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After 10 years away from the big screen (live action-wise), the Star Wars franchise kicked off a new era last December with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it wasn't George Lucas at the helm like with all three prequel movies. Ushering in the sequel trilogy was J.J. Abrams, who had already had plenty of experience in the world of science fiction-related material. As it turns out, we have Steven Spielberg to putting the whole thing in motion years back.
While Steven Spielberg didn't have any interest in personally directing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he did discuss J.J. Abrams as a candidate with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Here's how the original exchange between them wen down, as Spielberg told THR:
I brought J.J.'s name up. I thought J.J. would be the best person to direct Episode 7 and I called J.J. and said 'Would you do it if it was offered to you?' He said, 'I would but my wife won't let me 'cause she doesn't want me to restart any more franchises.' But I went to Kathy and asked if I could get J.J. to say yes to this would you consider it? Kathy said 'Are you kidding? Of course I would. But why would J.J. do Star Wars; he's already done Mission Impossible and Star Trek.'
Whether it's TV shows, like Alias or Lost, or movies, like Mission Impossible III and the first two Star Trek reboot movies, science fiction and action have been among the main constants in J.J. Abrams' career for almost two decades. So it's understandable that Kathleen Kennedy assumed that Abrams might not on board for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, since it might be construed as more of the same. Fortunately, Steven Spielberg already had a plan on how to present to opportunity to Abrams and his wife. He continued:
So I take Katie Abrams and J.J. to dinner that night to Giorgio with my wife, Kate, and right in front of Katie Abrams I popped the question. I said to Katie, 'I think there's a chance that J.J. could direct Star Wars. What do you think of that?' And Katie turned to J.J. and said, 'That would be amazing. Really?' And I went outside the restaurant, picked up my phone, called Kathy and said, "When can we meet with J.J.?" And that's how the whole thing began.
Thus, Star Wars history was made. J.J. Abrams was officially announced as Star Wars: The Force Awakens' director in January 2013, and almost two years later, the movie opened to overwhelming positive praise from both longtime fans and newcomers to the franchise. Even though Steven Spielberg has never directed one of the Star Wars movies, it's clear that he cares about the series' well being, and thanks to his suggestion, Abrams made another huge contribution to a beloved property.