How Harrison Ford’s On-Set Injury Saved ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

When the world heard that a piece of the Millennium Falcon set fell on actor Harrison Ford, breaking his ankle and delaying filming, everyone thought Star Wars: The Force Awakens was doomed. Ford was struck by a hydraulic metal door on the Pinewood set of the movie in June 2014, and the major film production lost a lot of time.

But director, producer, and co-writer J.J. Abrams now says it may have been a blessing in disguise, because the delay gave him time to work on perhaps the most important relationship in the new Star Wars movie: Rey and Finn.

The original draft of the script had a much more standoff-ish relationship between the two characters. In the final version, the two have a more friendly and respectful relationship that works beautifully on screen. Abrams used the time to improve the chemistry between John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, which initially “didn’t work at all,” he says.

“When I was on the set of the Millennium Falcon and we started to do work with Rey and Finn, the first time we did it, it didn’t work at all,” Abrams explained to IGN. “It was much more contentious. I didn’t direct it right. It was set up all wrong, and when Harrison Ford got injured—which was a very scary day—we ended up having a few weeks off, and it was during that time that I really got to look at what we had done and rewrite quite a bit of that relationship. So when we came back to work again, we actually just reshot from the ground up, those scenes. It was an amazingly helpful thing to get these two characters to where they needed to be.”

Since Rey and Finn are by far the most central characters to the seventh installment of the saga, it’s difficult to imagine The Force Awakens would have been as good as it was had their relationship not been fine-tuned at the last minute. A failure of chemistry between the two could have been catastrophic not only for the movie but for Disney and the entire beloved franchise as a whole.

Cinema Blend mentioned that Ford’s unfortunate accident may have inadvertently saved the movie in more ways than one and why Abrams didn’t mention the change in the nature of Rey and Finn’s character development until now.

“Abrams mentioned how the downtime for the production of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a chance to ‘re-calibrate’ the film for the better. With Ford already laid up and the production being delayed to a certain extent because of it, there were doubts that Star Wars: The Force Awakens would even make its December release date. So the last thing the public needed to hear was that the two main characters were being re-written at the last minute.”

In the IGN interview, Abrams also addressed critics of The Force Awakens who say the new movie is nothing more than a derivative copy of A New Hope. Abrams defended the references, saying they were an intentional part of the creative process of making a new era for the Star Wars franchise, and the similarities to A New Hope were meant as a bridge connecting the old and new universes.

“The weird thing about that movie is that it had been so long since the last one. Obviously the prequels had existed in between and we wanted to, sort of, reclaim the story,” Abrams said. “So we very consciously—and I know it is derided for this—we very consciously tried to borrow familiar beats, so the rest of the movie could hang on something that we knew was Star Wars.”

It’s strange to think that if Harrison Ford hadn’t sustained his injury, The Force Awakens may not have turned out as well as it did, much to the delight of cinema-goers and the relief of die-hard Star Wars fans.

[Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney]