Part III: The Characters
Abrams: I was nervous about whether people would step back into these roles without really being the character. Would it feel like an impersonation of what had come before?
Fisher: I am Princess Leia. Princess Leia is me. It’s like a Möbius strip. My life has informed who she is, and she’s informed who I am and who I’ve had to be. Nothing has changed except the hair.
Hamill: Obviously, you’re seeing Luke at a very different time in his life than you did in the earlier films. You saw him as an uneducated farm boy, someone training in the Force, eventually becoming a Jedi Knight. That was the joke: I said, “Wait, we’re stopping now? This is like stopping when James Bond gets his licence to kill!”
Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca): Chewie’s still effectively the walking carpet. The costume’s handmade out of yak hair like the very first one, very long and silky and beautiful.They tried to make the face more expressive, but it really didn’t need it.
Neil Scanlan (Creature Effects Creative Supervisor): To the aficionados he has a slight paunch – as you get older things go south and Chewie isn’t immune to that. We tried to hint that 30 years had passed – a mere moment in a Wookiee’s life.
Daniels: For the prequels – apart from the earliest C-3PO, which was a puppet – I was wearing the original suit from the first films, more-or-less. This time it’s completely new, and it’s much lighter, and much easier to get on and off. I still have to squeeze into it – more so at the end of the shoot than the beginning, The catering on set was wonderful!
Christie: The day I met Michael Kaplan for the first time he laid out that incredible costume. I slipped into a body suit and then had this armour applied to me. At the end, when they put the helmet on, I looked in the mirror and… the first thing I did was some sassy moves, because you’ve just got to, right? Then Domhnall Gleeson walks in, looking phenomenal in his uniform. And then J.J. comes in. I felt like I was having some sort of mind implosion. I didn't want to take it off!
Abrams: The beauty of Star Wars is the simple tale of a nobody becoming a somebody. So Rey and Finn both are characters who start off independent and have very few meaningful connections. The fun and the adventure of this story is watching these characters go through something that is profoundly life changing.
Kasdan: We wanted new people who would be interesting and not just for one movie, but for three. Who would have the potential to fit into this galaxy yet be something different than we've ever seen.
Boyega: For Finn, J.J. would say “Think about the charm of Will Smith in Independence Day mixed with the seriousness of Moses in Attack The Block.” He would always use other films as an example. Chris Pratt in Guardians Of The Galaxy was another.
Isaac: With Poe, it’s a specific colour that he adds to the film. It’s one that’s energetic. There’s almost an old-school His Girl Friday, Cary Grant kind of quickness to it, and that speed is something that J.J. really likes.
Ridley: I think what’s nice is that Rey is not a princess. Even though Luke is not the right comparison, Rey also starts not knowing her potential and goes on this incredible adventure that she doesn't really want to go on. She's just drawn into it.
Abrams: You can’t top Darth Vader as a bad guy. He simply is, in design and performance, one of the most fascinating characters. It’s a staggering thing to think about what George created with him. We knew we needed to have a bad guy, so the idea of actually naming Vader in association with him allowed the character to harness the power of Vader.
Driver: It’s hard to play a villain and do things villainously, because I don’t think those people think of themselves of that way. It’s actually more dangerous when it’s someone who thinks they’re right, rather than someone who thinks they’re bad. When they think their actions are morally justified it makes them dangerous and unpredictable. There’s no level they won’t go to to accomplish what they’re after.
Daniels: I loved that new little droid, BB-8. I remember it rolling up to me, and just not being able to understand how I was seeing what I was seeing. He really is an incredible piece of design work. He’s going to be a big star.
Scanlan: We saw BB-8 as a naughty little child or puppy who knows how to manipulate people – especially Daisy – to get what he wants.
Isaac: J.J. actually came up with the design, which is so ingenious because it feels familiar to the Star Wars universe, but it’s not; it’s completely new. It’s a ball that moves around, it looks like he has a little belly; it’s very cute. They have so many different versions of him: they have a puppeteer who’s in a blue or green suit, there’s one by himself that’s remote controlled and there’s a stationary one.
Abrams: There were a lot of discussions about how having a CG BB-8 would be so much easier for shooting. But we also knew it would be better for the film, for the actors, for the sets, for the look of it, if it were performed.
Serkis: J.J. was quite wary of having CG characters in this, but Snoke really lends himself to that – as does Maz Kanata, because of the extreme look of those characters. But it wasn’t a world that he particularly wanted to get involved in because the last three films became kind of enslaved by it.