Writer-director Lawrence Kasdan might not be as well-known as George Lucas, but he's vitally important to the architecture of "Star Wars." He wrote "The Empire Strikes Back" and co-wrote "Return of the Jedi," and now he's returned to the franchise to write "The Force Awakens."
While his "Force Awakens" co-writer and director J.J. Abrams (pictured below) has admitted to being under "an insane amount of pressure" to deliver something the fans will love, Kasdan is remarkably calm about this year's most anticipated movie. As he told Moviefone at a recent press event for the film, he was only concerned with pleasing the people making the film.
He also sang the praises of Harrison Ford, whom he calls "an actual superhero" for bouncing back from his on-set accident and for his input into where his cinematic alter ego should be 32 years after "Return of the Jedi."Moviefone: Did you feel a lot of pressure when you're writing this?
Lawrence Kasdan: Not really. I thought it was a great opportunity and it's very rare that you get to work on a movie that you know people are going to go to see. And that the world is receptive to it. You don't ever think, "Can we please everybody," but "Can we please ourselves?" -- and hopefully it'll be good. It's not really that much pressure. The pressure is when you start with an original screenplay. No one wants to make it and you don't know if anyone will ever see it. That's pressure.
What about when you were writing "Empire Strikes Back"?
No. It just happened so quickly. I had just finished writing "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and when George asked me to write "Empire," it was a total surprise. It was a bonus for me. I didn't feel any pressure because it was the sequel to the most popular movie ever made and, again, the pressure is when you start from nothing and you're not sure if your labors will amount to anything. When you do a sequel to such a popular movie, you know people will see it.
But whether they like it is a different story.
That's true. You can't control that.
That doesn't keep you awake at night?
No. What did keep me awake was, "Would we like it?" And I really do like it. I've seen it a lot and I really, really like it.
What was it like returning to these characters? Had you given them any thought over the years?
They're always with you, sort of, when you're associated with two movies that are so gigantic. They never left the culture. I did a lot of other things in that time and I was thinking a lot about people my age going through those 30 years and I tried to make movies about that. It wasn't a big leap to come back and say, "Well, what happened to Han Solo during that time? What happened to Princess Leia? What about Luke -- where would he be 30 years later? And what would have happened in the galaxy?"
You didn't create Han Solo, but he wouldn't be who he is without you, or without Harrison Ford playing him. So does Harrison have a say in what happens to Han?
Harrison definitely has input. He is so amazing in this movie. And his history during the movie, what he went through. He's an actual superhero! He's not a fake superhero. I've never seen him better, more generous, or more sweet and giving with everyone and with me. He contributed enormously, as he always did.
Did he do that on the set or in the scriptwriting process?
On the set. A lot of the writing happened while we were shooting. We had a first draft in six weeks, but then we've writing for another two years. It's really changed a lot over that time. Harrison had a big impact.You're also writing the Han Solo movie.
Yes, we just finished the second draft. Everybody's excited about it.
It is exciting! You've said you're not sure what the movie will end up being, once it's in the directors' hands.
Yes, it's a year before Chris Miller and Phil Lord start on it. They have their own process and their own method, which I don't fully understand. You don't understand anyone else's process. They've done these extraordinary things -- "The Lego Movie" was a one-off, and I think this is going to be like no other "Star Wars" movie ever. I think from now, until when they start shooting, it's going to go through a lot of changes. But it'll all be in the mode of Lord and Miller. That's what happens when you bring singular talents like that to the saga.
Do you have someone in mind who should play young Han Solo?
I wish I did, because everybody's looking. It's the biggest decision that will be made on the movie. It's really hard to step in. Harrison Ford has become like Spencer Tracy.
Do you think it has to be an unknown?
No, I think it has to be someone great.
You're cowriting with your son... Was "Star Wars" a big deal in your household when he grew up?
Well, I was involved with it. He was on my sets from the beginning, from "The Big Chill" and "Silverado," so he's grown up on movie sets. Certainly the "Star Wars" movies were big in our family history.
What does "Star Wars" mean to you, personally?
The basic theme of "Star Wars" is realizing our potential. It's not always a positive thing and it's not an easy journey. It's not always easy to throw off what you've inherited from your mother or father. How does that change your life and direct your life? The "Star Wars" saga is really about finding out "What am I capable of?" Is there a chance for change? And is it too late? No matter what your age, can I still change my life?
What's your personal favorite of the ones you've written?
I don't have one. Although this one is pretty amazing. I can't wait for people to see it.
Will you go see it again opening night?
Oh yeah, absolutely. It'll be fun.
"The Force Awakens" (finally) hits theaters Dec. 18