Earlier this week, I wrote about Daisy Ridley being dubbed the new “Luke Skywalker” of this generation. Well, that quote came from our interview with Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm President and Producer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A female powerhouse herself, Ms. Kennedy was a delight to talk with and had plenty more to say about the film opening everywhere this Friday, December 18th.
With four daughters excited to see Rey on the big screen, I was eager to hear what Kathleen Kennedy had to say about the strong female lead in the movie. Rey is a prominent character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the decision to have such a powerful female presence was important to both Kathleen and J.J. Abrams. Both also parents of young daughters, they began talking about the idea from day one. As a woman, and mother raising daughters, I have to tip my hat off to them both for going for it and giving young girls a reason to be proud of their femininity.
Speaking of working with Director J.J. Abrams, Ms. Kennedy also spoke about how she recognized while working with filmmakers that the really good ones want to “find something of themselves as a reason to tell the story.” They look for something they can infuse into the characters and storytelling, as well as the emotion of the piece, to bring it all together into one captivating product. She believes J.J. Abrams did that very thing with this movie.
With George Lucas, as a young film school graduate, he simply had something to say when he made New Hope back in 1977. He created the film from a very strong personal point of view. In fact, George Lucas had no idea that he would create this incredible blockbuster that we still talk about and await 40 years later! That is simply remarkable to even fathom.
Today, Kathleen enjoys recognizing that passion in others and helping them find the resources to nurture and guide that zeal. If someone is only going through the motions without making personal connections, then they are most likely not going to be able to “excavate what’s emotionally powerful in Star Wars — or in any movie for that matter.” Fortunately, she found that dedication in J.J. Abrams!
There’s certain filmmakers where just who they are as a person, the exuberance, the childlike quality, the sense of humor. That just the understanding of what it is to just be delighted by entertaining stories and movies — J.J.’s very definitely one of those filmmakers. He just accesses every beat of the storytelling process in a way that you feel that he’s always connected to the audience, whether they’re seven or 700. He just has that unique ability. He made it such a fun experience. He’s meticulous about story. He’s meticulous about the technical aspect of making the movie. But he makes it a totally inclusive, really fun experience on the set. And I remember all the years I worked with Steven [Spielberg], he used to always say that that kind of energy in the creative process gets translated to the screen. And I think that that’s very much what J.J. does as well.
Realizing that so much of the story was in George Lucas’ head, not written down anywhere, there had to be a lot of discussions through the writing process. Therefore, they created a “brain trust” that included “certain people within Lucasfilm who had been there for a long, long time with George and had worked with him day in and day out in the storytelling process.” As a team, they sat with Mr. Lucas and tried to gather as much information about the story and characters as they possibly could before he retired. That must have been some discussion! To get inside the mind of George Lucas truly sounds like an unbelievable opportunity!
Amazingly, Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, was also very much involved in the production of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Ms. Kennedy said he would look at their dailies and call just to check in with her often. He was “excited about something… [and] absolutely involved.” In fact, she said he was involved in every aspect and had a blast working with them on the project. Considering he very rarely participates in this way, it’s a pretty big deal. Plus, she says he had a lot of contributions that were great for the movie. You have to love the fact that even the CEO wanted to have his hands on this one!
Finally, I had to ask Kathleen Kennedy for her best takeaway from the film for girls. Of course, she had to remain spoiler-free but said that my daughters would be so excited. She want on to say,
“This character of Rey is, I think, one of the most wonderful heroines to come along in movie history. I mean, she is great. So I think they’re gonna be very happy. They’re gonna have their own Luke Skywalker now. Let’s put it that way.”
The countdown is on and we are anxiously awaiting our chance to see this new (female) Luke Skywalker in action! Watch for Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening in theaters everywhere this Friday, December 18th.