Friday 9 December 2016

Hollywood out in Force for Star Wars world premiere

Published 15/12/2015 | 02:01

Luke who's turned up - Mark Hamill arrives at the world premiere (Invision/AP)
Luke who's turned up - Mark Hamill arrives at the world premiere (Invision/AP)
R2D2, left, and C-3PO arrive at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood (Invision/AP)

The Force finally returned to Hollywood as Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill walked the red carpet at the world premiere of the highly-anticipated new Star Wars movie.

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The trio were joined by an army of Stormtroopers plus C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8 for the premiere of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens.

A long stretch of Hollywood Boulevard was closed to traffic for days ahead of the unveiling of the film and a huge white tent was erected as fans camped outside the TCL Chinese Theatre for more than a week in anticipation of the first public screening.

The film has already made box office history in England, where it has sold more than half a million tickets for its opening week at one cinema chain alone.

The seventh instalment in the series, which comes 10 years after the last film, reunites the original trio who were absent from the prequels. They are joined by newcomers Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson and Gwendoline Christie.

The plot of the movie is a closely-guarded secret and each trailer and snippet of footage has sent fans wild with excitement and speculation.

Only a handful of people had seen it in full before it was finally screened in three cinemas on Hollywood Boulevard, including the TCL Chinese Theatre where the first movie premiered.

Star Wars creator George Lucas was spotted laughing and chatting with The Force Awakens director and co-writer JJ Abrams on the red carpet.

Lucas has already seen the movie and has reportedly given it his seal of approval.

Dressed in a navy jacket and checked shirt, he said: "It's a film about families and what one generation leaves behind another generation has to deal with."

He added: "I started off wanting to do a film for young people who were going through adolescence, with mythological themes and spiritual themes. That is what resonated with people."

Abrams, who has previously directed two Star Trek movies and an instalment in the Mission: Impossible franchise, said he was not looking to put his own mark on the Star Wars film, but instead wanted to honour the story.

"I don't look at the things I do from a vantage point of putting a stamp on it, I'm trying to service the master of the stories and the characters," he said.

"It feels like it has been three years of a lot of work but at the same time it's like, 'How did this happen so quickly?'."

Director Steven Spielberg, who has known Abrams since he was a teenager, said he was very proud of what he had accomplished.

He added: "The cultural event of the first Star Wars was a seismic shock wave that went round the world and never went away, no franchise in the history of motion pictures has been as incendiary and enduring as Star Wars."

Harrison Ford, who returns to his role of Han Solo, arrived at the premiere in a dark suit with his wife Calista Flockhart and said making a Star Wars movie now is a far cry from making one in the 1970s.

"In the 70s nobody knew what to anticipate, nobody had seen anything like it, now we have to live up to what the first films delivered," he said.

But he said he did not feel too much pressure: "It's not my fault, we can blame it on J.J. I just work here," he said.

Mark Hamill, who returns as Luke Skywalker, refused to shed any light on why his character was absent from the official poster.

He said: "The decision to keep my character mysterious means Harrison and Carrie are doing all the heavy lifting at the moment."

He added that the biggest challenge of returning to the role was filling in the gaps in time, saying: "Trying to figure out what he's been doing all these years; we last saw him in the Retun Of The Jedi. Trying to recapture the past is a big mistake, you have to blend these characters in instead of trying to be 25 years old again."

Oscar winner Nyong'o arrived on the red carpet in a floor-length sparkling gown, saying: "I thought I would bring the galaxy with me."

The actress, who plays Maz Kanata, said the premiere was an overwhelming experience. "I don't think you can really fully appreciate it in this moment, I feel so lucky and blessed and I'm geeking out. I feel really happy," she said.

Boyega has been a big fan since he was a child and he said he was blown away by the scale of the premiere.

"To be here in this capacity makes me so, so happy," he said.

"Finn is the first Stormtrooper where we have gone into his individuality, he leaves the First Order and meets Rey and BB and they go on a journey together."

Oscar Isaac and Carrie Fisher caused havoc on the starwars.com livestream when they decided to interview each other.

Contemplating how she returned to her role as Princess Leia, Fisher said: "I asked young Carrie Fisher what it was like to be younger but she ignored me. She was out partying to make sure I could look like s**t later."

Gwendoline Christie, who plays the first female villain in Star Wars, said she felt honoured to make history.

She added: "I feel really privileged but more than that I'm so encouraged that they have listened to the people and what people want, what they wanted was for the origins of the film to be honoured but brought up to date to provide a better mirror to society today.

"I felt it was progressive as a female character, there was a liberation in the body being covered in practical armour and for the focus to be on the character rather than the way the physical form looked."

Driver, best known for his role in Girls, plays Kylo Ren in the film. He said his action figures mean he already has Christmas presents sorted: "I'm set for this year and the next couple of years. Everybody gets a picture of me."

He denied he stayed in character during the shoot but said he did sometimes keep his helmet on in between takes.

"Sometimes scenes take you places you weren't expecting and it seems better to leave the mask on but sometimes you just want to take it off," he said.

He added that working with the original cast was the highlight of being a part of the movie, saying: "There was something that ground it in the movies I grew up watching and watching them have this youthful ambition for making it good, they couldn't be more excited to be there."

Andy Serkis, who plays Supreme Leader Snoke, refused to reveal anything about his character as he arrived at the premiere.

"Everything has been shrouded in secrecy because nobody wanted to spoil it for anybody, everybody wants to know but also wants to wait and see the movie," he said.

The Force Awakens will premiere in the UK on Wednesday ahead of general release on December 17.

Fans in the UK will get a head start over devotees in the USA, where the movie is not released until December 18.

Press Association

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