J.J. ABRAMS recently read the script for Episode VIII of Star Wars. And he had a reaction to it that his lifelong friend, “The Force Awakens” actor Greg Grunberg, had not ever heard from the director over their decades together in the industry.
“He may have said something one time on ‘Lost,’ with Damon [Lindelof, the co-creator],” continues Grunberg, whose credits on Abrams series include “Lost” and “Felicity,” “but I never hear him express regret like that.”
Abrams’s remark serves, too, as a ringing endorsement of the new script and its filmmaker. The writer-director now inheriting the Star Wars franchise, of course, is Rian Johnson, the USC film grad who made “Brick,” “Looper” and “The Brothers Bloom.” Abrams has said that he shared early cuts of Episode VII with Johnson, to help make the transition between the two Star Wars films more seamless, ahead of Episode VIII’s scheduled 2017 release.
And Abrams, as we know, isn’t leaving Star Wars altogether. As he’s done with the Star Trek franchise, Abrams will remain on as a producer (in the case of Star Wars, as an executive producer).
Still, as a director, Abrams has chosen to let go. He knew he was simply the latest caregiver to George Lucas’s baby, but he had the staggering challenge of giving it script-to-screen resuscitation after the mostly horrendous prequels.
Now, Abrams exits the chair as the conquering hero, with keys to the Disney Kingdom and beyond. He reinvigorated the franchise to record-breaking box office, both domestically and globally. And “The Force Awakens” becomes the foundation not only for at least four more planned films, but also for the full menu of Disney commercial-synergy options — from an anticipated $3-billion in toy sales to Star Wars-themed amusement parks.
Even to a greater degree than Abrams did with Star Trek, Grunberg says that the director — his fellow-geek friend since kindergarten — made this “Star Wars reinvested,” in multiple senses of that term.
Grunberg also notes that for his own scenes during the climactic action of “The Force Awakens,” he was given a list of lines to say while sitting in his pilot’s gimbal. “It was lines like,’ ‘He’s on my left!’ and ‘I got him!’ and ‘Poe!’ I was told to also say, ‘I’ve been hit!’ but I refused to. I wasn’t going to go down.”
Grunberg, in other words, has the same reaction as Abrams: He longs to stick around as this wild cinematic ride continues.