TIME movies

JJ Abrams Says Some of Those Star Wars Rumors Are True

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has completed principal photography. #TheForceAwakens #StarWarsVII
Lucasfilm/Disney

But not all of them

Redditors, start your engines: Star Wars: The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams confirmed Friday that some of those rumors you’ve been hearing are true — but only some.

The Star Trek and Super 8 director said in an interview with BBC Radio 5 that he’s worked hard to keep secrets from the upcoming movie under wraps, but a few have nevertheless leaked. “There are a ton of rumors, some true, some false,” he said. “But … I’m grateful for everyone who would want to read a spoiler, because it means that they care, they want to go see the movie.”

It’s unclear exactly what rumors Abrams might be addressing, but one that would be particularly huge if true did leak in recent days (potential spoilers here, if you dare). The Force Awakens isn’t due to hit theaters until December, but it seems the Internet will have plenty to speculate about until then.

[BBC]

TIME movies

Apple Design Guru May Have Helped Redesign Star Wars Lightsaber

Jony Ive reportedly told director JJ Abrams iconic sci-fi sword would benefit from a "more analog and more primitive" look

Apple design chief Jony Ive may have played a role in the concept behind the three-pronged lightsaber featured in the trailer for the upcoming Star Wars film, a new profile in the New Yorker suggests.

Ive reportedly told J.J. Abrams, the director of Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, that the lightsaber would benefit from a redesign to make it “more analog and more primitive.”

“I thought it would be interesting if it were less precise, and just a little bit more spitty,” Ive told the magazine.

Read More: Jonathan Ive Designs Tomorrow

Abrams took the comments to heart even though the suggestion reportedly came at a “boozy” dinner party, the New Yorker reports. Ive said he didn’t suggest adding the two beams at the hilt, which make the lightsaber look somewhat like a three-pronged cross.

Ive is known for his influential role designing Apple products including the iPhone and iPad.

TIME movies

Felicity Jones Set to Star in First Star Wars Stand-Alone Film

Felicity Jones Star Wars
Michael Tran—FilmMagic/Getty Images Felicity Jones arrives at the BAFTA Los Angeles Jaguar Britannia Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Oct. 30, 2014 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Gareth Edwards is directing the first of multiple spinoff movies

British actress Felicity Jones has reportedly been tapped as the female lead in the Gareth Edwards Star Wars standalone film.

The Oscar-nominated The Theory of Everything actress is in talks with Disney and Lucasfilm for the role, which hasn’t been revealed yet, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Actresses including Orphan Black lead Tatiana Maslany and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo star Rooney Mara had been reading and testing for the role last week, when Chris Weitz was hired as the film’s screenwriter to replace Gary Whitta, who wrote the first draft.

Little else is known about the project, which will be the first of multiple Star Wars standalone films, but The Hollywood Reporter also reports that Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul and Wrath of the Titan‘s Edgar Ramirez are in talks for the male lead role.

The film is due out Dec. 16, 2016.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

TIME Video Games

This Is the Most Exciting Star Wars Development Yet

You can now fly X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon

Arcades aren’t quite dead yet, at least according to Disney and Bandai Namco. The two companies have launched an immersive new Star Wars arcade game called Star Wars: Battle Pod that lets players pilot iconic vehicles like the Millennium Falcon, an X-Wing, and Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced. The massive, 1200-pound cabinet features a 18-degree curved screen, as well as a chair that rumbles on impact and air blasts to mimic flight. The game recounts specific, iconic scenes like the Battle of Hoth (yes, you can fly a Snowspeeder) and the destruction of the Death Star II. Check out the video above for some behind-the-scenes footage of the development of the game.

Star Wars: Battle Pod launched in U.S. arcades this January and will arrive in other countries later in the year. Those who can’t manage to find one of these beauties out in the wild will have to be content playing the still-excellent Rogue Squadron for Nintendo 64.

