Stephen Colbert and J.J. Abrams swapped stories about a range of topics including Jennifer Garner, lens flares and of course, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” during a Q&A held Saturday in Newark, N.J., held as part of a Celebrity Nerd-Off fundraiser for the state’s upcoming Montclair Film Festival.
Colbert, a Montclair resident, has long been a booster of the event, which is going into its fifth year in April. More than 2,800 people turned up on Saturday for the benefit at New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Prudential Hall.
“This is about 2,700 more people than I thought would be here,” Abrams quipped before adding, “I don’t know much about Montclair, but I’m learning and it makes me just want to move here.”
With perhaps the most important job in entertainment right now, the director informed Colbert that he had completed “The Force Awakens” just hours earlier.
“We were working on the final mixes at 2:30 this morning,” the helmer said. “I left with six very small, but important things that (still) need to be done because I said, ‘I have to get to the Montclair Film Festival.'”
Later in the evening when a fan asked if he wanted the project to “just be over,” the director got candid.
“I wish you could zip line down here and hug me,” Abrams said to the fan. “The truth is working on this movie for nearly three years, it has been like living with the greatest roommate in history for too long. It’s time for him to get his own place. It’s been great and I can’t tell you how much I want him to get out into the world and meet other people because we know each other really well. But really, ‘Star Wars’ is bigger than all of us. So I’m thrilled beyond words (to be involved) and terrified more than I can say.”
The duo touched on several achievements in Abrams’ prolific career, including his first writing credit “Taking Care of Business” in 1990, which was originally written as “Filofax.” Turns out Colbert auditioned for the film, but eventually lost the role to Jim Belushi.
Abrams apologized with the caveat “I will say that I think it worked out for you.”
Colbert went on to also reveal that Jennifer Garner used to babysit for his daughter before getting an agent and moving to Los Angeles.
“(My wife and I) thought, ‘Oh poor thing. She is just going to disappear.’ Then a couple of years later, I’m going to work at “The Daily Show,” and I see like an eight-story poster of her in a cat suit for “Alias” and I nearly drove up on the sidewalk.
When he later showed his wife the Time Magazine cover of Garner as Sydney Bristow, she had no idea who it was until Colbert revealed her identity.
“But she wasn’t hot,” my wife said. And I said, “Yes, she was!”
“Well, you never said anything,” his wife replied.
“What am I supposed to say?” Colbert said. “Have you noticed how unbelievably hot our babysitter is?!?”
After the room filled with laugher, Abrams touching on “Lost,” “Felicity,” “Armageddon,” “Mission Impossible 3,” “Star Trek,” and his fondness for lens flares. Then fans got to see the latest trailer for “The Force Awakens” on the big screen.
Afterwards, the director spoke about the ‘the force.’
“It is such a powerful idea. It’s a religion without a god. It’s a nondenominational, powerful idea that was very important to us, in this film, to bring back.”