Appearances by original cast members Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were rivaled only by the presentation of new footage from behind-the-scenes of the latest installment.
Hamill, Ford and Fisher were joined onstage by director J.J. Abrams, producer and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and writer Lawrence Kasdan. Cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Gwendoline Christie were also in attendance.
This marked Ford’s first public appearance since being injured in a plane crash earlier this year. He expressed his excitement about being involved in the reboot of the franchise.
“I was very gratified when I read the script,” Ford told Hall H. “I read something that was remarkable … with some very intriguing developments… It’s a development of theme and a natural progression of the stories we told in the first three. An emotional rounding of the experience.”
He added that returning to the “Star Wars” set was a positive experience. “It should’ve felt ridiculous, but it felt great.”
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Ford and Hamill both said the experience of being involved in the series has been deeply emotional.
“When I meet you on the street everyone has a story, and it’s such a personal story … it’s very moving to me,” Hamill said to the fans.
Of reuniting with her co-stars on the big screen, Fisher noted, “I didn’t think it was going to happen again. It was a little bit like before, only we looked more melted this time — but in a good way.”
In addition to the video, Abrams debuted one of the many practical effects in the film — a fully articulated puppet character called Bobbajo, who walked across the stage independently, to the delight of the crowd.
Fans were pleased to learn that Abrams already has a cut of the film, and that they’re currently in the process of “fine-tuning.” The director praised Disney for not rushing the movie to theaters: “To have the time to do it right is not a small thing,” he noted. “The only real mandate we had was ‘what delights us?’ That doesn’t mean it has to be fun all the time, but it has to be compelling… We wanted to tell a story that would make us feel, and would feel like a continuum of the story that George started.”
Abrams also fielded questions about how race factored into his casting decisions.
“We didn’t write the character of Finn to be any color, we didn’t write the character of Rey to be any color … we wanted the movie to look the way the world looks,” he said, with Kennedy noting that their commitment to diversity would extend to the other films in the ongoing “Star Wars” franchise.
The Hall H panel culminated in the announcement that the entire, 7000-strong audience would be treated to a surprise “Star Wars” concert by the San Diego Symphony immediately following the discussion. The emotional event was presented by Abrams, Kennedy and the entire cast, with fans receiving free lightsabers upon reaching the outdoor waterside venue.
The Symphony performed John Williams’ iconic compositions from all six “Star Wars” films, presented with montages of memorable moments from the movies. The evening climaxed with a rendition of the iconic main theme accompanied by a dazzling firework display that took place above the water.