As Comic-Con’s Hall H broke out into a football game-style chant of “Let’s go Star Wars!” — clap clap clap-clap-clap, thus began Disney’s Star Wars panel. It ended with no new real news, but all the actors were there, an exclusive behind-the-scenes trailer dropped and then JJ Abrams invited everyone to a live concert afterward. Here’s how it all went down:
— Here comes Chris Hardwick who is moderating every other panel her at Comic-Con. “OK guys we are in this — this is happening! This is the Star Wars: The Force Awakens panel. I know a lot of you guys waited a long time to be here. I mean like decades really. I’m also hear to tell you you’re not going to be disappointed.”
— Hardwick is playing this up like, contrary to rumors, we’re actually going to see stuff worth coming out for.
— Panel introductions: Kathleen Kennedy. JJ Abrams. Lawrence Kasden — big cheers for Kasdan.
— First question: Asking Kennedy about the fandom in Star Wars. “Star Wars is 100% dependent on the fans in this room and all over the world since 1976. It was really the fans who built the momentum around the release of New Hope.” (Point of fact: it wasn’t New Hope when it was first in theaters.)
— Abrams: “We’re working hard to make the movie more of what it wants to be.”
— JJ Abrams: “We’re working hard to make the movie more of what it wants to be.”
— Kasdan just called George Lucas “a very true, monster genius.” I’m stealing that turn of phrase: “Everyone who reads my stuff is a very true monster genius.” Then he said Abrams is “the most talented and true and most perfect choice for this movie.”
— Abrams: “I’ve been a fan since I was a little kid. There is nothing normal about getting to write a movie with Lawrence Kasdan… I’ve sat down with John Williams to show him scenes from a Star Wars movie that he hadn’t seen yet, that I directed! There’s nothing normal about that!”
— Now they’re bring out one of the creatures to demonstrate practical effects. It takes five people to operate it we’re told. This is the creature they unveiled in the Unicef video. You can see him wiggling his nose. It looks like something out of Jim Henson’s creature shop from the ’80s: Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock stuff.
— First audience question: What influences did you draw upon to make this film, whether it be comics, video games, even other movies. Yes he asked the question in a Batman voice.
— Abrams: We tried to ask ourselves “What feels right?” The only mandate was “what delights us.” We treated the films, especially 4, 5, 6, those are the films I grew up with, as canon.
— More Abrams: “It meant very much to me what Star Wars means to so many of you. Because we love it and care about it so much, our job is to not be blinded by that… we can’t just be a fan. That scene on the Millennium Falcon… it’s bitchin that it’s on the Millennium Falcon, but that’s not what makes the scene good.”
— Kennedy just revealed that Gareth Edwards starts shooting in about three weeks on Rogue One stand-alone film.
— Uh oh. From Abrams: “We aren’t ready to show you scenes from the movie or a new trailer, but we wanted to bring something that was as unique and unexpected as we could.” JJ now disappointing people with a behind-the-scenes video made exclusively for Comic-Con. Here it is:
— Simon Pegg just showed up in the video. Yep, he will do a cameo — in a mask and costume as some kind of alien. He looked cooked but said, “I’d burn for Star Wars.”
— Here comes the cast onstage: John Boyega followed by Daisy Ridley followed by Oscar Isaacs looking effortlessly cool. Before, a shout-out to Peter Mayhew who is in the crowd today.
— Boyega walked through Star Wars Celebration in disguise it turns out, mingling with fans. They showed a clip of him light-sabering with a fan — and that fan is now in the press area screaming.
— Boyega: “I’d just like to thank JJ Abrams for filming in Abu Dhabi in the desert and making me wear a stormtrooper outfit.”
— More audience questions: “Do you plan on having any Asian characters joining the cast?” Abrams: “First I wanna say Go Asians! I’m not casting, but if I were it would be with only Asians. … But the truth is we didn’t write Finn to be any color, or Poe… we just cast this movie because we wanted to reflect the way the [Star Wars] world looks.”
— Kennedy on that topic: “There is every intention to carry on the intention that JJ is talking about in all the Star Wars movies we’re going to make.” Star Wars is boasting color-blind casting.
— Asked about working with the original stars, Isaacs acknowledged that his hair is impossibly thick and lustrous, saying, “Harrison thought I was wearing a wig. Boyega tells a story about taking Harrison Ford to a Nigerian restaurant in South London. A civilian comes up and says, “Are you Harrison Ford?” and Boyega quotes Ford in a spot-on impression saying, “I used to be.”
— Here comes more cast: Adam Driver is in the house now. Domhnall Gleeson, his character is named General Hux, also comes out. THAT IS A NEW CHARACTER NAME. Gwendolyn Christie is out now too. She plays Captain Phasma. Here are the bad guys:
— Christie: “I thought it was exciting to see a female stormtrooper… that armor is exterior and it’s like the outside feeding in. She adds, “It’s exciting that there’s a woman under that armor.”
— The bad guys will be called the First Order, which we knew. But the name of their base Gleeson says is “Starkiller Base.” Nice homage to the original name for Luke Skywalker in the first draft of the first Star Wars script.
— Carrie Fisher just introduced. Huge cheers, even from press row. Asked what it is like working on the new movie, she says: “It was a little bit like before, but we all look more melted.”
— Here comes Mark Hamill. The crowd is really going now. There’s only one more seat left onstage. Hamill: “I’ve been a fan since I caught the black-and-white King Kong as a child. And I think the fans understand that I’m one of them. Without the fan’s we’re nothing.” Muted applause — the fans expect Harrison Ford to come out and they’re saving up.
— Harrison Ford just introduced. Standing ovation.
— Asked what it felt like walking back onto the Star Wars set after 30 years, Ford says, “It should have felt ridiculous… I will tell you that it felt great. I wasn’t so sure it would, but the company was the right company, the director was the right director, Larry wrote us a wonderful story. And I was proud and grateful to once again be involved. The original Star Wars I was a part of really was the beginning of my working life. I was very grateful for the opportunity I had and the success of that film. It’s great to be back.”
— They’re joking now about where they thought their characters would be after the trilogy. Lots of jokes about Luke and Liea being siblings. Fisher and Hamill riff off Chinatown: “My sister, my mother. My sister, my mother.”
— Abrams: “Who wants to see a live Star Wars concert right now. There’s only room for all of you we’re literally going to walk to a location and experience a concert.”
— I guess it’s off to a concert then. Thanks for following along.