In Brief

Star Wars: Carrie Fisher claims she had affair with Harrison Ford

Actor who played Princess Leia in both sets of trilogies writes about brief fling

Han Solo x Princess Leia Star Wars

Star Wars 7: Harrison Ford 'could have been killed' on film set

26 July

One of the production companies behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens has pleaded guilty to two criminal charges after Han Solo actor Harrison Ford broke his leg on set.

Ford, then 71, was knocked to the ground and pinned down by a heavy hydraulic door as he rehearsed at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire on 12 June 2014, Milton Keynes Magistrates' Court heard.

Disney subsidiary Foodles Production Ltd admitted to two health and safety breaches.

Andrew Marshall, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said the actor had gone through the doorway and pressed a button before walking back through, thinking the set was not live and the door would not close. However, it closed on top of him and pinned him to the ground, reports The Guardian.

"It could have killed somebody. The fact that it didn't was because an emergency stop was activated," he said.

HSE said the power of the rapidly closing metal-framed door meant Ford was hit with a power comparable to "the weight of a small car".

Ford told his side of the story on the Jonathan Ross Show in December, saying the film series had "lots of money and technology and so they built a f****** great hydraulic door which closed at light speed".

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Defending, Angus Withington said that while Foodles pleaded guilty, it would contest the claim that Ford or anyone else could have been killed.

The Health and Safety Executive welcomed the guilty plea but insisted it had been a "foreseeable incident".

A spokesman said: "The British film industry has a world-renowned reputation for making exceptional films. Managing on-set risks in a sensible and proportionate way for all actors and staff – regardless of their celebrity status – is vital to protecting both on-screen and off-screen talent, as well as protecting the reputation of the industry."

The company will be sentenced at Aylesbury Crown Court on 22 August.

Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens was 'little more than a remix'

10 June

As the dust begins the settle on The Force Awakens, many critics and fans are starting to argue that while there was plenty to enjoy in JJ Abrams's film, the plot itself didn't offer much that was truly new.

In fact, says Washington Post writer Sonny Bunch, Star Wars 7 can be seen as "the apotheosis of remix culture. It's logical end point".

Meanwhile, in his new video Everything is a Remix, filmmaker Kirby Ferguson claims the film's fatal flaw is its regurgitation of past episodes.

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"The Force Awakens clearly is a remix, but so is everything else," Ferguson says. "For as long as humans have been creating, we have been copying, transforming and combining. The issue isn't the remixing in the [The Force Awakens], it's that it's heavy on copying and lighter on transforming and combining."

The film intentionally borrowed from lots of other stories, "because we love the familiar", he says. But Wired argues that "while most films are retellings of previous tales, the ones that truly hit a nerve – like, for example, the original Star Wars – are the ones that combine familiar elements with novel ones".

If The Force Awakens comes up short, Ferguson continues, it is because it does too much that is familiar and too little that is novel.

Of course, this hasn't stopped the film from performing strongly at the box office. Star Wars 7 officially ended its cinema run this week and has secured its place as the most successful film ever released in North America.

The Force Awakens has a box office total of $936.6m (£648.6m), "way ahead of its nearest rival, 2009's Avatar," Collider notes. James Cameron's sci-fi epic took $760.5m (£526.6m) during its run.

Star Wars 7: Ultimate Studio Edition merchandise offers 'perfect replicas'

6 June

Here's the dream collectible for anyone who's ever fantasised about battling the First Order as plucky heroine Rey – or brutally suppressing a Jedi uprising in the footsteps of Kylo Ren.

Lucasfilm's new 'Ultimate Studio Edition' range features detailed replicas of iconic props seen in The Force Awakens – for a price.

"Brazen marketing can be considered a core value of the Star Wars franchise", Karl Puschmann wrote earlier this year in the New Zealand Herald, and it's true that fans have good reason to be wary of yet more merchandise. Sci-fi junkies can already buy "everything from lightsaber chopsticks to a Death Star waffle maker", notes The Times.

Manufacturers are clearly hoping to win over the more discerning Star Wars fan with the new items, each individually crafted by artists and made to order.

"The designers worked from the original digital models and scanned items actually used in shooting to create the perfect replicas," says Geek. Lucasfilm claims the models would be "interchangeable on set with the real things".

So what are the highlights of the collection? For $1,250 (£860), you can own Kylo Ren's lightsaber hilt or Rey's fighting staff (although a non-Star Wars fan might mistake it for a stick).

At the other end of the scale, a melted Darth Vader helmet comes with a price tag to make you Force-choke: $3,500 (£2,400). Also on offer are other iconic props, like Chewbacca's bowcaster and a blood-stained Stormtrooper helmet like the one worn by Finn.

The melted Vader masks and Stormtrooper helmets are ultra-limited edition – only 500 have been produced. Lucasfilm will be hoping that the limited availability, as well as the unprecedented level of craftsmanship, will be enough to wrest money from fans' pockets.

