J.J. Abrams will be the first to tell you Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn’t spring fully formed from his brain to the big screen; the film went through exhaustive edits and multiple iterations from script to theatrical release. On the four-disc Force Awakens 3D collector’s edition, out Nov. 15, Abrams serves as a tour guide, providing a detailed commentary track that explains his thought process through the evolution of the blockbuster.
Take the climactic lightsaber duel between Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. In the exclusive clip above, Abrams tells how the scene was reshaped during reshoots and how a couple of small additions provided greater emotional heft — including a brief, but impactful shot suggested by Selma director Ava DuVernay. (Back in December, Abrams told Yahoo Movies that he thought DuVernary would make an excellent future Star Wars director.)
“I showed an early cut to my friend Ava DuVernay, and she had a bunch of great suggestions. One of them was she really wanted to see Daisy, in her attack on Ren, have one really cool moment,” says Abrams before pointing out a closeup of Ridley about to deliver a decisive blow to her rival.
“Boom! It’s a little thing but it really connects you to her intensity.”
Aside from the DuVernay-influenced shot, which was added during an unplanned eight-week stoppage in principal photography due to Harrison Ford’s injury, there was another important addition to the battle resulting from the reshoots: the moment when Rey feels the Force, which turns the tide of their clash.
Abrams explains that the the original cut didn’t have the extended moment of self-reflection. But he decided he needed to add a beat, where Rey would “take this moment of hearing the Force and thinking about what Maz had told her about closing her eyes and letting it in. And so she has this incredibly internal moment that is extended in movie time where she basically feels it, accepts it, and is now ready to kick his ass.”
In addition to Abrams’s commentary track, the collector’s edition offers the theatrical version of the film on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, Digital HD, and DVD. Along with the bonus features on the original DVD release, there will also be addition deleted scenes (including a fateful encounter between Chewbacca and Unkar Plutt that was referenced in the novelization); featurettes on costumes, sound design, and weaponry; and a conversation between stars Ridley and John Boyega (Finn).