The first J.J. Abrams film not to have a musical score by Michael Giacchino. Aptly enough, Giacchino stated in an interview that he would rather hear the music of John Williams in a new Star Wars film than his own.
Michael Arndt penned the script for this film based on an outline by George Lucas for his abandoned sequel trilogy to the original Star Wars saga. Though few details of this outline have been made public, author Dave Pollack confirmed that the story would focus on the building of the New Republic after the fall of the Empire, that Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo would all appear, and that the children of Luke, Leia and Han would serve as the main characters of the story.
The production had a preference for using real locations and miniature models over green-screens and computer-generated imagery whenever possible in order to make the film aesthetically similar to the original Star Wars trilogy.
Both Brad Bird and Matthew Vaughn turned down the chance to direct. Bird had already committed to Tomorrowland (2015), forcing him to decline. Vaughn entered negotiations, even vacating the director's role on X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) in order to helm Episode VII, but eventually declined over "creative differences", reportedly disputes over the level of violence in the film and the casting of the female lead.
After publicly declining to direct a new Star Wars film, J.J. Abrams was visited at his Bad Robot office by Kathleen Kennedy. Their negotiations lasted over a month, during which time, Abrams' central concern was the vast magnitude and cultural significance of the project.
Although the movie (and the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney) was not announced to the public before November 2012, both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher stated that they had discussed appearing in Episode VII and other future Star Wars films with George Lucas in the summer of 2012, months before the sale.
The droid props in this film are produced by Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, who were members of the R2-D2 Builders Club. Their involvement began following Kathleen Kennedy coming across their work at Celebration Europe. They were subsequently contacted by executive producer Jason D. McGatlin, who contracted them into the creature effects team.
In October 2013, cinematographer Daniel Mindel, ASC revealed that, unlike the previous Star Wars trilogy, he and J.J. Abrams were to shoot the new feature primarily on 35mm film, as Abrams has on all prior projects. Initially, Mindel hoped to use Imax 70mm film for most of the feature, but later said they had opted for 35mm due to Imax's cumbersome weight and noise problems. 70mm IMAX film cameras will be used for some scenes.
In July 2014, it was rumored that Irish WWE wrestling superstar Sheamus would portray Darth Vader. Sheamus had previously portrayed Vader in Star Wars promotional tours and hinted that he may very well be again portraying the Sith Lord even though Vader did die off in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).
The film's December release date is similar to the original release date Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), which was Christmas 1976. However, due to production delays, the film was pushed back to May of the following year and started a precedent that was carried on for the next five Star Wars films. This one is the first live-action Star Wars film not to be released in May.
The film ignores the expanded universe. The video games, graphic novels, comic books which chronicled events that happened after "Return of the Jedi" will be as if they had not happened and characters from the expanded universe such as Mara Jade, Kyle Katarn, Dash Rendar and Ailyn Vel etc, will not have existed.
Max von Sydow played Emperor Ming the Merciless in the film Flash Gordon (1980). The Flash Gordon comic strip and Saturday morning serials were one of George Lucas' influences behind the "Star Wars" franchise.
British actor Denis Lawson, X-wing pilot Wedge Antilles during the original Star Wars trilogy, has confirmed that he turned down an invite from Disney to reprise his role in the new installments. Lawson told British press that "I'm not going to do that. They asked me but it just would have bored me."
Kevin Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch visited the set. Smith infamous for his open and talkative nature, was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and J.J. Abrams had World War 2 style propaganda posters titled "Loose Lips Sink Starships" hung up around the set as a reminder to Smith not to reveal spoilers for the film to the public. True to his word, the only tidbit Smith revealed about his visit was that he cried when he stood on the Millennium Falcon set, as it reminded him of how much he loved Star Wars as a child.
From May to August of 2014, Disney and Lucasfilm collaborated with UNICEF for a charity campaign called "Force for Change". After raising over four million dollars, the winner was announced to be independent filmmaker D.C. Barns.
With this film, Walt Disney Pictures becomes the third studio to release a Star Wars film. The original six movies were released by 20th Century Fox and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) was released by Warner Bros.
When the first trailer was released, there was much discussion about how it appeared to be getting back to the "grubbiness" ("dirty transporters, second-hand rockets, things that broke") of Episode IV, rather than the CGI cleanliness of Episodes I-III. British TV star Phill Jupitus revealed in an interview that he "met an effects bloke in Essex, he drinks in my local coffee shop. He said [the makers of the new film] bought every gas-bottled air gun in England when they arrived because they wanted the Stormtroopers' guns to have a kick when they fired them. You don't have to fake it; it looks real."
It was originally rumored Episode VII and the following installments would follow Ben Skywalker, son of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade and the expanded universe would officially be apart of the Star Wars canon. The rumor was false, when it was announced that Episode VII would disregard the expanded universe.
The first film, aside for the animated Clone Wars movie, not to open with the iconic 20th Century Fox Fanfare. Star Wars has a long history with this piece of music. John Williams re-recorded it especially for The Empire Strikes Back - the first time it had been done since its debut decades before.
The teaser trailer omits "Episode VII" from the film's title, similar to the naming pattern of the original trilogy (1977-1983). However, it has been stated that "Episode VII" will be included in the opening crawl.
Denis Lawson turned down the opportunity to return as Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles. If Wedge Antilles doesn't appear in the following installments. This would mean that the character may had died sometime before "The Force Awakens".