It's no surprise that Adam Driver is on the dark side.
Driver plays Kylo Ren in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and on Wednesday, Entertainment Weekly gave fans a better look at the actor's character on the cover of its Fall Movie Preview issue (out Friday). "He is not your prototypical mustache-twirling bad guy," director J.J. Abrams tells the magazine. "He is a little bit more complex than that, and it was a great joy to work with Adam Driver on this role, because he threw himself into it in a deep and remarkable way."
"The movie explains the origins of the mask and where it's from, but the design was meant to be a nod to the Vader mask," Abrams says of Driver's character. "[Ren] is well aware of what's come before, and that's very much a part of the story of the film." The director also confirms rumors that Ren's lightsaber "is something that he built himself, and is as dangerous and as fierce and as ragged as the character."
So, just how bad is Ren?
"As you see in the best of storytelling, and no doubt the best of Star Wars, these are tales in which an everyperson has to step up. And I think that what makes Ren so unique is that he isn't as fully formed as when we meet a character such as Darth Vader. And I think that there are two sides to the Force. Both sides, arguably, would see themselves as the hero of their story, and I think that applies here," he says.
Abrams also gifts Entertainment Weekly with another spoiler regarding the mysterious villain's origins: "He is a character who came to the name Kylo Ren when he joined a group called the Knights of Ren."
The director is also debunking rumors that a new trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens will debut this weekend at Disney's D23 fan convention in Anaheim, Calif. "It is true: We are showing no footage, behind the scenes or otherwise," he confirms. "In the fall, there'll be a trailer."
"We're thrilled to go to D23 and meet the fans, but it's a tricky thing to try and rush [footage] for a convention or preexisting event that would, of course, be fun to show something at," Abrams explains.
"I'm still editing and we're working on refining the cut, but it's incredibly fun to see the movie come together," Abrams adds. "You realize certain things that you don't need, certain things you can pull out."
Agreeing to direct Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was no easy decision. In fact, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy recalls, "In the context of talking about story and laying out what we were thinking, I said one thing to him: 'Who is Luke Skywalker?' He said, 'Oh my God, I just got the chills. I'm in.' I mean, it really was almost that quickly." Kennedy adds, "The themes and ideas that we all continue to talk about are the themes and ideas that were the inherent in the original movies. We're looking, obviously, for aspiration, for characters who are conflicted between good and evil, dark and light."
Once Abrams signed on, he immediately began brainstorming. "You rarely get a chance to be involved in something that you would typically be an audience for," the director says. "Katie, my wife, said, 'If you want to do this and you don't, you're going to regret this.' It was really about being willing to take that leap, and jump into the possibilities of what these characters are doing, and where they are."
Abrams joined Michael Arndt and Simon Kinberg to discuss trilogy possibilities with Kennedy. "[They] had just been hypothesizing and throwing out a bunch of what-ifs, but there was no story in place," he tells Entertainment Weekly. "It was, without doubt, a formidable assignment. There were so many options and so many paths that could be taken. Even when we were in debate—and sometimes it was frustrating and heated—it was always thrilling, because it seemed almost everywhere you looked there was something potentially extraordinary, which felt very much like the DNA of Star Wars itself."
Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill agreed to reprise their roles as Princess Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, respectively, from the original trilogy. "Any good story has conflict," Abrams says. "And if all were rosy 30-some years post-Jedi, we would be hard-pressed to find an interesting story to tell."
That challenge fell largely on screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan's shoulders. "I thought, 'Wow, OK, these people have lived—they're in a different place in their lives, Han and Leia and so on. They've lived the same 30 years I have. What would that be like? How would you see things differently?' And I was trying to figure out how I saw things differently, and one of the surprises is that you don't learn all that much," he says. "You haven't become much wiser than you were, and things are not clearer to you, and the world is just as confusing as it always was—and that's a kind of lovely thing to get to write about again."
Kasdan adds, "Age does not necessarily bring wisdom; it just brings experience."
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is in theaters Dec. 18.