Many of us have strong childhood memories tied to Star Wars. Hell, many of us never lived in a world without Star Wars. With the franchise expanding more rapidly than it ever has before, many of the people working on the upcoming movies are lifelong fans, which is bound to lead to some surreal moments. This extends all the way to J.J. Abrams, director of the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and one incident made his childhood come rushing back like no other.
In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Abrams was asked what it was like, as a lifelong fan, to work on Star Wars. With everything going on, there are a million things that could have stuck out in his mind, but the moment that really stood out for him isn’t what you might expect. It didn’t even happen during filming. He said:
Maybe the weirdest moment, which came months after production, was the first time I sat down with John Williams to show him about a half an hour of the movie. I can’t describe the feeling. All I will say is, just to state the facts of it: I am about to show John Williams 30 minutes of a Star Wars movie that he has not seen that I directed.
Initially, this may sound like an odd choice, especially with all of the other possible things that could have triggered a raging bout of nostalgia. After all, you’ve got almost all of the cast from the original trilogy coming back, and there are storm troopers, X-Wing fighters, and lightsabers all over the damn place. When he visited the set, Kevin Smith talked about the overwhelming emotion that he felt when he stepped onto the Millennium Falcon set.
But when Abrams goes onto explain why this moment, this meeting with the legendary composer, has so much impact, it makes total sense. He recounts how, during his youth, listening to the soundtracks for John Williams-scored movies served as a substitute for getting to watch them. There were no DVDs, Blu-rays, or even VHS tapes of most of these films readily available for repeat viewings, and even for movies that he hadn’t seen yet, he would sit in his room with his headphones on, letting the songs tell him the story.
In this context, it’s easy to see why this experience, even above all of the other potential triggers, meant so much to Abrams. Talking about working with Williams, he added that it was incredible to collaborate with him, reiterating that he couldn’t believe he was showing John Williams a Star Wars movie he hadn’t seen yet, and that it was one that Abrams created. He said:
That’s probably as surreal as it gets in my professional life experience.
Williams scored all six of the previous Star Wars films, and is, in a lot of minds, synonymous with the franchise. It’s hard to imagine one of these sweeping space adventures without his signature soaring sound. That said, it’s an idea we’ll have to get used to. While he will continue to work on the Episode movies, like The Force Awakens, he’s not going to lend his talents to the standalone "anthology" films, like Gareth Edwards’ Star Wars: Rogue One. This is just one more thing that reinforces the separate nature of those movies.
We’ll get to experience the results of the collaboration between John Williams and J.J. Abrams when Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens everywhere December 18.