TIME 2015 Super Bowl

The Ad That Changed Super Bowl Commercials Forever

How "The Force" has remained the most shared Super Bowl ad of all-time

In 2011, on the Wednesday before the Super Bowl, a new Volkswagen commercial popped up on YouTube. “The Force” featured a kid ambling about his house dressed as Star Wars’ Darth Vader while attempting to use the Dark Side on everything from the family dog to the new Passat sitting in the driveway.

From the early 1980s—when Super Bowl ads became as anticipated as the game itself—until that moment, advertisers generally kept their spots under wraps, careful not to jeopardize the big reveal. But for the 2011 Super Bowl, Volkswagen was in a bind. The company had bought two 30-second spots—one for “The Force,” advertising the new Passat, and another called “Black Beetle,” showing off the new Jetta, both created by the ad agency Deutsch. But everyone involved felt a 60-second version of “The Force” was their best work. It was just too long to play during the game.

VW’s marketing team also knew they were facing big obstacles on game day: the company hadn’t run a Super Bowl ad in over a decade, and the two commercials they planned to run would be competing against multiple spots from larger automakers with more ad dollars. So they decided that one possible way to stand out was to release “The Force” early, even though it defied what was widely accepted as smart advertising strategy around the biggest ad day of the year.

“It’s hard to think about now, but at the time, it was not the conventional wisdom to air or put online a commercial that was meant for the Super Bowl,” says Tim Ellis, who was the head of marketing for Volkswagen North America at the time and is now the chief marketing officer for video game maker Activision. “The wisdom was you hold it, because you would get the most value out of that impression by waiting.”

Ellis says it was a controversial decision to run it early, even among the ad agency and VW’s marketing team. “But I thought if everything goes right, this thing will catch fire and go viral,” he says.

By 8 a.m. Thursday, “The Force” had been viewed 1.8 million times on YouTube and had racked up 17 million views before kickoff, according to figures provided by Deutsch. Today, “The Force” has 61 million views on YouTube and is still the most shared Super Bowl ad of all-time and the second most shared TV commercial ever.

“It paid for itself before it ever ran,” says Mike Sheldon, CEO of Deutsch North America.

MORE 5 Ways This Year’s Super Bowl Ads Will Be Like No Other

The ad’s runaway success changed how advertisers approach Super Bowl Sunday ever since. Instead of standalone spots, Super Bowl ads have become the anchors of extended marketing campaigns with vast social media presences often launched weeks before the game. This year, more than 20 brands have already released their full Super Bowl ads or special teasers for them.

“Super Bowl advertising has changed fundamentally,” says Tim Calkins, a Northwestern University marketing professor. “It’s gone from being a one-time event to a months-long marketing campaign.”

For years, the Super Bowl ad was a fleeting thing. 1984—the Apple ad still widely considered the greatest Super Bowl commercial—aired just twice, once in 10 local outlets on Dec. 31, 1983, and once more during the game the following month.

As the audience for the game grew, brands expanded their Super Bowl marketing budgets (think Budweiser’s talking frogs and Pepsi’s splashy productions with Ray Charles and Cindy Crawford). During the first Super Bowl, the average cost of a 30-second spot was $40,000 ($280,000 when adjusted for inflation). This year, NBC is charging $4.5 million, and at least one NBC executive claims that the exposure brands get during the Super Bowl is closer to $10 million in value. And as our media consumption habits have been transformed by social networks and mobile devices, a Super Bowl ad now needs to resonate on social media to be considered successful. Budweiser, for example, has launched the social media campaign #BestBuds urging people to help a rancher find his lost puppy in its latest spot, and Pepsi and ShopTV will send out tweets during Katy Perry’s halftime performance with links for viewers to buy related merchandise.

“What was just a bunch of 30-, 60-second TV commercials, everybody now has turned this into a full-on social media integrated play,” Deutsch’s Sheldon says. “I don’t look at Super Bowl ads as TV commercials. The Super Bowl is a social media and PR phenomenon that has a number of integrated components in which one is a TV commercial.”

MORE Watch Victoria’s Angels Play Football (in Actual Football Attire)

Courtesy of DeutschThis photo of a kid dressed as Darth Vader inside a Burger King inspired the creative team at Deutsch as they were making “The Force” ad.

