‘Star Wars’: J. J. Abrams Almost Turned Down The Project, Just Like Ron Howard Before Him

Star Wars: The Force Awakens certainly woke up the box office on its opening weekend. Deadline reports the movie surpassed the $300 million mark as of December 22, only five days after it opened in theaters. This might be amazing for the movie, but according to director J. J. Abrams, what is even more amazing is that people think he would cut Lupita Nyong’o’s performance because it wasn’t good enough.

Page Six reports that Abrams put those rumors to rest before Star Wars: The Force Awakens was screened, without hesitation and without leaving any doubt as to the quality of Nyong’o’s performance.

“The number of rumors floating around about ‘The Force Awakens’ is truly stunning. Some are wonderfully funny, others simply preposterous. But the only one more ridiculous than Jar Jar Binks being a Sith Lord is that I cut Lupita Nyong’o’s performance because it wasn’t satisfactory.”

Not only did he not cut her performance; he praised it, putting Nyong’o up on a pedestal.

“In truth, her performance wasn’t satisfactory. It was spectacular. She has brought the character of Maz Kanata to life in the most wonderful, wise, touching, deep and funny way. Lupita never ceased to amaze me. Yes, we tried many approaches, and we finally landed on just what the film needed. She elevated all the scenes she is in, I’m forever grateful, and can’t wait for people to see her stunning performance.”

The fact that Abrams even directed the new Star Wars movie is perhaps amazing, as well. The Guardian reports that Abrams told The Times that he initially turned down the project when he was asked to direct. Apparently, when the president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, called him, he told her he didn’t think the project was right for him.

“When Kathy called 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.'”

It was Abrams’ wife, Katie McGrath, who convinced Abrams to take the project, and thank goodness for Katie McGrath!

“I saw the original trilogy and I thought if there was any way to be part of bringing that back, it would be incredible. Katie said: ‘If you want to do this and you don’t, you’re going to regret this.'”

Abrams said he wanted to do justice to the movie.

“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.”

It’s obvious, even from watching the trailer that Abrams succeeded in his goal of keeping the movie true to its origins.

But it’s not only Abrams who was unsure about directing Star Wars. Business 2 Community reports that Ron Howard was offered the chance to direct Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

According to Howard, Lucas didn’t want to direct the new Star Wars movies and was looking for someone to take it on.

“He didn’t necessarily want to direct them. He told me that he had talked to [Robert] Zemeckis, he talked to me, he talked to Steven Spielberg. I was the third one he spoke to. They all said the same thing: ‘George, you should just do it. This is your baby.’ Nobody wanted to follow that act I don’t think at that point. That was an honor, but it would’ve been just too daunting.”

Lucas did a fine job with the second Star Wars trilogy, but it seems that he made some pretty big shoes to fill when he made the original Star Wars movies and other, very accomplished directors just didn’t want to try to fill them. Thank goodness J. J. Abrams tried with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He did an amazing job!

[Photo by Chris Jackson / Getty Images]