How Rick Carter and Simon Pegg helped shape the story of The Force Awakens

Rick Carter has worked on almost every film you love: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Goonies, Back to the Future Parts II and III and Jurassic Park, to name a few. Now he’s a production designer on The Force Awakens.

That’s good news, of course. But what’s great news is that Carter was involved right at the story level. Said J.J. Abrams:

“I brought him in very early on, when I was working, originally, with [screenwriter] Michael Arndt,” Abrams says. “I brought Rick in to our story meetings, which is atypical in a production designer’s job description, but I wanted him there because he was a dreamer – a complete dreamer.”

That’s a fantastic way to intimately tie the aesthetic of the universe to the story being told. It shows that Abrams understands how closely linked the two are in Star Wars.

Meanwhile, actor and writer Simon Pegg also had a hand in The Force Awakens, often as a sounding board:

“He was a wonderful partner in crime to kick the story around and ask questions and come up with ideas, and he was an incredibly helpful part of the process for all of us. I’m very grateful.”


“He was a sounding board,” Abrams says. “He would drop by the set because he wanted to, and when he could, he would help… We could talk about things, and he was a perfect combination of incredibly smart screenwriter, fan of the series, critical fan of the series, and friend of mine – but not just blindly supportive. He was an honest, critical friend. And he wasn’t so close to it that he became immune to things. He would come in with fresh eyes and very smart ideas. He’s one of a handful of people along the way that has been really priceless.”

Notably, both Carter and Pegg are pariahs in the prequel fan community: Carter, for announcing in the Force Awakens behind-the-scenes reel that they were shooting in “a real desert”, and Pegg for just being vocal about why he dislikes the prequels. (Pegg did voice Dengar in the Clone Wars series, however.)

Going back to the aesthetic of Star Wars, however, Abrams had this to say:

“We both knew the importance of what [Ralph] McQuarrie had done, and how critical he was in creating the aesthetic of what we all know is Star Wars,” the director says. “We could have taken another path and said, ‘Okay, everything that we all know about Star Wars has been done; let’s go somewhere else and do something totally different,’ but when you’re lucky enough to inherit the history of this world that we know, there should be a continuum.”

Just as Lucas is in the story DNA of Star Wars and John Williams is in its musical DNA, so too is McQuarrie in its visual DNA. Indeed, it starts feeling less like Star Wars the further it deviates from his aesthetic. So it’s heartening to know that they’re taking this aspect seriously.

The same can be said of the film overall. Everyone understands the seriousness of the endeavour. Hopefully their attempt to do the franchise justice will be reflected on screen.

I think it will.


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