More than any other ad agency, Deutsch appears to have been the first to recognize that new paradigm. Back in 2010, when the agency won a bid to develop the TV campaign for Volkswagen’s Jetta and Passat lines, employees in Deutsch’s Los Angeles offices had placed funny photos above their four-color copy machine, one of which was a kid in a Darth Vader costume sulking inside a Burger King. That inspired the company’s creative team to come up with a spot featuring a similar kid dressed as the Star Wars villain who keeps failing in his attempts to use the Force around his home until he succeeds in turning on his dad’s new Volkswagen (the assist from his dad, who actually turned on the car, was a clever way to tout the Passat’s new remote starter). It was a perfect combination: the enduring popularity of Star Wars, childhood nostalgia, touching moments between a father and son, a narrative arc that went tidily from conflict to resolution, and plenty of humor thanks to a 6-year-old dressed as a notorious movie villain.

“If you don’t have all of these ingredients, the spot really doesn’t work,” says Tom Else, Deutsch’s VW account director.

Deutsch executives say it was a rare spot where there were essentially no changes or edits coming from inside creative or from the client.

“Very early on we knew it was extraordinary, but you can never predict what the world thinks is fantastic,” Else says.

Soon after it launched, “The Force” became the most shared TV spot of all-time, according to Unruly, which tracks and analyzes viral videos. The ad held the top spot for three years, until July 2014, when it was knocked off by a music video sponsored by yogurt brand Activia and featuring the singer Shakira. But “The Force” is still considered the most shared Super Bowl ad of all time.

“Every decade or so, there’s lightning in a bottle,” says Matt Jarvis, chief strategy officer of ad agency 72andSunny, which produced a popular Super Bowl ad for Samsung in 2013 and created a spot for Carl’s Jr. this year. “And I think this is one of those cases.”

Jarvis says “The Force” successfully used a combination of both earned media—YouTube hits, for example—along with paid media, such as a 15-second teaser spot that aired on “Saturday Night Live” the night before the game, to create momentum that continued through the Super Bowl.

“It was about building that wave and then riding that wave,” Ellis says.

It helped that the ad contained all the components of a viral hit. Unruly recently group-tested “The Force” and found that it still resonated with viewers, discovering that it hit five of 10 “social motivators” that Unruly’s execs say trigger people to share something. They found that viewers sent the ad to others in part because it reflected a shared passion with someone else (love for Star Wars, for instance) and that sharers believed it could be useful (their friend might be looking for a new car). But Unruly also found that it resonated on a more gut level, eliciting feelings of joy and surprise when the kid “turns on” the car, which researchers says is a key component in motivating us to share.

MORE Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad About a Lost Puppy is an Emotional Roller Coaster

“It’s a great example of emotion,” says Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, adding that the peaks and valleys of the kid failing and finally succeeding, as well as the nostalgia it can elicit, are the main triggers for why it went viral.

After “The Force’s” success, Deutsch sensed that other advertisers would start releasing their ads early as well. So in 2012, the agency released the first full-length ad for an ad when it launched The Bark Side, which included dogs bark-singing Star Wars’ Imperial March. For the game, it released The Dog Strikes Back as its official Super Bowl ad, which again included the Darth Vader Kid from the previous year’s commercial. Both ads have remained in Unruly’s top 20 viral Super Bowl ads of all-time.

Since “The Force,” advertisers have increasingly created teaser ads, alternate versions of their Super Bowl commercials, or have released the ad in its entirety early. Among this year’s efforts to gin up early buzz are a T-Mobile spot featuring Kim Kardashian, a teaser for a Nationwide ad with actress Mindy Kaling, and a Bud Light spot that debuted on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.” Dove, meanwhile, posted a version of its ad almost two weeks before the game, while Lexus released its full ad more than two weeks before Super Bowl Sunday.

MORE Watch a Dude Run Through a Life-Size Pac-Man Game in Bud Light’s Super Bowl Ad

There are now essentially three groups of brands competing during the Super Bowl: those who release their ads early, those who tease their ads, and those who keep the ads a surprise. Northwestern’s Calkins says that for most advertisers, getting out early is often the best strategy.

