J.J. Abrams "may well be the most hyphenated mogul the film industry has ever seen; he is certainly among the most influential of his time," writes Esquire's Mike Sager in the US magazine's new feature on the Star Wars: The Force Awakens director. On top of Abrams' phenomenal success as a writer/director, he's been put in charge of the two most important sci-fi franchises in history (yup, he does Star Trek, too). To know the man is to know what it's like to be at the leading edge of an entire genre. This new profile reveals that Abrams has essentially been training for this role since he was a kid. Read the whole thing at Esquire Classic.
1 | Why he initially turned down Star Wars
You might remember this news coming out during the very early whispers of a new Star Wars movie. But part of the reason for Abrams' hesitation was because of the barrage of criticism from megafans George Lucas dealt with when making the fourth, fifth and sixth films. From the article:
"He knew that one reason Lucas had decided to sell was the personal attacks he'd suffered over the years from overzealous fans who had their own ideas on how to run a movie dynasty. (Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy) says she had to do a lot of convincing to bring Abrams aboard."
2 | Steven Spielberg put a ton of faith in 15-year-old Abrams
Abrams first worked with Spielberg as a teenager. Kennedy (Spielberg's then assistant) hired Abrams to clean up Spielberg's old 8mm movies. As Spielberg told Esquire:
"I was entrusting my entire collection of 8mm movies that I had made as a kid to these two up-and-coming Hollywood hopefuls. And they were fifteen years old. Absolutely I was very concerned. I wanted to make sure that they weren't going to try to reinvent the wheel."
3 | His Bad Robot building is like a every kid's dream room
"There are Star Trek, Star Wars, and Spy vs. Spy figurines, all carefully posed. Plastic Aurora models of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Godzilla; an original Planet of the Apes ape-head prosthesis in a plastic case; collector's-edition dolls of the pig-faced doctor and nurse from "Eye of the Beholder," a classic episode of The Twilight Zone. A stack of board games from Parker Brothers and Ideal, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Mission: Impossible. On a coffee table are bins of pens, markers, colored pencils, and drawing paper. A sign suggests: PLEASE CREATE."
4 | He grew up making backyard movies and working with modern day Hollywood giants
"Perhaps even more significant has been Abrams's longtime collaboration with a group of close friends and mentors, all of whom he met by the time he was a freshman in high school. Including actor Greg Grunberg (Alias, Heroes, Heroes Reborn), cinematographer Larry Fong (Lost and the movies 300 and Watchmen),writer-director-producer Matt Reeves (Felicity, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Kathleen Kennedy (the president of Lucasfilm), and Steven Spielberg, the group forms a sort of Algonquin Round Table of the postmodern movie era. Instead of drinking heavily, this crowd favours magic and monsters. Many a blockbuster idea has been hatched on weekends, at family dinners, in the parking lots of various Westside schools their children attended together."
5 | You'll never be able to tell what's real and what's not in 'Star Wars'
Staying true to the spirit of the original series, Abrams has limited the use of CGI in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He's been clear about this since the beginning, but the extent of his dedication to real life props is nothing short of incredible:
"When you look at creatures on the set – I have scenes where we might have used a little bit of CG, but it was more likely to remove something, not to add something, like to remove the puppeteer. There are a couple scenes in this movie where you might think, 'Oh, I bet that's CG,' which is fine, but you're never gonna look at it and go, 'That doesn't look real.' "
This article was originally published on Esquire.com