Why J.J. Abrams Almost Turned Down ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens may go down as the biggest movie in Hollywood history, but its director, J.J. Abrams, was reluctant to sign on. What could give Abrams cold feet about the project?

According to the Guardian, it was to avoid a label from undermining his career. He was worried about becoming the “sequels guy.”

Abrams explained to Time magazine, “I did something I don’t normally do, which is look at my career. I really did feel like ‘that sounds like the wrong idea.'”

J.J. Abrams is known for reviving the Star Trek franchise with the 2009 movie Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness in 2013. While hardly sequels, the director might easily be labeled the “franchise revival guy,” especially since so many fans considered the three Star Wars prequels to be disappointing.

J.J. Abrams and George Lucas at the premiere of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' on the 14th. [Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]
Fans of The Force Awakens appear to have one person to thank for bringing Abrams back on — his wife, Katie McGrath.

Abrams says she told him, “If you want to do this and you don’t, you’re going to regret this.”

Fans seem to agree that he managed to bring back some of the magic of the original three films. IMDB says it’s 8.9 out of 10, and Rotten Tomatoes is giving it a 95 percent with a critic consensus saying “The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series’ former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.”

Some critics say the film prioritizes fan service over novelty with a plot that is largely derivative of the first Star Wars movie; nevertheless, Abrams succeeded in what he set out to do. He explained the movie was about bringing back that magic.

“I wanted people to feel the magic of what Star Wars was: the sense of romance, the sense of heart, the loyalty, the sweetness, the friendship, the unexpected scenarios, the discoveries the characters make, the sense of impossible scale made possible. I saw the original trilogy and I thought if there was any way to be part of bringing that back, it would be incredible.”

Of course, another big question is, how much control did Abrams really have in The Force Awakens production? Disney paid $4.05 billion for the franchise, a big risk after the three prequels drove fans into skepticism. Trusting all that to one man would likely lead executives into anxiety attacks.

But it turns out that Abrams secured a lot of control, even over the final cut. According to Cinema Blend, the director’s initial hesitancy may have tilted the negotiating table in his favor.

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' drives moviegoers to the historic Chinese Theater in Los Angeles for opening night. [Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]
In the end, it worked out for both parties. Now movie analysts are just wondering if The Force Awakens will be the biggest movie in Hollywood history, or just the second biggest.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the opening day garnered $120 million in ticket sales, and the weekend estimate stands at about $250 million. If the estimate is accurate, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will secure a record for the largest weekend box office. The previous title-holder was Jurassic World, which received $208.8 million opening weekend.

Still, analysts are forecasting that the total global box office for The Force Awakens will be $1.5 to $2 billion. That estimate puts the movie in second to James Cameron’s Avatar, which made $2.8 billion from worldwide audiences. In any case, Disney’s initial investment, which will produce two more movies, looks like it will almost certainly pay off.

J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in theaters now.

[Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]