“The Super Bowl builds over a matter of weeks, so if you’re a marketer, you have an opportunity to engage with customers for seven, 14, 21 days,” Calkins says. “You can really get some mileage from your creative.”

The challenge for Super Bowl advertisers, Calkins says, is twofold: breaking through the noise and saying something important about the product. “The hard thing is doing both of those things at the same time,” he says. “Ideally, you come up with an ad as charming as ‘The Force’ that also delivers a product benefit. But that is incredibly difficult to do.”

This year, Deutsch is working on two ads: one for mobile battery company mophie, and the other for Sprint. The company released the mophie spot on Thursday:

It’s designed to be understood even if you can’t hear the TV over loud and rowdy friends. “If you’re relying on some sort of audio or voice gag, it can get missed,” Sheldon says. “You can run that spot with no audio and you get the joke.”

But Deutsch is going in a different direction with its Sprint ad. While the agency has created a teaser, the actual ad won’t be released before the Super Bowl. The hope is that it can distinguish itself by swimming against the tide the agency helped create.

“When everybody else is screaming, the one whispering stands out,” Sheldon says. “It has a different volume than others. We’re breaking our own rules a little bit. It’s the kind of spot that you wouldn’t want to release early.”

Read next: 49 Super Bowl Facts You Should Know Before Super Bowl XLIX

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TIME movies

Debbie Reynolds Wins the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award

And her daughter Carrie Fisher presented it to her

Hollywood veteran Debbie Reynolds was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday.

In her career, which began in the 1950s, the 82-year-old Reynolds has been nominated for one Oscar, five Golden Globes and one Emmy. Her big break came when she starred alongside Gene Kelly in the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain, says People.

“God gave us talent, so we’re very fortunate,” she said. “My favorite movie was The Unsinkable Molly Brown … In that film, I got to sing a wonderful song called ‘I Ain’t Down Yet.’ Well, I ain’t. Thank you all so much for this wonderful award.”

Reynold’s award was presented by her daughter, Carrie Fisher, famous for her iconic portrayal of Princess Leia in Star Wars.

The SAG gives the award every year to an actor or actress who represents the “finest ideals of the acting profession.” Last year’s SAG Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Rita Moreno, who also played a part in Singin’ in the Rain.

[People]

TIME movies

This Artist Is Creating a New Star Wars Comic For Each Day in 2015

In anticipation of the new film

With almost a year until the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans are doing what they can to cope.

To help satiate people’s Star Wars thirst, artist Gerard Folz has decided to tweet out one themed comic a day throughout 2015.

It’s a pretty big task. May the force be with him.

(h/t: MTV)

TIME

Here is the Most Anticipated Film of 2015

A scene from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," expected in theaters on Dec. 18, 2015.
AP—AP A scene from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," expected in theaters on Dec. 18, 2015.

'Star Wars' tops 'Avengers,' 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' and 'Jurassic World'

Stormtroopers and the Millennium Falcon have eclipsed the hype for Ultron and killer dinosaurs—so claims Fandango’s annual survey of the most-anticipated films for the coming year.

The ticket service says Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most eagerly awaited movie of 2015 even though it doesn’t open until next December. In second place was the return of Marvel’s all-star team in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ranking third is the conclusion of The Hunger Games franchise with Mockingjay — Part 2. In fourth place was the only non-sequel to make the list: Fifty Shades of Grey, which of course is still a widely known format as it’s based on the bestselling erotic novels. The reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise, Jurassic World, was No. 5.

Fandango chief correspondent (and former EW senior writer) Dave Karger said, “It’s been a decade since the last installment of the most beloved sci-fi fantasy franchise of all time, and kids of all ages are eagerly anticipating the revitalization of the series next December.”

Notably failing to crack the top of the chart: Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible 5, James Bond’s newest Spectre, Furious 7 and the Mad Max reboot Fury Road (which has a particularly bananas trailer). The survey was based on 1,000 polled fans from from Dec. 22 through Dec. 29.

