The upcoming DVD and Blu-Ray (or should I say Blue-Rey) release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, with all the behind-the-scenes details we'll get to see in the extras, has been a nice opportunity to look back at the little secrets of the movie's production.
In an exclusive interview with Empire, editors Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon, creature designer Neal Scanlan and concept artist Doug Chiang opened up about design choices, details of the movie and the mood on set. Here are seven things they revealed.
1. We Almost Got An Opening With A Lightsaber Floating Through Space
Looks like the rumors about this one were pretty well founded. According to Markey:
"There was [some] consideration that we'd open with Luke's lightsaber flying through space, landing on Jakku and Maz's hand pulling it out of the ground."
2. Kylo Ren's Costume Could Have Included A Scarlet Helmet
There had been several options discussed for Kylo Ren's costume. J.J. Abrams admitted at a press conference that his costume was the hardest one to design:
"We went through I don’t know how many hundreds and probably thousands of iterations and versions."
A red helmet was even considered, said Chiang, but it ended up going to the Guavian Death Gang.
"We originally called him 'the Jedi Killer' as a placeholder. As we learned more we started to modify the design."
3. The Starkiller Base Can Move
The glacial planet hosting the Starkiller base was chosen by the First Order because of its minerals, and it can actually move through space thanks to rocket boosters. As for the design, Chiang explained that they were inspired by terraforming, the concept of modifying a planet's properties to make it Earth-like.
"We thought, 'What would a Death Star look like with 30 years of extra technology?' Terraforming has been talked about in the scientific community for a long time, and we decided to magnify that idea."
4. Hurid-327 Is Maz Kanata's Groundkeeper
We only get a quick glimpse of Hurid-327, when our heroes enter Maz Kanata's cantina for the first time. But he's not just idling around, said Scanlan.
"Our little backstory is that he's Maz's groundskeeper. A general looker-afterer. He'll pick up your suitcases and take them somewhere, but he's a bit lazy."
5. Maz Katana's Clients Won The 'X-Factor For Aliens'
Speaking of Maz Katana, there was quite a design contest behind the creatures who actually made it to her table, which prompted the designers to call it an alien X-Factor. Speaking of the Dengue Sisters, who are gambling at a table, Scanlan recalled this anecdote:
"On-set we called them 'Squitos'. They'll invite you to play a game but you'll never win. We would come up with all these ideas and present them to J.J., like an X-Factor for aliens. We made about 110 creatures, and what you see is just a splashing of flavour."
Just like Kylo Ren's costume iterations, we'd love to see all 110 of them!
6. Jakku Is A 'Cold Desert'
Tatooine may be arid like Jakku's desert, but the design of these two planets was fundamentally different. Chiang explained Jakku was more like a "cold desert":
"We had to make sure it looked distinct, so we settled on the Atacama Desert in South America and Wadi Rum in Jordan."
As for the crashed ships in the Jakku sand, they were inspired by the real-life ship breakers working in the Bay of Bengal.
7. Rey's First Encounter With Luke's Lightsaber Was Called 'Rey's Acid Trip'
Markey explained how they went about shooting Rey's flashback scene, when she finds Luke's lightsaber in Maz's basement:
"It got philosophical. We talked a lot about how the Light Side and the Dark Side are both revealing themselves. The shot of the Knights of Ren was something Kathy Kennedy [producer on 'The Force Awakens'] was very passionate about. She kept talking about Kurosawa films. I believe it was the last shot we got on set in the UK."
The best thing about this scene is probably J.J.'s name for it, Brandon added.
"J.J. kept calling it 'Rey's acid trip.' Just to be clear, we did not call our dealer and drop acid before editing that scene!"
Although we'll never know...
What's your favorite bit of trivia about 'The Force Awakens'?