At Comic-Con, you know you’ve won when you’ve made the grown-ups cry.
J.J. Abrams and his Star Wars: The Force Awakens cast, including “legacy” stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford, had a whole lot of grown folk tearing up Friday at the pop culture confab, where they premiered a footage-filled making-of video and spilled new details on the first proper live-action Star Wars film in a decade.
Word in the galaxy is Disney’s saving the Death Star-sized reveals for D23, their own mini-Comic-Con. Still, enthusiasm was palpable in Hall H where the OG’s Luke, Leia, and Han Solo were in the house alongside new rebel heroes John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac and next-gen darksiders Domnhall Gleeson, Adam Driver, and Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie.
Many fans camped out overnight for days for the chance to be in Hall H for Star Wars, by far the most hotly anticipated panel at Comic-Con. Those that made it in were treated to never-before-seen concept and character art, images of new creatures, bots, crash-landed X-Wings, and Flametroopers.
The habitually secretive Abrams played coy on the storyline he and Lawrence Kasdan scripted for The Force Awakens, which takes place three decades after the events of Return of the Jedi. But he did reveal new details on his new lineups of good guys and Imperial villains, including Christie’s lady Stormtrooper, who goes by the supremely commanding name: Captain Phasma.
Here’s everything else Abrams and Co. let slip—intentionally and otherwise—before leading 6,000+ fans outside to a private Star Wars concert by the San Diego Symphony with apologies to Kevin Smith, whose own panel had to follow that epic mic drop.
Abrams insisted on building practical sets and using minimal CG for his Star Wars pic, showing off a number of them in the three-minute behind-the-scenes reel unveiled Friday. Among its reveals: A beaming Simon Pegg on set, in alien costume.
He also populated the film with “hundreds” of practical creatures with intricate animatronic facial movements—and brought one out onstage to show the Hall H crowd. Meet Bobbajo, the bipedaled turban-wearing camel-esque character with a wizened beard who took the stage hauling boxes full of small creatures on his back.
“We wanted to tell a story that would make us feel, and feel like a continuum of the incredible story George Lucas started,” described Abrams.
Oscar Isaac discussed his character Poe Dameron, a Resistance X-wing pilot. “Poe was probably there watching… when the medal ceremony was happening thinking, ‘I want to be that, I want to be that hero and take up that mantle’… sometimes recklessly so,” he said.
Rogue One, the Death Star-centered Star Wars standalone helmed by Godzilla director Gareth Edwards, starts filming in three weeks, according to producer Kathleen Kennedy.
There Will Be Asians: Asked by two fans if he had cast Asians in his Star Wars film, Abrams replied, “First of all, I want to say: Go, Asians!” He then said his two lead characters, Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) were written colorblind, although “there are Asians” in The Force Awakens. “We wanted the movie to look the way the world looks,” he said. “It’s important for people to see themselves represented in film.”
Adam Driver outlined the delineation of good and evil in the film and where his dark side villain Kylo Ren stands along that spectrum. “We didn’t have a lot of conversations about ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ when we were shooting. It was more, what do you think is the difference between being bad, and being right? Someone who thinks they’re right is something different—that’s almost more evil, a group of people who’ve decided that they’re morally justified in behaving a certain way.”
As for Domnhall Gleeson’s General Hux: “I am evil. He’s British, so yeah.”
Evil or not, Gleeson was the only cast member to accidentally let slip a spoilery detail: the post-Imperial First Order’s headquarters is named Starkiller Base. “The name of the base of the First Order is in honor of the original last name of Luke Skywalker,” Abrams explained, “spoiled by Domnhall Gleeson.”
Queried by a fan over Internet speculation that Darth Plagueis’s staff has a connection to Daisy Ridley’s Rey, Kasdan pretended to mishear the question. “I don’t think I heard correctly. Is it Darth Vegas?” Abrams took the helm: “I don’t think we want to be talking story too much too soon, but I will say: No.”
Han Solo’s foot is just fine. Springing onstage to greet fellow icons Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill onstage with a kiss, an emotional Harrison Ford repeatedly expressed his appreciation for the franchise that launched his career, and waved off concerned queries about his health—an injured ankle on set, an airplane crash in March—that had Star Wars fans in a panic. “I just walked here,” he said. “I’m good.”
Hamill always thought Luke would end up in therapy, not in another movie. “When you find out that the only woman you ever really fell head over heels for is your sister, it’s telling you something,” he joked, earning a sympathetic pat on the shoulder from Ford.
Three decades later, Han Solo bro-pologized for stealing Luke’s girl. “How many times can I say ‘I’m sorry?’”