It’s been more than a month since Star Wars: The Force Awakens was unleashed on a ready and willing world. Closing in on $2 billion at the global box office, we’re learning more and more about the story, the future of the franchise, the special effects that really sell the world, and more. One of the screenwriters, Michael Arndt, has revealed how two of the biggest new additions to the franchise, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), came to be.
SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
If you’re looking for answers about the history of the characters, like who Rey’s parents are, or where Finn was snatched up from when he was just a baby, we’re not talking about those kinds of origins. Still no word on those. We’re talking about how the creative types on the movie came up with them. Michael Arndt, who penned an early draft of Star Wars: The Force Awakens before J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took over to deliver the version we saw on screen, talked to EW, and said:
From the very beginning we sort of settled on very quickly that we wanted the girl, Rey, to be a scavenger. We always wanted her to be the ultimate outsider and the ultimate disenfranchised person, because that person has the longest journey... And then we were struggling to figure out who the male lead was going to be. I remember we talked about pirates and merchant marines and all this stuff, and finally Larry [Kasdan] got pissed at all of us and he's just like, "You guys, you're not thinking big. What if he's a stormtrooper that ran away?"
I like how casual this sounds, like a bunch of writers and brain trust types are just sitting around, shooting the shit, bouncing ideas off of each other, seeing what sticks. And then into the midst of this walks Kasdan, says, "He’s a stormtrooper that ran away," drops the mic, and leaves. Boom.
I’m sure it was much more formal than that, but that’s how it plays out in my mind. But it also illustrates how oftentimes a momentary spark of inspiration can show up and have a huge impact on the creative process. It sounds like they had a solid idea of what they wanted from Rey, but how different would Finn’s character have been if he wasn’t an AWOL stormtrooper? That would have been huge.
He wouldn’t have that innate fear of the First Order—I’m sure it would still be there, but his first person experience with them, knowing exactly what they’re capable of, gives it a visceral edge unique among the characters. All that knowledge of Starkiller Base that proved so handy at the end would have to come from somewhere else. And he puts a more human face on stormtroopers that has some interesting implications for Star Wars, among other aspects.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in theaters now, you’ve probably already seen it multiple times. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first of the standalone spinoff films opens December 16 of this year. The Rian Johnson-directed Star Wars: Episode VIII was recently pushed back, and now opens on December 15, 2017.