Ten years after George Lucas directed the last installment of the Star Wars prequels, Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, a still untitled film, needed a director. It couldn’t just be any director either, this one needed to set the tone for the return of the beloved franchise. Unlike the previous Star Wars films, Episode VII, for better or worse depending on who you ask, no longer had its creator at the helm. LucasFilm made the decision and entrusted the responsibility of directing Star Wars VII to none other than Star Trek director J.J. Abrams. How exactly did Abrams come to sit in the director’s chair, and end up producing the Star Wars movies that would follow? The answer comes from… Mr. Steven Spielberg.
The decision to go with J.J. Abrams wasn’t without its own controversy and was met with mixed emotions from fans of the franchise, emotions that only intensified when the film was released and some fans claimed that Abrams had made the movie way too similar to Episode IV. (Nerdbastards reported on that here!)
Spielberg did not want to direct the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise and made the suggestion that J.J. Abrams was a good candidate to Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. In a conversation with THR, Spielberg explained how he initially brought up the idea of Abrams as Episode VII director.
I brought J.J.’s name up. I thought J.J. would be the best person to direct Episode 7 and I called J.J. and said ‘Would you do it if it was offered to you?’ He said, ‘I would but my wife won’t let me ’cause she doesn’t want me to restart any more franchises.’ But I went to Kathy and asked if I could get J.J. to say yes to this would you consider it? Kathy said ‘Are you kidding? Of course I would. But why would J.J. do Star Wars; he’s already done Mission Impossible and Star Trek.’
How did Spielberg decide to get Abrams’ wife Katie on board?
So I take Katie Abrams and J.J. to dinner that night to Giorgio with my wife, Kate, and right in front of Katie Abrams I popped the question. I said to Katie, ‘I think there’s a chance that J.J. could direct Star Wars. What do you think of that?’ And Katie turned to J.J. and said, ‘That would be amazing. Really?’ And I went outside the restaurant, picked up my phone, called Kathy and said, “When can we meet with J.J.?” And that’s how the whole thing began.
The rest, as they say, is history. Whether you agree with the appointment of J.J. Abrams and the work he did on The Force Awakens you cannot deny the film’s success. It has sparked new life and increased the already staggering fanbase. Long gone were the days when this franchise had its darkest hour when Jar Jar Binks went pod racing. Without Steven Spielberg’s influence who knows who might have ended up in that director’s chair?
Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray with Star Wars: Episode VIII currently in production.