This Q&A is part of Us Weekly’s 2015 Holiday Movie Preview.
How do you keep a secret of intergalactic proportions? “We make people feel really bad if they leak anything,” co-producer Kathleen Kennedy tells Us Weekly of the hotly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens (in theaters Dec. 18). The head of LucasFilm and Oscar-nominated producer of movies like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Sixth Sense slipped Us a few details about new leads Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), the possibility of twin characters, and why fans should be concerned about Luke Skywalker.
Us: Daisy Ridley and John Boyega have some huge shoes to fill in Episode VII. What was it about them that just blew away the competition?
KK: It’s an interesting thing when you’re casting a film — especially when you’re trying to discover someone — you’re waiting for someone to step into the room in an audition process and claim the role. Daisy came in, met with us, and it was pretty instantaneous that we realized that she really did embody the character we were looking for. And that’s certainly what happened with John too. He claimed the role, and at the same time we realized he had this wonderful combination of an ability to perform drama and a great sense of humor.
Us: Was it always the plan to cast relative unknowns in the leads?
KK: Certainly there are actors out there in their late teens or early twenties that we could consider, and we did, but when you think about it, George Lucas did exactly the same thing when he created the first Star Wars movies — he made a lot of discoveries. And I think we were trying to follow in those footsteps.
Us: Speaking of those discoveries, it’s amazing that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher are all back on board. Did it take any convincing?
KK: From my point of view, there was no hesitancy. Whether or not they were slightly trepidatious about stepping back in after all this time, all I saw was tremendous excitement and enthusiasm. They’ve been absolutely, phenomenally great to work with again.
Us: The new trailer was met with such overwhelming enthusiasm, but also a racist protest. Does that surprise you?
KK: It certainly does. I think it’s so outrageous that we are in 2015 and something like that has happened. On the other hand, because of the information age and the Internet, we’re also in this strange place now where extremist voices like that get a lot of attention. The great thing is that when it did surface, there were a lot of people who came down on those comments and really shut it down. There was very little we needed to say or do because people were so outraged, as they should have been.
Us: With Rey, this film is also the first in the series to have a female character in the central role. Was that important to you?
KK: Yes! In fact, I am such a hero with my teenage daughters. They’re like, “Mom, this is fantastic!” Again, these kinds of questions and issues shouldn’t be huge factors in our society any longer. It’s kind of amazing that these conversations that I remember certainly taking place at the beginning of my career many, many years ago, and even things I talked about with my own mother, are still occurring. It is quite staggering that we’re still having to make a big deal out of the fact that there’s a female protagonist.
Us: Okay, we consulted some die-hard Star Wars superfans and compiled their burning questions…
KK: Uh-oh! I’ll dodge them artfully.
Us: Can we expect to see any more familiar faces other than those we’ve seen in the trailer?
KK: Yes. I will not elaborate, but yes!
Us: Can we look forward to a shocking plot twist?
Us: Why do the villains always have the cooler lightsabers?
KK: I don’t know if I can answer that! I think that’s again following the footsteps of George Lucas’ imagination.
Us: As we know, twins tend to run in families. Fans are speculating that Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) could be twins. Do twins tend to run in the Skywalker family?
KK: They could!
Us: Should we be concerned about Luke Skywalker?
KK: I think it’s always wise to be concerned about any of the characters in Star Wars, right?
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