But of course, December surveys cannot predict future turnout. Last year, Mockingjay — Part 1 was the survey’s No. 1 pick for 2014, yet it was Guardians of the Galaxy—which didn’t even crack Fandango’s Top 5—that ended up leading the box office chart. Likewise, the most-anticipated list included Divergent and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, neither of which ended up cracking the Top 8 among domestic ticket sales.

Here are the trailers for four of the top 5 films (Mockingjay — Part 2 is not out yet), followed by more results from Fandango’s survey:

Fan Favorite Actress in 2015 Movies:
1. Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2)
2. Scarlett Johansson (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
3. Angelina Jolie (By the Sea)
4. Melissa McCarthy (Spy)
5. Halle Berry (Kidnap)

Fan Favorite Actor in 2015 Movies:
1. Robert Downey Jr. (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
2. Chris Hemsworth (Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Blackhat,” and “In the Heart of the Sea)
3. Daniel Craig (Spectre)
4. Chris Pratt (Jurassic World)
5. Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible 5)

Biggest Male Breakout Movie Star, 2015:
1. Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey)
2. John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
3. Levi Miller (Pan)
4. Neel Sethi (The Jungle Book)
5. Tony Jaa (Furious 7)

Biggest Female Breakout Movie Star, 2015:
1. Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
2. Lily James (Cinderella,” Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)
3. Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey, A Bigger Splash)
4. Kate Mara (The Fantastic Four, The Martian)
5. Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service)

Most Anticipated Family Film of 2015:
1. Minions
2. Cinderella
3. Pixar’s Inside Out
4. Peanuts
5. Pan

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME movies

See a Sneak Peek of Star Wars’s Millennium Falcon on Fortune’s Cover

Fortune Star Wars
Fortune Fortune's January 2015 cover

She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid

Fortune’s January issue features an exclusive sneak peek at one of the Star Wars saga’s most iconic ships: Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon.

We already knew that the Falcon, a freighter ship converted into a smuggling vessel, would play a role in the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens — It was spotted at the end of the film’s first teaser trailer pulling some serious Gs while evading Imperial TIE Fighters.

But Fortune’s new cover gives us a closer look at the revamped Falcon. There’s also another image showing the ship parked in a hangar bay behind Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger.

Here’s how Fortune (which like TIME is owned by Time Inc.) and Lucasfilm put the images together:

Lucasfilm’s special effects division, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), worked with Fortune to create both the cover and opening photograph in the story, an inside look at the innovative technologies used across Disney’s diverse businesses and brands. The collaboration started with our photo shoot with CEO Iger earlier this month in New York. The photos were then turned over to ILM to, well, work their magic. Not surprisingly, the secretive division was mum about the exact process for creating the realistic shot of Iger standing right on set, casually leaning against a chunk of metal (the image seen in the opening pages of the story).

As for the cover shot, Yannick Dusseault, visual effects art director for The Force Awakens, and his team gave Fortune six options showing the Falcon in different ways. The resulting image required the custom rendering of ILM’s computer generated Falcon. According to ILM, the fabled ship was rendered in wireframe form (a skeletal version) as well as a more layered “textured render,” which were combined in Photoshop to create the final image.

The Force Awakens, the seventh Star Wars film, is slated for a Dec. 18, 2015 release.

TIME movies

Even Mark Hamill Was Surprised by His Return to Luke Skywalker Role

Don't get cocky, kid

Mark Hamill never thought he would return to that galaxy far, far away–not in “a million years.” So even he seems to have been stunned by the fact that he’ll reprise his most famous role as Luke Skywalker next year: In J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

“I don’t know that I’m even completely recovered from my state of shock,” the actor recently told Entertainment Weekly. “Part of the experience of [Star Wars] in my life was coming down from that, putting it behind me. We had a beginning, middle, and an end. And I certainly, in a million years, never expected to return. I thought, even if they do more trilogies, my story is over.”

Read more at Entertainment Weekly

Read next: George Lucas Might Be the Only Person Who Hasn’t Seen the New Star Wars Trailer

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