If there was ever a must-not-miss panel at Comic Con, this year’s Star Wars panel, in Hall H would be it. Hosted by Chris Hardwick, in what must have been the height of his nerdgasm of a career, and featured just about the entire cast of the eagerly awaited sequel.
“Guys, we are in this! This is happening right now! This is the ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Panel.” gushed the comedian, sharing his memories of seeing the original Star Wars with his father, almost 40 years ago.
First up, Director J.J. Abrams, Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy joined Hardwick on the dais to discuss where the film currently stands. Abrams answered, “We’re editing. We have a cut of the movie. Disney have given us the time to do the movie right” Kasdan was quick to acknowledge Star Wars creator George Lucas, “The person who brought me in to all this is the same genius who brought us all together.” Hard as it is to believe, this was the Empire Strikes Back scribe’s first time at Comic Con. The panel took time to address fans questions, and first they were asked was how did approach working on this film, knowing what Star Wars means to fans. “The question we asked ourselves was ‘what makes us mesmerized?’ What excites us?” Abrams replied, “We also wanted to continue on with the story that George Lucas laid out for all of us”
“Star Wars is 100% dependent on the fans in this room and around the world since 1976 and we want to say ‘thank you’ to all of you.” Kennedy said.
Fans then got treated to the first look at the cast and crew, working to make Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and lucky you, they didn’t waste any time getting it online so we can share it with everyone.
As the Panel returned, the cast began to join them on stage, coming out in small groups at a time, starting with New Trilogy stars John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac, along with Chewbacca himself, Peter Mayhew. The panel continued to take questions from the audience, “What was it like working with the original cast members?” another fan asked.
“Harrison thought I was wearing a wig. So that was fun; that was cool.” Isaac laughed.
“Working with the legends who have made this universe was everything we could have hoped for. They were funny, charming, and just terrific to work with,” Ridley told the crowed. Boyega shared a story of going to a Nigerian restaurant in London with Ford. “Are you Harrison Ford?” someone asked.
“I used to be.” Ford quipped according to Boyega.
Shortly afterwards, Hardwick introduced the film’s Dark Side, as Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, and Gwendolyn Christie came to the stage. Christie has the honor of being the first woman to play a Stormtrooper, and she discussed what that meant for her. “I found it exciting” she shared. “Not only that there was a female Stormtrooper, but she was a woman who was not judged by what her body looked like but by her abilities.”
The cast continued to take questions from the audience, when Gleason began to talk about his first meeting with Abrams. “he told me the backstory of the character and how he’s on this base…” Gleeson caught himself, and stopped, “Was I not supposed to say that?”
“Yes, he’s on a base and it’s named in honor of the original name of Luke Skywalker. It’s Starkiller Base – spoiler brought to you by Domhnall Gleeson.” Abrams shared with a wry smile.
At this point, fans in Hall H were in for a treat as Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher took her place on the stage (that still had two empty chairs). Met with a standing ovation, Hardwick asked her how it felt to be back on the set of Star Wars. “They were right about the acid flashbacks,” she joked. “It felt like it did before, but we look like we melted. We sorta picked up where we left off, but we left off so long ago. We’re known as the legacy people, and it was great having the new people, because they do things faster.”
“Speaking of legacy people, maybe we should bring out Mark Hamill!” Hardwick chimed in, excitedly.
The Jedi Master took his seat, and shared a story about going to early conventions, “I am touched and surprised how much the franchise means to people.” he said, before confessing, “I took a “Star Wars” quiz recently and flunked. I didn’t know what Han Solo was smuggling. You fans have really taken ownership of the film…” Which lead Hardwick to ask about Harrison Ford, to which Hamill replied, “Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
On cue, Ford took the stage, with a bright smile, as he waved to audience, and they responded with the biggest ovation of the day. Once things calmed down, Hardwick inquired how Ford felt to return to the role that made him a star. “It should have felt ridiculous. Here I was doing something I did so long ago, and it felt great. The company was the right company, the director was the right director, and Larry wrote us a great story. The original ‘Star Wars’ I was a part of was the beginning of my working life and I was grateful for it and for the success of that film. Thank you for that.”
As the panel came to end, Hardwick and Abrams revealed to those in attendance a special event “How about a private concert?” Abrams asked the audience. And with that the entire Hall was moved out behind the Convention Center to an exclusive live performance of music from Star Wars, featuring a special message from composer John Williams, who was busy working on the score to the new film.
Quite a day for Star Wars fans in San Diego!