Midway through production on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there was an incident on set that could have potentially caused substantial delays to the hotly anticipated seventh Star Wars movie: Harrison Ford broke his leg. At first glance, that seems like a bad thing—Ford probably didn’t enjoy it all that much—but according to director J.J. Abrams, it was actually a blessing in disguise.
There was a break in production while Ford recuperated from his injury, and talking to Entertainment Weekly, Abrams revealed that there were some benefits to this extra time. He said:
It was obviously a horrible experience that I wish had never happened for obvious reasons," Abrams says now. "But the truth is, once we knew that Harrison was going to be okay, we all realized this was this greatest gift to the movie, and I would think that any filmmaker would say, ‘If I could get a break after a month of shooting, for a few weeks, to recalibrate, I would take it.’
The extra time provided Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan the opportunity to get together and rewrite some of the upcoming scenes. It also allowed the other actors more time to rehearse with each other, and Abrams was even able to go back and reshoot some moments that they had in the can, but that they weren’t quite as stoked on as they could have been.
In addition to having a beneficial impact on the shoot, Ford’s injury also didn’t have the negative effects that many, including the filmmakers, initially expected. Abrams anticipated that when the 73-year-old actor returned to set that he would be much more limited in what he could do, and that from that point forward they would have to adjust the script to find ways to have him sitting down and things like that. But as it turned out, that wasn’t an issue at all. Abrams said:
[W]e didn’t need to change that at all. In fact, there are some places where he’s more active than he was prior to the accident. As you’ll see in the movie, he is running and doing more physical activity in this movie than I think anyone who knows he was injured would expect. Nothing was adjusted or lessened because of that accident. Even for Harrison, who is famously resilient and strong, he blew everyone’s minds.
In fact, J.J. Abrams himself probably could have used the additional down time to recuperate from his own injuries. Harrison Ford was hurt when a big chunk of the Millennium Falcon set broke off and fell on him, breaking his leg. In a story that didn’t come out until recently, while trying to rescue Ford, Abrams actually ruptured a vertebrae attempting to lift the fallen prop door off his star and subsequently had to wear a back brace while directing the movie.
Even with all of this going on, the release date for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was never pushed back and the film will make it’s scheduled slot on December 18.