Star Wars 7: Daisy Ridley opens up about Han Solo's death

31 May

Star Wars actor Daisy Ridley has spoken about the dramatic climax of The Force Awakens, in which the much-loved character Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, dies at the hands of his own son.

In an interview with The Big Issue, Ridley, who plays newcomer Rey, said she understands why many Star Wars fans were so affected by the scene.

"People die so awfully every day that if you experienced every grief the whole world would be a dark, dark place. So many awful things happened last year and Han Solo dying, which was one of the last moments of the year, is some weird way of people experiencing that," she said.

"People are weighed down by awful things that are happening and what they see on the news. If everybody puts a piece of themselves into Han Solo and Han Solo dies – in the cinema, where it's dark – you can express it and it alleviates some of the pain. His death is obviously not as important as actual lives that are lost but people probably use it as some kind of carrier for the grief.”

Ridley has just finished filming the as-yet-unnamed sequel to The Force Awakens in Ireland and is on her way to the next location, Star Wars News reports.

Star Wars 7 was meant to open on Luke's severed hand, says Mark Hamill

5 May

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was meant to begin very differently, according to veteran actor Mark Hamill.

In the original cut, the first scene featured his character Luke Skywalker's severed hand clutching a lightsaber and floating through space, the actor said in an interview with The Sun. The Jedi weapon then crash-landed on the surface of the desert planet Jakku before being picked up by an alien, who may have been Lupita Nyong'o's character, Maz Kanata.

"I can tell you now that in the original opening shot of 7, the first thing that came into frame was a hand with a lightsaber, a severed hand that enters the atmosphere," Hammill said. "And then the hand and bone burns away and goes sticking into the surface of Jakku. And this alien hand comes in, don't know if it was Maz but it was an alien hand who takes the lightsaber way, and then the movie proceeds as you see it."

According to Screen Rant, "there's no explanation provided for why it was cut, meaning that even after the movie's release, there's still plenty of hypothesising to be had. Ideally, the mystery of the lightsaber will be solved in one of the upcoming films".

Nyong'o is currently filming Star Wars 8, which is being directed by Rian Johnson, so all may be revealed when the next instalment is released in December 2017.

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Star Wars 7: Daisy Ridley 'doesn't care' who Rey's parents are

14 April

Cliffhanger endings are, by their very nature, designed to titillate audiences leaving them with unanswered questions and unresolved plot points. By which measure, the ending to Star Wars: The Force Awakens was perfectly pitched, bringing the film's new heroine, Rey, face to face with the original trilogy's great hero, Luke Skywalker, and paving the way for the next two instalments of the long-running space saga.

Some things in the film wrapped up neatly, of course. We now know how Kylo Ren connects to General Leia and Han Solo, we have seen the budding relationship between Rey and Finn and the Resistance has scored its first major win against the evil First Order.

But one matter remains very much unresolved: the question of Rey's parentage.

Warning: possible spoilers ahead.

Many fans believe Rey is Luke's daughter, but quite who her mother might be is a matter of some conjecture. Some suggest she might turn out to be the silver-clad stormtrooper Captain Phasma, while others say she will be revealed as Jyn Erso, the star of the forthcoming spin-off film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

This week, Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, weighed in on the debate, by suggesting she doesn't find the answer to the question to be all that important "because what matters for Finn and Rey isn't where they've been, it's where they're going", CinemaBlend says.

"I think the amazing thing about [The Force Awakens] is that Finn and Rey don't come from anywhere and they find a place," Ridley said, during the MTV Music Awards. "So to me, it's funny that people think it's so important because I don't really think it is."

All will (most probably) be revealed when Star Wars 8 is released in cinemas in 2018.

Star Wars 7: Watch Daisy Ridley's audition for the role of Rey

31 March

Daisy Ridley may have been an unknown when she was cast as heroine Rey in The Force Awakens, but a newly-released clip of her audition video proves that her talent is unmistakable.

A preview from the special features on the upcoming DVD release delves into the casting process for the space blockbuster and includes a previously unseen clip of Daisy Ridley auditioning for the part of Rey.

Is Rey turning to the dark side of the Force?

Unlike Luke Skywalker, who takes a long time to get in touch with the Force in the original trilogy of Star Wars films, Rey's powers seem to arrive incredibly swiftly. At the beginning of the film Rey is little more than a scavenger on a remote planet, searching the wrecks of fallen spaceships for scrap metal, but by the end of the film she is reading people's thoughts, controlling their actions and winning a key lightsaber duel against a powerful enemy.

Many viewers might assume that Rey is in touch with the light side of the Force – but after Disney released the script of The Force Awakens to the Writers Guild of America for awards consideration, much more was revealed about Rey's "awakening" to the Force. The film explores Kylo Ren's struggle with the light side, but "in fact," says Phillip Martinez for iDigitalTimes, "the script even goes even further to show that it is Rey, not Ren, that has a harder fight with the dark side."

