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 first J.J. Abrams film not to have a musical score by Michael Giacchino. Aptly enough, Giacchino had stated in an interview that he would rather hear the music of John Williams for a new Star Wars film than his own.
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.
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.
Although the announcement of this movie (and the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney) was not announced to the public until 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 he and J.J. Abrams had made the decision to shoot the new feature on 35mm film rather than follow the trend to shoot digitally. Initially, Mindel hoped to use Imax 65mm for most of the feature, but later said they had opted for 35mm due to Imax's cumbersome weight and noise problems.
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."
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.