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When word spread in September that one of the new characters in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was named Ello Asty, it didn’t take fans long make the obvious Beastie Boys connection. Director J.J. Abrams is known to be a fan of the seminal rap trio, and to create the moniker for the alien, Abrams appeared to simply drop the first letters of both words from the Beasties’ 1998 album, Hello Nasty (which, it should be noted, includes the single “Intergalactic”). Another theory also emerged about the bullheaded X-wing pilot’s name: it was a tribute to Abrams’s monster TV hit, since the name’s four syllables phonetically spell out “El Oh Es Te” (or L-O-S-T for Lost).
Turns out everyone was right. “It is for me,” Abrams said when we asked him this weekend if the Internet’s Beastie Boys assumption was correct. “But I’d be lying if I said I came up with that name. It was suggested to me from the creature department. And I loved it for that reason, because it referenced the album, and also because it spells out Lost. And so both of those felt like, they were funny reasons to approve that name.
"Some names came from the creature department, some came from us, from me, from other people I’m working with. But it was one of the things that just felt like something funny that people might smile at.”
Asty first appeared in two Star Wars novels released on Force Friday and then surfaced as a Hasbro action figure. As fans and film writers sleuthed out early on, the Star Wars-Beastie Boys connection cuts even deeper than the character’s name, even extending into his mythology. The Twitter user Yakface discovered the words “Born to Ill” etched on Asty’s helmet in film series’ go-to language, Aurebash; the phrase is a play on the rap group’s debut release, License to Ill. Then Making Star Wars contributor Jared pointed out that, according to the novels Moving Target and Aftermath, Asty’s species is called Abednedo; the Beastie Boys have a song called “Shadrach” (from Paul’s Botique), that references the Judaeo-Christian parable of Shadrach, Meshach, and… Abednego.
This isn’t the first time Abrams’s Beastie fandom has been manifested on the big screen. He famously set young Captain Kirk’s introduction at the onset of 2009’s Star Trek to the trio’s 1994 single “Sabotage.”
Asked if he’s ever been in touch with surviving Beastie Boys Mike D and Ad-Rock (the group’s third founding member, MCA, died in 2012), Abrams responded, “I haven’t. But as you know, I’m a huge fan.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens Dec. 18.
Watch J.J. Abrams endorse Ava DuVernay as a future ‘Star Wars’ director: