J.J. Abrams Slowly Pulls Back the Curtain on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

J.J. Abrams begins to pull back the curtain on his much anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Following their Star Wars: The Force Awakens cover that was revealed on Sunday, Vanity Fair has shared an additional still of star Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) in performance capture equipment. As revealed just the other day, the Academy Award winner will be playing a pirate by the name of Maz Kanata. The outlet has also released further details from their interview with writer and director J.J. Abrams wherein the Bad Robot maestro discusses some of the important considerations he had to take into account when preparing this December’s return to a galaxy far, far away.

“[W]hat’s cool is we’ve obviously had a lot of time [during the development process] to talk about what’s happened outside of the borders of the story that you’re seeing,” says Abrams. “So there are, of course, references to things, and some are very oblique so that hopefully the audience can infer what the characters are referring to. We used to have more references to things that we pulled out, because they almost felt like they were trying too hard to allude to something.”

As such, Abrams explains that it’s a tricky balance in finding the spectacle that fans expect from a Star Wars film while keeping the specifics wholly grounded in the story itself.

“There are a few specific references that are kind of my own little stupid, secret ones,”  Abrams admits, “But what I realized early on was it was all about point of view – meaning it’s not like you just objectively throw in a star field or a spaceship or a desert planet or whatever the thing. The question is, who is that person in that experience? Why does it matter to them? What are they desperate for or afraid of? For me, you could reference all the stuff you want, but the experience of the audience in this is that they’ve got to be sitting with someone who happens to be on-screen going through these experiences. And then that’s not just a desert planet; it could be the most desperate place in the world. Or that’s not just a spaceship flying by; it could be the greatest, most heroic moment of your life. That, to me, has been the constant struggle: to make sure that none of these things are treated like either they’re a museum piece and we’re trying to honor them or they’re gratuitous and thrown in because, well, it’s a ‘Star Wars’ movie, so you’ve got to put these things in. Everything has got to be essential to the characters in the film.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and features a new generation of swashbuckling heroes and shadowy villains, as well as the return of fan-favorite smugglers, princesses, and Jedi.

Also starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Gwendoline Christie, Crystal Clarke, Pip Anderson, Christina Chong and Miltos Yerolemou, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will arrive in theaters on December 18, 2015.