How Steven Spielberg Persuaded J.J. Abrams To Direct ‘The Force Awakens’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens ushered in a new era for the Star Wars franchise after being away from the big screen for ten years. While George Lucas had a hand in each of the six original Star Wars films, The Force Awakens was the first to not be directed or produced by the franchise’s creator who sold the rights to Disney. Due to this, the franchise needed a new director to bring the beloved characters back to the movie theaters. As history has it, science-fiction director and producer J.J. Abrams was selected to helm the Star Wars film to return the franchise to the big screen. While Abrams was ultimately selected and did an outstanding job, he originally did not want the job because of the time it would take away from his wife, but he was eventually persuaded by legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

Steven Spielberg, who has had a friendship with George Lucas since the original Star Wars in 1977, has always taken an interest in the franchise. Although not wanting to direct the film himself, he did speak with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in regards to hiring J.J. Abrams. Spielberg openly expressed how he wanted Abrams to restart the franchise, and he retold the story of how he helped make this happen, saying:

“I brought J.J.’s name up. I thought J.J. would be the best person to direct Episode 7 and I called J.J. and said ‘Would you do it if it was offered to you?’ He said, ‘I would but my wife won’t let me ’cause she doesn’t want me to restart any more franchises.’ But I went to Kathy and asked if I could get J.J. to say yes to this would you consider it? Kathy said ‘Are you kidding? Of course I would. But why would J.J. do Star Wars; he’s already done Mission Impossible and Star Trek.”

Although Abrams was against rebooting another franchise, Spielberg was eventually able to get the esteemed filmmaker on board for Star Wars. Spielberg finally broke Abrams down, and he explained how it happened:

“So I take Katie Abrams and J.J. to dinner that night to Giorgio with my wife, Kate, and right in front of Katie Abrams I popped the question. I said to Katie, ‘I think there’s a chance that J.J. could direct Star Wars. What do you think of that?’ And Katie turned to J.J. and said, ‘That would be amazing. Really?’ And I went outside the restaurant, picked up my phone, called Kathy and said, “When can we meet with J.J.?” And that’s how the whole thing began.”

Although J.J. Abrams’ wife was originally one of the reasons he would not direct The Force Awakens, apparently Steven Spielberg was able to persuade her fairly easily. Since then, the rest is history and J.J. Abrams helped return Star Wars to the big screen. Without Spielberg’s involvement in the franchise, fans may have received a much different film than the one Abrams made. Although Abrams is not directing Episode VIII, which will be directed by Rian Johnson, he will serve as an executive producer which will allow him to help make another excellent addition to the Star Wars franchise.

Star Wars Episode VIII is set to premiere in theaters December 15th, 2017.