Last week filmmaker and lifelong Star Wars fanboy Kevin Smith got to visit the set of Episode VII in London and came away literally moved to the point of tears, which he shared with the world courtesy of a weepy Instagram photo and a thumbs up. Naturally, director J.J. Abrams’ invitation came packaged with a non-disclosure agreement, so Smith won’t be tossing any Episode VII spoilers out there. But he has clarified just what he saw on set that impacted him so powerfully, and his experience is something that should resonate with anyone who grew up dreaming of George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away.
The folks over at /Film tracked down the above video, which features Smith doing one of his frequent and often wildly entertaining Q&As, this one at the Neuchatel International Film Festival in Switzerland. Among other things, he addresses his Episode VII set visit, including its emotional centerpiece: getting to see the Millennium Falcon set inside Pinewood Studios’ Stage M. (The Episode VII talk starts around the 35-minute mark.)
I stepped on the Millennium Falcon set. And my foot went on the landing ramp, and 10 years dropped off my life. Suddenly all that shit — Jersey Girl, Cop Out, Red State, gone. Took another fucking step, another 10 years drop off my life. Now I’m in Clerks country. I take another step, I’m a fucking 18 year old again. I take another step, 12. Take another step, I’m fucking nine years old and Empire Strikes Back comes out. And I’m only halfway up the bridge.
And then when I get to my fucking last step, man, seven. I’m seven years old, standing on the ramp of the Millennium Falcon. And all the shit I thought about myself and know about myself to be true, and everything that I project as Kevin Smith was fucking gone, and I just started crying. I was connected to my childhood in such a primal way…and I wasn’t even stoned.
I don’t care whether you’re a fan of Smith or his movies or not, I can’t imagine there’s a single Star Wars fan out there who can’t empathize with what it would have been like to be Smith in that moment. It’s like an invitation to fucking Fantasia, the chance to return to your childhood in a very real and three-dimensional and tangible way. It’s that “childlike wonder” that we all remember fondly and keep chasing throughout our adult lives, hoping to recapture just a moment or two of that magic. Movies are ideal delivery systems for that, and, to hear Smith tell it, Abrams is loading up a strong dose for us all.
As I walked up that ramp I realized that the something that was missing from those other movies (the prequels) and it’s now in these movies. And its not the obvious like, ‘Hey, the Millennium Falcon!’ or ‘Hey, the characters that we know are returning.’ It’s something else entirely — he’s building a tactile world, a world you can touch. And he’s replicating with all the love of someone who has the world’s greatest collection of Star Wars figures.
And when you walk on that set, man, I don’t know how else to describe it except thusly: you use another pop culture reference to describe this pop culture phenomenon. It’s like the Field of Dreams, the Kevin Costner movie. And if JJ builds it, we’re all going to come hard, because its amazing. It looks fantastic. So anyone out there wondering if he’s going to pull it off, he’s pulling it off. He showed me cut scenes, he showed me sequences, images, pictures. I cried and I hugged that guy. And I’m sure as I was crying and hugging on him that he was thinking, ‘Time is money,’ because they’re making a movie. But he got it. He was very flattered. And I was like, ‘Honestly dude, you’re doing it. You’re making my childhood again. You’re doing our Star Wars.’ What I saw blew me away.
One of the more promising things we’ve learned about Episode VII was Abrams’ decision to use practical effects where possible, a decision that should help align the new movies with the original trilogy, far more than the hollow, too-perfect CGI expanse of the prequels. Smith says he could feel that difference palpably during his visit, as he got to watch some sequences being filmed.
It was tactile — it was real. It wasn’t a series of fucking green screens and blue screens in which later a bunch of digital characters would be added. IT was there, it was happening. I saw old friends who I haven’t seen since my childhood, who aren’t really friends, but I love them more than some of my fucking relatives. I saw uniforms, I saw artillery I haven’t seen since I was a kid. I saw them shooting an actual sequence in a set that was real. I walked across the set, there were explosions. And it looked like a shot right out of a Star Wars movie.
It’s easy to get cynical when you write about this stuff day in and day out. Goodness knows there are countless times where something with the potential to be awesome only ends up disappointing us. Hell, that was the experience of the prequels in a nutshell. But the more I hear about what’s going on with the Episode VII production, the more I find myself morphing into Fox Mulder: I want to believe.
Star Wars: Episode VII is currently slated to release on December 18, 2015.