On a night dominated by rampaging apes and squishy robots, J.J. Abrams got an award from the Visual Effects Society in part for what he’s already done, with a long list of TV shows and films such as three Star Trek films, two Mission: Impossible films, Cloverfield, Super 8, Lost, Fringe, Alias and so much more.
But he also was honored for what he’s about to do: relaunch the Star Wars franchise later this year with its seventh film and give the assembled VES membership a whole lot more work to do over the next few years.
As emcee Patton Oswalt joked, see you next year for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens show. That’s a good bet, given the anticipation for the film and all the follow-ons that Disney has stacked behind it as part of its acquisition of George Lucas’ mighty empire. As for Abrams, living in and guiding the Star Wars universe has been a thrill ride, he said.
“Spending the last two years in the world of light sabers and tie fighters has been absolutely challenging and a dream come true,” Abrams said.
Abrams said before the show that being chosen for the VES Visionary Award was “clearly a clerical error. But mostly, I just work with a whole lot of incredible VFX artists. This is what made me want to get involved in movies.”
Onstage, Abrams told the tale of being 11, and his father had brought home an autograph from Douglas Trumbull, the pioneering visual-effects supervisor from 2001: A Space Odyssey who happened to be working on the first Star Wars film. Trumbull wrote that he too started making films at a very early age, 13, and it was a great way to live a life.
Decades later, when Abrams finally met Trumbull and told him about the autograph, which he still had, Trumbull’s response was a rather deflating and quizzical, “Huh?”
“It was a disappointing reaction,” Abrams ruefully acknowledged to a roomful of laughs. “But he could not have been more right” all those years before that moviemaking was a pretty good way to make a life.