‘Star Wars’ Director J.J. Abrams Says The Force Would Be Stronger With More Female Writers & Directors

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This is the week Star Wars fans have been waiting for all year. The J.J. Abrams-directed ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ hits cinemas December 18, just in time for Christmas, and the collective hype and frenzy is palpable. But while the cult saga has forever been seen as a male sci-fi fantasy, J.J. says this movie is going to set the series on a new path and venture into a new world: that of women and girls.

In an interview with Good Morning America, the director known for taking on remakes of already epic films and taking them to stratospheric epic proportions such as ‘Star Trek’, said although the film had traditionally been loved by men and boys, this time around he wants more women and girls to make the trip to the cinema as well.

When asked who he is most excited to hear from after they see it, his answer came as a welcome surprise.

“Star Wars was always a boys thing and a movie that dads could take their sons to, and although that’s still very much the case, I was really hoping this would be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to as well. I’m looking forward to kids seeing this movie and seeing themselves in it, and seeing that they’re capable of doing things that they never imagined possible,” he said.

The fact that this movie is being released at a time when female empowerment and the public perception of women and feminism is being elevated like never before is an awesome coincidence. J.J mentions that this film is going to garner a whole new generation of fans who didn’t grow up with the original George Lucas-directed films from the late 70s and early 80s.

And he is absolutely spot on in wishing for mothers to take their daughters to this film in the same vein, because the younger generation is going to be looking at this with fresh eyes, without the gender constraints of the film industry, or even general society, as audiences did a few decades ago.

In the past the ‘Star Wars’ saga has been fairly devoid of major female characters aside from Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia, who makes a return in the new film, and Natalie Portman’s Padme Amidala in early-2000’s. This new installment sees a whole host of diversity on the screen.

Leading the way is the young Daisy Ridley who plays Rey, ‘Game of Thrones’ actress Gwendoline Christie who will play Captain Phasma (a character originally written for a male but which was gender-flipped after writer Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams heeded the outcry from fans about the lack of female characters), and ’12 Years A Slave’ Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o who will play the alien pirate Maz Kanata.

And for those of you living under a rock, there was also a LOT of controversy from some die-hard ‘Star Wars’ fans when the very first sneak peek trailer earlier this year opened up on a shot of British actor John Boyega who plays Stormtrooper Finn. Regardless, the diverse cast is signalling a new era of the beloved franchize which, as J.J. Abrams so eloquently put it, will engage a demographic of younger fans in a new and dynamic way.

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But where the plot really thickens around the ‘Star Wars’ saga and its new focus on engaging women and girls is what is happening behind the scenes. Earlier this year, Lucasfilm president and producer of the film Kathleen Kennedy expressed how she hopes to see a female director at the helm of one of the future films. This has never happened in the history of the iconic franchise, and it’s about damn time women were brought into the fold.

“There’s nothing we’d like more than to find a female director for Star Wars,” she said.

And it looks like the company is making good on Kathleen’s statement. The LA Times recently reported that Adriana Alberghetti, a partner at WME and agent who looks after top Hollywood female talent behind the scenes says she has already secured meetings for four female directors and three female writers for upcoming ‘Star Wars’ films.

This could have a major impact on the future of the films in a positive fashion, especially for the burgeoning female base that J.J. Abrams hopes will come in droves when ‘The Force Awakens’ hits theaters.

“Having a balance of men and women in the room changes the story. The dialogue, the point of view. It’s a lot to do with opportunity and there has to be a concerted effort to create the opportunity. There is an assumption made that the people involved should predominantly be men. There are women who are Star Wars fans. That’s what’s so insane. If things aren’t going to change my feeling is that you’ve got to do something to shake up the system in order to see if it’s going to work,” said Kathleen Kennedy at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington.

In a different interview to promote his version of the film, J.J. Abrams was asked his thoughts on the need for more female writers and directors. He went as far as suggesting one director in particular.

“Without question there are a number of incredible writers and directors to go along with the female producer Kathleen Kennedy who’s ruling over all of Lucasfilm. To me the knee-jerk reaction, if I had to, is Ava DuVernay who I think would just kill it. When you look at her work in ‘Selma’ which was just as well-told and as sophisticated and humane a film [that] has come out in the last decade, if she can do that story that well, there’s no question she’d kill this movie,” he told Nerdist’s Dan Casey.

To which Ava responded with this tweet:

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If she did get the call to direct a future ‘Star Wars’ film, it would be an interesting full circle moment for her. In a recent speech for Elle Magazine’s Women in Hollywood awards, she talked about a male director who started out on the indie circuit like her. His name is Colin Trevorrow, and they both premiered their Independent films at Sundance a couple of years ago. During the film festival, they had a conversation about how life had changed since premiering their respective films. Ava talked about how she was slated to direct a film called ‘Selma’ with a $20 million budget. Colin was going on to direct ‘Jurassic World’ with a $150 budget.

While she expressed no animosity toward him, she spoke of the incident as an example of the huge disparity women face. The idea of a relatively unknown indie female director getting the call to direct some big Hollywood iconic blockbuster is unheard of. Yet it happens with men all the time. Interestingly enough, Colin Trevorrow is also already slated to direct one of the upcoming ‘Star Wars’ films, which would mean if Ava DuVernay DID in fact get the call, it would be a rare example of a male and female director being on equal footing, albeit because much noise was made about the absence of women at the helm rather than because it was entirely voluntary.

Nevertheless, if Disney and Lucasfilm hope to see the continuation of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise’s popularity, having a new approach to diversity and equality is going to go a long way. We hope to see more interesting female characters included in the saga, and cannot wait to hear which female director(s) will be taking on the iconic film for the very first time in history. J.J. Abrams, from your mouth to God’s (and Hollywood studio executives’) ears!


 

 

 

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  1. Pingback: How Star Wars Opened Up Important Conversations About Diversity In A Fictional Universe - GirlTalkHQ

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