Stephen Colbert and J.J. Abrams in New Jersey on Saturday night (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for Montclair Film Festival)
So much for the Mystery Box. Last night, the usually-secretive J.J. Abrams showed up at his “Celebrity Nerd-Off” with The Late Show host Stephen Colbert — a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center — with a big piece of news: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is officially complete. At precisely 2:38 a.m. on Nov. 21, the director finished the final sound mix on the seventh episode in the Star Wars franchise.
And how did he celebrate this accomplishment? By hopping on a plane and flying out to chat with fellow nerd Colbert, of course! Considering the lack of sleep and the intensive process of wrapping what’s easily the most anticipated film of the year, the fact that Abrams was able to talk coherently for two hours about his career was nothing short of remarkable. Clearly, the Force — or, at the very least, a healthy dose of caffeine — was with him. Here are four other details we learned from this spirited meeting of geek minds.
There Are No Lens Flares in This Galaxy Far, Far Away
Colbert gently challenged Abrams on his copious use of lens flares in his previous movies, particularly Star Trek. Abrams’ defense? He just likes the way they look. “The reason I wanted to do it [in Star Trek] was that I loved the idea that the future they were in was so bright, it couldn’t be contained.“ Still, Abrams admitted that he may have gone a little overboard. “I was starting to get in trouble with people. When I made Star Trek Into Darkness, there was a scene where Alice Eve [who played Carol Marcus] was obliterated by a lens flare. I showed it to my wife, and she said ‘OK, enough!’” Her reaction inspired the director to keep his flares to a minimum in The Force Awakens, and ILM’s visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett, similarly helped him resist temptation. “As you’ll see, I’ve allowed lens flares to take a backseat,” said Abrams. “Every time there could be a flare, Roger would tell me, ‘These are not the flares you are looking for.’”
The Jury’s Still Out on That Jakku Cantina Slusho Machine
Edgar Wright has his “Cornetto Trilogy,” named for the English ice cream brand, and Abrams has his “Slusho Suite.” Originally introduced in the director’s cult spy series, Alias, these sweet, sugary drinks — basically the Abrams-verse version of a 7-Eleven Slurpee — have made an appearance in numerous films and shows made by his production company Bad Robot. The director declined to reveal whether Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley will take a swig of Slusho to quench her thirst after spending all day scavenging fallen Imperial ships, but don’t be surprised if Slusho ends up with its own entry in the revised The Star Wars Encyclopedia.
The BB-8 Was Made in the Spirit of Ralph McQuarrie
George Lucas may have dreamed up Star Wars, but late artist Ralph McQuarrie was instrumental in translating those dreams into reality. His conceptual sketches and paintings for Star Wars helped firm up the look of C-3PO and R2-D2, as well as other key characters. “It was amazing to see what he did,” said Abrams, who did a deep dive into McQuarrie’s archives at Lucasfilm after landing The Force Awakens gig. “He embraced fundamental forms and wouldn’t complicate them. Think of the Star Destroyer: it’s basically a giant triangle.” So as the director was thinking up new vehicles and robots to introduce into the Star Wars universe in Episode VII, he made sure to keep McQuarrie’s “keep it simple” philosophy in mind. “I had an idea [that one droid] would look like a snowman, and drew this little circular shape,” Abrams said. In its finished form, that shape is BB-8, the little soccer ball-esque droid that has already become the breakout star of early Force Awakens trailers, as well as one of the most sought-after toys currently on the market.
Colbert Has a Killer Middle-earth Idea
Based on his recent comments, it sounds like Peter Jackson is clearly finished with Hobbits, Orcs and One Rings, but lifelong Lord of the Rings fan Colbert has the perfect pitch for anyone else interested in taking another trip to Middle-earth. The Late Show host pointed his guest to the “Akallabêth,” the fourth part of The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien’s posthumously published book of pre-Hobbit lore. An account of the fall of the Kingdom of Númenor, the 30-page story sets the stage for many of the events we see play out in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, with a few famous cameos to boot. “It’s got all your greatest hits in it,” Colbert said. “It’s got the Elves and Sauron is also in it! He’s actually captured, even though he has the One Ring at the time. It ends with the founding of the city of Gondor, and then you’re back in Middle-earth again. If they make anything from The Silmarillion, it should be that story.” Ball’s in your court, J.J.
Watch Colbert make ‘The Force Awakens’ predictions: