Approval of God: George Lucas was opposed to anyone else making Star Wars movies after he did, out of fear of creating a Franchise Zombie, and he was personally divided on whether or not he wanted to make another trilogy. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm, they got Lucas' story treatments for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, but the writing teams working on the new films chose not to use them (although later interviews seemed to imply they were still used in some capacity, as Kasdan mentioned that Rey was a character created by Lucas. How much of his initial treatments were used is still unknown). However, when he attended the film's red carpet premiere, he said he liked the film, and even received a standing ovation from the audience despite his lack of participation in the film.
Ascended Fanon: Long before the debut of the film, the name Captain Phasma existed way before Disney registered the trademark for the name, in the fan fiction Tarkin's Fist published in 2009, Phasma was a 10 year old daughter of an Imperial Admiral. Her name was eventually adapted by Lucasfilm for the commander of the First Order Stormtroopers and was geared with a chrome Stormtrooper armor originally designed for Kylo Ren.
Author Existence Failure: The Force Awakens marked Erik Bauersfield's final performance as the voice of Admiral Ackbar before his death in 2016.
Billing Displacement: Despite portraying the main protagonist of the film (and the trilogy), Daisy Ridley is billed fifth after original trilogy leads Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), and Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa) - who all have supporting roles - and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), who plays the antagonist. Particularly egregious is Hamill being billed second for having less than a minute of screentime with no dialogue. The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker would continue this billing order of placing the stars of the original trilogy and Driver above Ridley.
B-Team Sequel: The first full-fledged Star Wars film not to directly involve George Lucas, instead created by J. J. Abrams. A rare case of the B-Team Sequel being more anticipated because of a changing of the guard from the original creator.
Cash Cow Franchise: Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion because Star Wars is one of the biggest (if not the Trope Maker, the Trope Codifier). And it paid off: The Force Awakens made over $500 million in its opening weekend, and got to $1 billion in 12 days (the fastest film to hit that mark). One month later, it managed to overtake Avatar as the highest-grossing movie ever in North America, and the total there is now a staggering $930 million. Worldwide, The Force Awakens stands as the third highest of all time, as well as the biggest moneymaker not directed by James Cameron (both meaning it managed to, like Avatar and Titanic, surpass $2 billion worldwide, and, like only Avatar, do it on its initial release). Of course, that's not even getting into The Merch, or the inevitable Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at the Disney Theme Parks.
The approach with the new actors was to grab complete unknowns. When the initial announcement was made, everyone asked "Who the hell is Daisy Ridley?", and she's the female lead!
The later announced Crystal Clarke, Pip Anderson, and Christina Chong are perhaps even more unknown. Though Halo fans might recognize Chong as Talitha Macer of the Sedran Colonial Guard from Halo: Nightfall.
There now exists a near life-sized, commercially available toy of BB-8 that is scarily accurate to how the real deal moves, complete with magnetized head—it can even be programmed to just follow you around. However, it doesn't turn easily or move well on slippery surfaces, it has a very short battery life, and it obviously doesn't have a built-in lighter or clamps.
Some fans have taken it a step further and made BB-8 replicas that are even more accurate to the physical movie prop than the commercially available toy.
Deleted Role: Robert Boutler shot a cameo as Luke Skywalker in the Rey's vision sequence but was cut. Darth Vader was also supposed to be featured in the movie but it was cut as well!
Doing It for the Art: The reason the movie was not filmed digitally, as well as the reason that less CGI was used, is to emulate the feeling of the Original Trilogy. The movie was converted to digital format in post-production.
Carrie Fisher was made to lose 35 pounds for the role which is no small feat, especially for a woman of 57 with a history of health issues, and apparently, she shed more weight while filming. She spoke about this on talk shows, joking that '[Studios] always do [ask me to lose weight]. They want to hire part of me, not all of me. They want to hire about three-fourths, so I have to get rid of the fourth somehow. The fourth can't be with me!'
Mark Hamill grew a beard to get into the role of a Jedi Master, and like Carrie, Mark lost almost 50 pounds.
Because J. J. Abrams is involved with both franchises, some call this "NuWars" to parallel "NuTrek".
Some fans have suggested that, if Episode VII turned out to be as bad as The Phantom Menace, J. J. Abrams would be forever nicknamed "Jar Jar Abrams". This has been noticed by Mark Hamill. Those who disliked the film still call him this.
The alien from the Force for Change video (Bobbajo) was dubbed "Bob the Turkle" by fans.
Before it was officially named "happabore" the pig-like alien seen in leaked set photos was called "Hogsquaddle".
Before BB-8's name was officially released, he was often called "FIFA Droid" or some variation thereof to allude to its resemblance to a soccer ball with a droid head on top. Some have even given it actual designations, such a G7-B1 (Germany 7 - Brazil 1) after certain well-known games.
Prior to the reveal that Daisy Ridley's character was named Rey, "Kira" was discovered to be an on-set code name Daisy Ridley's character, and was subsequently adopted by the fandom whenever the character came into discussion.
"The Grave-robber" due to a scene in leaked concept art, which shows the character holding Darth Vader's burned helmet after retrieving it from Endor.
In light of his Memetic Loser status, some fans call him "Darth Pissbaby" "Darth Poser", "Dork Vader", "Darth Angst", "Darth Tantrum" or "Crylo Ren". Sometimes on Tumblr he is also called "Kyle Ron" or "Kylie Renner".
Greg Grunberg's character has been given the nickname "Son of Porkins", given that both are overweight Rebel pilots.
Before he was revealed as FN-2199 from Before the Awakening, the Memetic Badass Stormtrooper that shouts "Traitor!" and fights Finn is jokingly referred to under the designation of "TR-8R". Another nickname for him is "Loyal Stormtrooper" or simply "Loyal Trooper".
Fans were speculating that Adam Driver was going to be playing Kylo Ren long before it was officially announced. In the same line of thinking, people figured out that Gwendoline Christie was going to play a character named Captain Phasma based on Disney copyrighting the name.
Many fans speculated that Kylo Ren was a title akin to "Darth Vader", something that was later confirmed in and an Entertainment Weekly article.
Quite a few people correctly guessed that Darth Vader was Kylo Ren's grandfather.
Many predicted that Han would be the Sacrificial Lion for the film. They were right.
The Stormtrooper with the riot-control baton who calls out Finn, is actually one of his former squad mates, FN-2199. Fans had been speculating that the two were connected somehow than more than just some random mook recognizing Finn. Their history is told in the Force Awakens prequel novel Before the Awakening, written by Greg Rucka. The trooper has been given the nickname TR-8R, based on his line in the film, which was delivered by long-time Skywalker Sound editor David Acord.
There was a wild theory involving Karen Gillan's hair. She shaved it off for Guardians of the Galaxy and said in an interview she gave her hair "to the Star Wars people" to be made into a wig. This was taken out of context and news sites were saying her wig would be in Episode VII, and since she's a redhead a lot of fans thought this meant we were getting Mara Jade. Karen later clarified that no, her hair's not in the movie, it was just briefly in a warehouse with a bunch of monster props. It's since back in her possession and she's even used it for Selfie. Nonetheless, people still found the fact that she was so specific about the hairpiece suspicious.
At Star Wars Celebration 2015 in Anaheim, J.J. Abrams confirmed that the new desert planet is not Tatooine as most assumed, but a new planet called Jakku.
It had been rumored for awhile that Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher's daughter, would be playing a young Leia in a flashback. This was jossed when Lourd said in May 2015 that the character she's playing is not Leia.
In April 2016, J. J. Abrams denied that Rey's parents were featured characters in the film, thus not Han, Leia or Luke. No sooner than did the news break, Abrams clarified that Rey merely didn't know who they were, and that they could very well already be "part of her universe," apparently putting all the candidates back on the table.
Killed by Request: Harrison Ford eventually got his wish to kill off Han Solo. He wanted to happen in the original trilogy, but producers and writers didn't agree.
Lying Creator: After The Last Jedi revealed that Rey wasn't related to any important characters from the original trilogy, J.J. Abrams claimed it was true to his own intention while making this film. After the trilogy finished, Daisy Ridley revealed that in fact he was toying with making her Obi Wan's granddaughter while making the film, and indeed Abrams himself later went back on that claim and made her Palpatine's granddaughter in The Rise of Skywalker.
In a Apr 5, 2016 charity "Force for Change" video, Mark Hamill spends the first half staring stoically into the camera, not saying a word, in reference to the many jokes that sprung up about his silent role in this film.
Hamill: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm used to just staring intensely.
The scene of Kylo Ren activating his lightsaber in the snowy forest outside of Starkiller Base was featured prominently in the marketing, but was cut from the finished movie.
During Luke's voice-over monologue in the second trailer, Maz Kanata can be seen giving Anakin's lightsaber to Leia. This ended up on the cutting room floor after all of Maz's scenes at the Resistance base were excised from the film.
There are several voice-over lines from the trailers not used in the actual film, such as Kylo Ren saying "Nothing will stand in our way. I will show them the Dark Side," and Maz saying "Hope is not lost today. It is found." Another prominent one was an exchange from the third trailer where Maz asks Rey who she is, only for Rey to respond "I'm no one."
The distinctive "chattering" of the Imperial probe droid from The Empire Strikes Back can be clearly heard in the first teaser, just as Finn is seen looking off into the distance. Curiously, probe droids are not present at all in the final film.
Not Screened for Critics: The first screenings of the film occur mere days before its official release. J.J. Abrams has explained this is for the purposes of preventing spoilers about the plot from reaching the internet as opposed to Disney's concerns for quality.
Francis Lax, the French voice actor who dubbed Harrison Ford in the Original Trilogy (as well as in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) passed away in 2013. For The Force Awakens, he was replaced by Richard Darbois, who voiced Ford in most of his other his films. Other replacements for the French dub includes Béatrice Delfe as the voice of Carrie Fisher as Leia (replacing Évelyn Séléna), and Jean-Claude Donda as the voice of Anthony Daniels as C-3PO (replacing Roger Carel, who retired a few years before this movie was made).note Donda has started to replace Carel as the official voice of C-3PO ever since the fourth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The Other Marty: During the lightsaber Force vision, Obi-Wan can be heard saying "These are your first steps." Originally this line was recorded by James Arnold Taylor, who voices the character in spin-off media, but it was later redubbed by Ewan McGregor, who played Obi-Wan in the prequel movies. Kenobi also calls out to Rey by name in the vision, which was a deft edit of Alec Guinness saying the word "afraid", taken from his dialog in the classic trilogy.
Bad Robot has J. J. Abrams's back, Greg Grunberg and Ken Leung are again in the cast, and Simon Pegg is also tagging along.
A good amount of Star Wars animation veterans play minor roles in this movie, including Dave Filoni, Dee Bradley Baker, Robin Atkin Downes, Matt Lanter, Catherine Taber, Ashley Eckstein, and Vanessa Marshall.
Poe Dameron's being born in Yavin is due to the fact that his actor, Oscar Isaac, was born in Guatemala, where the Rebel Base's Yavin scenes were filmed, although his age isn't nearly as good a match as the case with Gleeson (having been born in 1979)note The script lists Poe's age as 32, which means it passes a Hand Wave (2 years after the Battle of Yavin, like Isaac regarding A New Hope) but not a slight Age Lift (Isaac was 35 during principal photography).
Harrison Ford actually has a son named Ben, just like his character. (Thankfully, though, Ben Ford has not turned to The Dark Side, and hopefully won't murder his father.)
Recycled Script: In addition to recycling concepts and plots from both A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, large portions of the story are remarkably similar to George Lucas's original story treatments for those films.
The opening scene depicts a platoon of stormtroopers along with The Heavy who are trying to recover a secret piece of information being held by La Résistance, which is then given to a droid for safekeeping.
The droid wanders an endless desert searching for its master to return the secret info to the Resistance base, but instead meets with The Hero who decides to aid its journey.
Luke was going to be a girl in one of the earlier versions of A New Hope. The concept of "Luke as a girl" is revisited in the character of Rey.
Rey is also a transplant of the original version of the "another" Yoda spoke of in The Empire Strikes Back who was Luke's twin sister (but not Leia) who was being trained in secret on the other side of the universe, and was going to be the hero of the proposed Sequel Trilogy as it existed in 1980.
Han Solo is yet again being pursued by criminal groups to whom he owes a lot of money.
The party visits an Expy of the Mos Eisley cantina, where they meet an Expy of Yoda.
The original proposed ending for Return of the Jedi had Han killed in battle, Luke disappearing to search for his twin sister and train a new generation of Jedi and Leia giving up her title of Princess to lead a new Republic. In The Force Awakens: Leia has given up her title of princess to help lead a new Republic, Luke disappears after his Jedi students are betrayed and murdered, and Han is killed in battle.
The Knights of Ren are closer to the original version of the Sith, who were a rival faction of force users who supplanted the Jedi as the Empire's main peacekeepers.
Lucas originally planned for Luke to disembark from his X-wing to manually drop the bomb to destroy the Death Star, at which point he and Vader would engage in a lightsaber duel. Kylo Ren, Finn, and Rey fight a lightsaber duel during the Resistance's fighter attack on Starkiller Base.
Kylo Ren himself is much closer to the prototype Vader, a high-ranking but still subservient general who does not need his trademark mask and is a member group of rival Force users to the Jedi who ended up betraying and murdering their former comrades
Han was originally a big-talking cabin boy on a crew of pirates and ended up stealing a ship from them with Luke's assistance. Han now has a fallen reputation as a big-talking two-bit conman, who skips out on a crew of pirates with Finn and Rey's assistance.
The Heavy communicates with his master via a hologram that makes his master appear to be of gigantic proportions.
The Resistance is threatened by a planet-destroying superweapon which has a weak point in the form of a renamed Thermal Exhaust Port, and they have nothing but fighters to throw at it.
The Resistance has a small fighter hangar base and war room that look quite a lot like the Yavin IV base they used to stage an assault on the Death Star.
Han Solo leads a small unit onto the surface of the superweapon planet to sabotage a shield generator for the coming attack.
Han Solo, in his role as this film's The Mentor, sacrifices his life to The Heavy (although unintentionally).
The Hero of the story experiences an epiphany and opens up to the Force in order to secure victory against The Heavy.
In The Phantom Menace Lucas wanted to have Anakin bring Queen Amidala's ship out of hyperspace directly above the planet of Naboo's surface as a way of bypassing the blockade and showing off his massive Force potential. Here Han does it on Starkiller base to bypass the shield and show what a crazy bastard he is.
Like in Return of the Jedi, Han Solo has to turn off the superweapon's shield generator to enable an attack.
In a very early script for A New Hope, the original surname for Luke and Anakin was "Starkiller" and was titled The Adventures of Luke Starkiller. Of course, that's not the name they wound up with, but as nod, the Death Star Expy in this film was named Starkiller Base.
Star-Making Role: Will likely be this for the new cast — particularly Daisy Ridley, who has appeared only in a few short films and a handful of supporting roles on British television series before this film. Indeed, she was signed onto the United Talent Agency partway through the filming process. A movie she worked on previously, The Inbetweeners 2, cut her out because reshoots for that were happening while she was busy on Star Wars. John Boyega is also apparently highly sought-after, with Robert Downey Jr. coaching the young actor on how to deal with the the fame that the role will grant him.
Studio Hop: The first film in the main series to be released solely under the Lucasfilm brand by Disney, after (now Disney-owned) 20th Century Fox released the prior six movies.
After a set leak in June of 2014, showing off the Millennium Falcon along with other things, J. J. Abrams responded by tweeting that the leaks were unfounded and denied that the Millennium Falcon was present in the film... In the form of a note left on top of the ship's iconic Dejarik board.
A short while after the Sequel Trilogy was announced, Zack Snyder stated that he had interest in developing a spin-off movie that took place in this era. He had met with Kathleen Kennedy, and the movie he proposed was rumored to have been inspired by Seven Samurai and would feature all-new Jedi. While there's still no word on if that film is going to be made (though only two of the three/four spin-off movies actually have directors attached to them), Zack Snyder and J. J. Abrams have tweeted Star Wars/DC Comics crossover images at each other, leaving fans curious as to whether they're just fooling around or if this movie will actually be made once Snyder is finished with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and both parts of Justice League.
A fairly-plausible rumor detailing the film's opening act gained popularity online... Except for one part where it was mentioned that Luke Skywalker's disembodied cybernetic hand would be a MacGuffin to kick off the plot, which was largely ridiculed and dismissed. For the update that announced the winner of the Force for Change initiative, a metallic hand was shown to be holding the note revealing the winner's name, and given the background of the location, the picture seemed to have been taken on Skellig Michael Island, where Mark Hamill had last been seen filming. Whether it's just a poke at the rumor or if it's a simple preview of what's to come is anyone's guess.
Abrams and Ford, as well as other members of the Original Trilogy's main cast were present on different talk shows, comedy and otherwise, after the movie was announced. Unsurprisingly, they remained quiet when asked about what was happening with the show.
Harrison Ford was the worst. When Conan O'Brien offered him a thousand dollars to spill something about the new movie, he replied "A long time ago, in a place far, far away... I forget the rest." When he was on Jimmy Kimmel, he would take questions but wouldn't answer any Star Wars-related ones. Cue being asked questions by a Jedi cosplayer, a stormtrooper, a fat man in a Princess Leia metal bikini outfit, and a wookie (which caused Harrison to start a joke-argument with him, leading to his exit from the show for the episode).note This is actually a Call-Back to a similar skit when he was promoting Cowboys & Aliens
Any time filming took place, they used one of the working titles on the signs to "hide" the fact that it was being filmed there. Except that they used the Star Wars font to write the names in, leaving no doubt as to which movie it actually was. Though this isn't just teasing — when Episode V was being filmed, the locals milked them for all the money they could. So afterwards, they had to keep the fact they were filming a Star Wars movie secret.
Parts of Poe's backstory, namely him hailing from Yavin, were suggested by Oscar Isaac and then incorporated into the official canon.
The line where [Obi-Wan Kenobi (with the voice of Alec Guinness) speaks in a vision was added after an editor discovered his inflection of the word "afraid" could be edited to sound just like the word "Rey."
Word of Saint Paul: At the London Film & Comic Con in 2014, Ian McDiarmidpublicly denied that Palpatine would be in the movie (not even as a hologram or in a potential flashback), outright stating that the character was Killed Off for Real in Return of the Jedi. However, he did say that he thought a story involving Palpatine appearing in an earlier time period would be awesome, and would willingly reprise his role if he were asked.
Foodles. We don't get it eithernote This may have come from the name of the Disney subsidiary that handled production in the UK, who is now being sued over alleged labor law violations during filming..
Enabling the Audio Description track for the blind will have a voice describe everything that is happening on-screen. The voice in question is that of Martin Billany (aka LittleKuriboh), as demonstrated here.