Star Wars at SDCC: the New Crew, Han, Luke and Leia Unite, and A Live Concert From John Williams!

The San Diego Comic Con roster claimed that director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy would be the people on hand to talk about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but as per SDCC tradition, you had to know that was poppycock. And sure enough, the whole cast made it out (including Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford). Oh, and then everyone got invited to a live Star Wars concert, conducted by John Williams.

Can you says #lifegoals?

Chris Hardwick (of Nerdist) came out to introduce Abrams, Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan (screenwriter). Abrams and his crew brought donuts to people in line this morning and got a big round of applause. Kennedy made the point of referencing the preview of Star Wars at its first Comic Con in 1976, and gave a big thank you to every single fan in Hall H, and all the fans that Star Wars has always been dependent on.

Abrams told the crowd that he is editing now, praising Disney for giving him the chance to make the movie he wanted. (They originally wanted it for this May instead of December.) Everyone was very supportive of each other, Kasdan saying that when he heard Abrams would be directing, he went “berserk.” Abrams talked about asking him mom to make him a Jawa costume when he was 13 years old. He was so excited to show John Williams (composer for every Star Wars film) the cut, talking about how getting to work with these greats was anything but normal.

They talked about the practical effects of the movie and also the Omaze UNICEF campaign; they brought Omaze puppet “Baba Joe” out, which was awesome. Neil Scanlan’s studio did most of the puppetry and creatures. Abrams said using those practical elements changed how they filmed, the set, the lighting. In praise of Kasdan he said, “Who knows how Han Solo should talk? The man who wrote all his best lines.”

It turned out that Peter Mayhew (Chewie!) was sitting behind the people lined up for Q&A! Someone asked about balancing the love of current fans while trying to court new ones in making these new movies, and Abrams admitted that the most important thing they could do was no be blind to that. “When you’re directing a scene on the Millennium Falcon, that doesn’t make it good.”

In regard to the new films, Gareth Roberts will start shooting Rogue One in three weeks!

They had no footage or trailer to show, but they brought some behind the scenes goodies, showing Mark Hamill, Simon Pegg (in costume saying that his “life was now complete”), and more talking about the process. They showed Leia as well, dressed like a series military leader. Daisy Ridley in the Falcon’s gunner seat!

And then they brought out Daisey Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac. Boyega is a big Star Was nerd, so walking through the con was a big deal for him. (In a Clone Trooper helmet, of course. It’s always the helmets.) Ridley talked about her intense fight training, and she and Boyega gave Abrams a hard time for having them running through a desert in ridiculous heat. Oscar Isaac talked about working with Harrison Ford, and how he told Isaac that piloting the Falcon was “fake,” and also wouldn’t work that way in space. (Aw, gramps. We love you.) Apparently, he also thought that Isaac was wearing a wig during shooting.

When audience questions for the cast come in, two kids ask Abrams about cast diversity and whether there would be any Asian people in the cast. Abrams explained that they didn’t write Finn (Boyega’s character) or Rey (Ridley’s character) with any color in mind. (The casting calls did not mention actor ethnicity, if memory serves.) Which is interesting because that might put the nix on her being Han and Leia’s daughter….

Both Abrams and Kennedy said that diversity in the Star Wars universe was important to them, and that the upcoming movies would only continue to develop that. When asked about working with Hamill, Fisher and Ford, Boyega said that he went to a restaurant with Ford, and when someone there asked if he was Harrison Ford, he replied “I used to be.”

Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, and Domnhall Gleeson took the stage! Christie dismissed a reference to Game of Thrones, feigning that she didn’t remember it at all. A picture of Gleeson’s character was shown, and he looked Imperial, but also a bit Sith-like as well, leaving us to ponder his place in the tale. He claimed that he was obviously evil: he’s British. But Driver talked about how, during filming, they never couched things in terms on good and evil, only being right; bad people often think they are doing the right thing. Christie said she adored her chrome stormtrooper armor, and that it really gave her room to explore. “I found it very exciting that underneath that armor is a woman. And it makes it more relevant than ever.”

Gleeson’s character in charge of a place called Starkiller Base–a clever shout out to one of the names Lucas considered using for Luke back in the day. It’s the main base of something called the First Order. So… I’m guessing that’s what the new baddies are calling themselves.

And then the Queen shows up: Carrie Fisher hits the stage! Glib as ever, when Hardwick asked what it was like being back on the set after all this time, she replied: “It was like a flashback. They were right about the acid flashbacks.”

Mark Hamill arrives! Still bearded! (Excuse me while I scream into the void.) He says that running into fans, “It’s very moving for me. It’s almost like an out-of-body experience,” and that he’s never taken it for granted. He said that a long time ago in Tahiti, there was a man driving a boat toward him wearing a Darth Vader mask, and that the producer he was with thought it was hilarious. Then he admits to flunking a Star Wars trivia test, and not being able to remember what Han smuggled.

Which meant it had to be a perfect time for Harrison Ford to show up, right? And he smiled! Do you guys know how rare that is? In public? Not for a movie camera? That’s the sci-fi unicorn! And he gave Carrie Fisher a kiss! Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. This is Ford’s second (if I’m correct) appearance at SDCC ever–the only other time was for Cowboys & Aliens back in 2010. Ford mentioned that Star Wars was really the big start to his acting career, so he enjoyed being back.

Of the new movie, Ford said, “It’s an emotional rounding of the experience we had in the first films.” And then Hamill added in that he just really didn’t want to go to the Tosche Station and pick up any power converters. He also joked that he assumed that Luke would become a hermit after realizing that the only woman he was into was his sister. Ford patted him on the shoulder and said, “How many times can I say I’m sorry.” He added that he never expected that Star Wars would come back to “bless rather than haunt” him, and that he loved the new script and was happy to be a part of it.


Sorry. Hyperventilating. Might cry. New stormtroopers from The Force Awakens lead the audience out to the concert venue. Have a great evening, everyone. Put on all your Star Wars soundtracks at maximum volume.

[UPDATE] Whoa, the whole panel is already up! Enjoy:

Emily Asher-Perrin hopes that there’s a choir at the concert. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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