6 things we just learned about 'Star Wars' from director J.J. Abrams

Jj abrams colbertKirsten Acuna/Tech Insider‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ director J.J. Abrams answers a fan question during a talk with Stephen Colbert for the Montclair Film Festival. Yes, that is a toy BB-8 at their feet and they were drinking out of Stormtrooper mugs.

Stephen Colbert geeked out with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams Saturday night in New Jersey and it did not disappoint.

For about 90 minutes, the two spoke of Abrams’ works ranging from “Super 8” and “Star Trek” to “Alias” before talking briefly about the movie on everyone’s mind, “The Force Awakens.”

The talk was part of the Montclair Film Festival‘s annual events at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark Saturday evening.

While Abrams didn’t tell us any big secrets about “The Force Awakens,” he did give the estimated 2,800 crowd a few updates on the film and a few behind-the-scenes nuggets.

Keep reading to find out.

The soundtrack for the movie is officially finished.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider
John Williams speaking to a crowd of thousands at a secret 'Star Wars' event at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2015.

'This morning, at 2:30 in the morning, we finished the mix of the movie,' said Abrams. 'And then I left because I had to get to the Montclair Film Festival.'

Colbert remarked that Abrams hasn't slept for the past 24-48 hours.

Legendary composer John Williams, who has previously done the soundtrack for every 'Star Wars' film, is scoring 'The Force Awakens.' Abrams mentioned he was speaking with him last night.

'The Force Awakens' will have less lens flare than director J.J. Abrams' other films.

You won't see much of this in 'The Force Awakens.'

If you're a fan of Abrams then you know he loves adding lens flares to his movies.

Abrams mentioned that after 2013's 'Star Trek Into Darkness' even his wife has had enough of his lens flare in movies.

'There was literally one scene where Alice Eve was so obliterated by a lens flare and I was showing the scene to my wife Katie, who just said, 'OK, you know what? Enough.' I can't see what this scene is about. Who is standing there?'' Abrams recalled.

'So, I kind of pulled back, and as you'll see in the 'Star Wars' movie, I've allowed lens flares to take a very back seat,' said Abrams.

They will be there though!

'There are a couple (scenes) where you have to have them though because there's a giant -- there's a moment where you go -- we're making sure that it looks photorealistic and photoreal,' assured Abrams. 'But every time there could be a flare, because he (visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett) knows that I've liked to do that a lot, I've said, 'This is not the movie. These are not the flares you're looking for.''

Abrams went through original 'Star Wars' concept artist Ralph McQuarrie's artwork to draw inspiration for 'The Force Awakens.'

Lucasfilm
A fallen Star Destroyer in 'The Force Awakens.'

'We just went back in the archives of Lucasfilm and just looked at every Ralph McQuarrie image and painting and they have things that I have never seen,' said Abrams.

'It was an amazing thing to see what he did,' he continued. 'It was amazing, too, because much of what he did was embracing fundamental form. He wouldn't overcomplicate things. He would use really familiar shapes. So if you think of like the Star Destroyer was a giant triangular ship or a TIE fighter was just sort of two planes and a sphere.'

Abrams originally thought of BB-8 as having a snowman shape.

Abrams first sketched the ball droid BB-8 out on a napkin to look like a figure eight.

'When I was thinking about what the droid would look like, I had this idea that was almost like a snowman shape and I drew a picture of BB-8 with a little antennae and stuff,' said Abrams. 'I gave it to Neal Scanlan our creature guy, and I didn't know what we would see and what we would get, and he started to come back to us with drawings (and) renderings that were in this realm and looked like Ralph McQuarrie had designed it. It was one of many things that Neal and the incredible crew in this movie did.'

Abrams didn't want to rely on CG for the film.

J.J. Abrams with a practical effects puppet you will see in 'The Force Awakens.'

One of the things fans love about the new films is the heavy focus on practical sets and practical puppets instead of CGI, something many believe the prequel films relied on too much.

'The big thing for me was, I was nervous about CG being the master we were serving,' he said. 'On this movie, we knew, ok, it's 'Star Wars,' there are going to be a lot of ships flying, there will a lot of things we couldn't possibly ever do, of course, physically. But we knew that there needed to be a standard that those shots were adhering to and we'd try to match. So, it was really important to me to shoot on film. We shot on Kodak film.'

When Abrams said that last bit, the crowd responded with a big, thunderous roar of applause.

'It was really important to me that we had, whereever we possibly could, we had actual, physical, tangible, real sets,' Abrams continued. 'I remember when I was a kid, at the same time you were watching that movie ('Star Wars'), I'm sure you felt this too, when you're watching those two droids walking across the desert of what was supposed to be Tatooine. We may have known it was Tunisia, but what we knew for sure when we were watching it was, it was real. And most films, and people often refer to 'Star Wars' as a science-fiction movie, and I think it's more of a fairytale, but when you look at that movie, it looks like, at least in my history at the time, no other adventure I'd seen before. Nothing else looked like that -- to have these two droids walking around in what was absolute real sea of sand was an extraordinary thing.'

J.J. Abrams is more than ready for the movie to be released already.

When a fan in the crowd as Abrams what it's been like in the months, and now weeks, until the release of 'The Force Awakens,' he said he's ready for the movie to be seen by everyone.

'The truth is, working on this movie for the past nearly three years, it's been like living with the greatest roommate in history for too long,' explained Abrams. 'Meaning, it's time for him to get his own place. It's been the greatest, and I can't tell you how much I want him to get out into the world and meet other people because we know each other really well. But it is honestly the most exciting thing that, that I was asked to do this, and that I got a chance to, and that it went as well in the process of making it as it did.'

''Star Wars' is bigger than any of us,' he added. 'And to get to be involved in this in any way is a true honour and it needs to be out there for the people. Of course, at turns, I'm thrilled beyond words and I'm terrified more than I can say.'

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