With news of JJ Abrams' recruitment to the helm of the new Star Wars still reverberating through fandom, The Hollywood Reporter sat down with producer Kathleen Kennedy for an in-depth chat about the newest Disney franchise, its director, and her working relationship with George Lucas.
First up, the recruitment drive. "JJ was just on the ceiling when I walked out the door," Kennedy remembered of the three-hour covert meeting she and her writers held with Abrams on December 19. The director had "very genuine concerns" about the impact a potentially overseas-based production might have on his family, not to mention the sheer pressure of piloting the Star Wars universe. "If there was any pause on JJ's part", said the producer, "it was the same pause everybody has - including myself - stepping into this. It's daunting."
Abrams, for his part, testified to those early reservations, and to the persuasiveness of Kennedy's sales pitch. "I learned first-hand how incredible and persuasive she is," he told THR. "The thing about any pre-existing franchise... I'd sort of done that. But when I met with Kathy, it was suddenly very tantalising."
Lucas's shadow, of course, still looms over the thrillingly rebooted franchise, albeit from a distance. In Kennedy's parlance, he's a Jedi knight offering sage advice and the filmmaking equivalent of mind tricks. "I call him my Yoda," she said. "He'll be a consultant. But he recognises he's stepping away. It took a lot for him to [do that]. And the fact that he turned it over to me - I think, 'Oh my God, I have a huge responsibility to him.' He did say, 'You just do what you do.' I said: 'OK. I'll figure out what that is'."
Here's Empire's thoughts on why Kennedy is already making the right calls.