on-set puppetry/remote control. Here he is in a quiet moment during filming. Cute.
12. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega And Oscar Isaac During San Diego Comic Con 2015
San Diego Comic Con has pretty much become Mecca for fans of comics, movies, TV, video games, cosplay and other pop culture avenues. At the 2015 event, around 167,000 people attended over the course of the 4 days of the convention, which is far and away its highest number of attendees ever. Geek culture is mainstream now, and these numbers reflect that.
One of the biggest draws of the 2015 event was the Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel, which included director J.J. Abrams and all the major players from the cast. The panel was capped off by a Star Wars concert and a fireworks display, and the whole thing was received rapturously by the rabid fans in the audience. The above picture was taken sometime during SDCC, and is a charming, tongue-in-cheek thing that couldn’t possibly fail to make a fan smile.
11. Han, Chewy, Rey And Finn Behind The Scenes On The Millennium Falcon
Seeing Han Solo and his trusted Wookie pal Chewbacca again was a thrill for old school Star Wars fans. Seeing them on-board the Millennium Falcon again? Well, that was the icing on a particularly delicious cake.
When building the Falcon again, production designer Darren Gilford was given access to all the original photographs and blueprints. He also had Mark Harris, a crewman who helped build the Falcon For The Empire Strikes Back, lending his experience on-set. Even Harrison Ford, an ex-carpenter, had some input. He requested that the set decorators put springs in the toggle switches, which wasn’t done in 1976. Naturally, Han Solo himself was granted his request!
10. Luke Skywalker’s Scene Is Filmed
Luke Skywalker’s role in The Force Awakens was shrouded in secrecy. Mark Hamill wasn’t included in any of the pre-release marketing materials, such as toys and posters, even though fans knew he was confirmed to be in the film. This led to speculation that perhaps he was the villain of the piece. In the end, this wasn’t the reason at all. It was because Luke is barely in the film. Rather, he was used as the ‘MacGuffin’; he was effectively a plot device, as the story is centered around the search for Luke.
The screenwriters felt that every time they tried to work Luke into the story more, he took over the film and they worried audiences wouldn’t care about the new characters. To some fans this may have been disappointing, but it certainly does make his brief appearance at the end of the film as a much bigger moment.
9. Andy Serkis Performs As Snoke Using Motion-Capture Technology
Andy Serkis is arguably the king of motion-capture performances. The English actor has played such iconic digital characters as Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake, and Caesar in the new Planet Of The Apes films.
He is the actor most closely associated with this unique brand of technology, so it only made sense that he would be in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in some way. Above is a picture of him suited up as he plays Supreme Leader Snoke, the ultimate villain of the movie.
8. Visual Effects Breakdown For Maz, Played By Lupita Nyong’o
Speaking of performance capture, Andy Serkis wasn’t the only actor on the film giving a nuanced portrayal utilizing the technology. Lupita Nyong’o, who played Maz Kanata, was also in the motion capture costume, and received some expert coaching on how to avoid letting it get in the way of her performance from Mr. Serkis.
Above is a visual effects breakdown of a small part of what goes into creating an on-screen character like Maz. There are videos that go into more detail on this subject floating around the web, and they are truly fascinating to watch.
7. Luke, Leia And Han Reunite In San Diego
Perhaps the single most anticipated element of the SDCC 2015 panel was the reunion of the ‘Legacy’ players of the Star Wars Universe. Firstly, Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, took to the stage, making a crack that “it was a little bit like before, but we looked more melted this time”. Next, Mark Hamill joined her, joking that he “took a Star Wars trivia contest” and “flunked. I can’t remember what Han Solo was smuggling!”
Lastly, Harrison Ford joined his co-stars on stage and the response was deafening for the iconic star. He said “I never thought it would come back to bless me instead of haunt me. I was very gratified when I read the script, because I read something that I thought was really remarkable… So I was delighted to be involved.” Given that Ford has something of a reputation for being slightly grumpy when in fandom settings, this was unexpectedly glowing praise from the man!
6. Peter Mayhew Returns Inside The Chewbacca Costume
Peter Mayhew, the 7’2″ inch English actor who played Chewbacca in the original trilogy and Revenge Of The Sith, was once again inside the costume for The Force Awakens. The above panda-eyed picture shows Mayhew between takes.
Given that the man was 71 years old at the time of filming, and had to walk with the aid of a cane, fans wondered what would happen when filming any action scenes with Chewie. Well, it turned out that the production hired a 6’11” inch Finnish actor named Joonas Suotamo to accomplish the more physical work on-set, with Mayhew often being nearby acting as a kind of Wookie consultant.
5. Adam Driver Cracks Up While Filming Saturday Night Live Skit ‘Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base’
Adam Driver is a very funny actor. His oddball, quirky sense of humour had already been showcased on HBO’s Girls and movies like While We’re Young before he landed the role of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. Naturally, there wasn’t much room for his particular brand of laughs in the movie, but when the actor hosted Saturday Night Live in January 2016, they found just the right outlet for him.
A 5-minute parody entitled ‘Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base’ poked affectionate fun at the Star Wars Universe, showing Kylo Ren disguising himself as a radar technician in order to snoop around his own base incognito. Good stuff.
4. Carrie Fisher And J.J. Abrams Share A Moment On-Set
During the promotional trail for The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams was effusive in his praise for Carrie Fisher. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, he said “she is crazy brilliant… It’s an amazing thing, her sort-of free associative mind, her ability to find humour in anything— she’s like a divining rod for wordplay. She’s incredible.”
3. Star Wars Superfan Simon Pegg Films His Secret Role
Simon Pegg is, and always has been, well-known to be a massive Star Wars fan. He’s never been shy about it either. Spaced, his breakthrough British sitcom, referenced The Phantom Menace and he has also leant his voice to some animated Star Wars projects. He has also worked with J.J. Abrams a number of times, on Mission: Impossible III and the Star Trek movies, in which he plays Scotty.
We would imagine that Pegg would’ve given his left arm to simply appear in The Force Awakens in any way, no matter how small the role… and that’s what he did. Playing an “angry-looking oaf [with a] huge downturned nose”, Pegg appears briefly and entirely in costume, simply for the love of Star Wars.
2. Rey, Finn And Kylo Ren’s Final Battle Is Filmed
Rey and Finn’s final battle with the villainous Kylo Ren is a high point of The Force Awakens. It’s a visually spectacular, emotionally charged fight scene that truly cements Rey as a strong character capable of anchoring the franchise going forward.
The choreography of the fight is excellent, and Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver deliver the raw emotion needed to sell the scene. This picture shows the scene being filmed, and we love how it captures the eerily beautiful surroundings, as well as the vibrant light from their duelling lightsabers.
1. John Boyega Poses For The Camera At The World Premiere
Star Wars: The Force Awakens received its World Premiere on Monday, December 14th, 2015 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. This is the same venue that held the premiere for the original Star Wars movie in 1977, which is a nice nod to the history of the franchise. Fans camped out for days outside the theatre and security was tight.
Many of the stars of the film attended, as well as other celebrities such as Elizabeth Banks and Rob Lowe, amongst others. The red carpet for the event was around half a mile long, under a huge marquee which stretched the length of 4 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard. It was kind of a big deal!