During the climactic battle between Rey and Kylo Ren at the end of the movie, the script says that that the young villain feared for his life, noting that Rey nearly killed him before she realised she was standing "on a greater edge than even the cliff — the edge of the dark side". This leads Martinez to conclude: "It seems like Episode 8 will be dealing with Rey's fight with the dark side."

Is Han Solo definitely dead?

Towards the end of The Force Awakens, Harrison Ford's Han Solo confronts son Kylo Ren on a bridge above a massive air shaft. Ren stabs his father through the chest and sends him plummeting into the abyss - but not all film buffs are convinced that is the last we will see of the loveable scoundrel.

Some, such as cinema site Bustle, say he may still be alive. Others, such as MoviePilot, suggest Ford will return in flashbacks and as a ghost.

"In order to help the audience understand Ben Solo's journey, the best way to do this would be through flashbacks, and that's definitely a way to include Han Solo. Visions and Force ghosts are other options, though as Han never trained as a Jedi, seeing him as a ghost is pretty unlikely."

Is Rey definitely Luke's daughter?

Rey was abandoned on the desert planet Jakku around the same time Luke went into hiding and is unusually gifted with the Force. It doesn't take a genius to join those dots. But not everyone is convinced the story will wrap up as neatly as that. Instead, she may turn out to be the daughter of some other Jedi master, suggests Rodney Grundmeyer on Movie Pilot. "Rey could be the daughter of Jedi Knight Caleb Dume better known as Kannan on the television series 'Rebels'", he says.

How did Ben Solo become Kylo Ren?

In a tender scene between Han Solo and his estranged wife General Leia, it is revealed that their son, Ben, was submitted to Luke for training in the Force, but somewhere along the way he turned to the dark side. As film site Screen Rant says "it's not explained but Snoke gets to Ben and turns him evil, so much so that he and the Knights of Ren butcher all the students at Luke's academy."

But questions remain as to why the character turned against his friends, his family and his training.

"Why does he consider Snoke wise?" Screen Rant asks, "and is he ignoring the fact that his grandfather actually turned back to the light at the end of Return of the Jedi? Luke and his parents must have taught Ben that."

In an interview with IGN, Abrams offered a little more insight into the character's motivation, explaining that Ren sees Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker as two separate entities. "Kylo Ren idolises Darth Vader, not Anakin Skywalker," Abrams said. "He idolises what Vader represents and what Vader was trying to do. And the idea that Vader didn't succeed, if you look at it from Ren's point of view, he was seduced by the enemy and failed because of that seduction. So the idea is that Ren wants to complete the thing that Vader started." 

All will be revealed in December 2017.

Star Wars 7 breaks box office record and looks to Oscars

7 January

Speculation is growing that Star Wars : The Force Awakens will win an Oscar this year after becoming North America's all-time top-earning movie.

The JJ Abrams-directed film has brought in $758.2m (£520m) in 20 days, overtaking previous record-holder Avatar, which earned $760.5m (£521.7m) over seven months in 2009 to 2010.

But can the sci-fi hit build on its commercial success and attract critical recognition at the Oscars? A growing number of commentators believe so.

"The Force Awakens has instantly become a serious awards player, massive. It's the most fascinating Oscar wild-card," Tom O'Neil, editor of the awards website Goldderby.com, tells USA Today.

"It could come up with the most nominations of any film, including best picture. And there's a chance it could win if the Oscar Force is with this movie."

Awards expert Dave Karger, from film site Fandango.com, believes The Force Awakens is "the movie on everyone's awards list right now".

He says it stands a good chance in this year's best picture category, which is considered to be wide open. "This film is so well-received, if it gets nominated you have to consider it a possible winner," he said.

Most commentators agree Oscars for less-prestigious categories such as best visual effects could be happy hunting ground for the seventh Star Wars film.

But some go further, predicting wins for the likes of best director and best supporting actor - a category which could see a fascinating veteran face-off between Harrison Ford's Han Solo and Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa.

Before fans get too excited, The Guardian's Nigel M Smith cautions that when it comes to the Oscars, "the Force is not strong with Star Wars".

He adds: "The Force Awakens doesn't push cinema in any new directions. Abrams' film, while technically accomplished and emotionally satisfying, treads familiar ground in playing to the franchise's enduring strengths."

It could, he concedes, earn nominations, but adds: "Just don't expect it to pull off a Titanic-sized triumph."

That said, the franchise has form. The original Star Wars film, released in 1977, attracted 11 Oscar nominations including best picture, best supporting actor for Alec Guinness and best director for George Lucas. It won in seven categories.

However, subsequent instalments fared less well. The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi earned fewer nominations and just a handful of wins, while none of the maligned prequels won an Academy Award.

 

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