Star Wars/Lucasfilm

HARD INFO

Release date: Dec. 18, 2015

Length: Two hours and 16 minutes

Rating: PG-13 (the only other non-PG entry is Episode III – Revenge of the Sith)

Estimated budget: $200 million

Time since last Star Wars film, Episode III – Revenge of the Sith: 10 years, seven months

Time since previous film in chronology, Episode VI – Return of the Jedi: 32 years, seven months (The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Jedi)

Opening on: 3,900 screens (“only the 11th biggest theater count in 2015 and nowhere close to the biggest theater count of all time,” per Forbes)

RETURNING CAST

Harrison Ford, age 73, as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher, age 59, as Leia Organa
Mark Hamill, age 64, as Luke Skywalker
Anthony Daniels, age 69, as C-3PO
Kenny Baker, age 81, as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew, age 71, as Chewbacca

Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd.

NEW CAST MEMBERS

Daisy Ridley
Age: 23
Character: Rey
Previous credits: Scrawl, English TV series Mr Selfridge and Silent Witness

John Boyega
Age: 23
Character: Finn
Previous credits: Attack the Block, 24: Live Another Day

Adam Driver
Age: 32
Character: Kylo Ren
Previous credits: Girls, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lincoln, Frances Ha

Oscar Isaac
Age: 35
Character: Poe Dameron
Previous credits: Inside Llewyn Davis, Ex Machina, Drive, Robin Hood, The Bourne Legacy

Lupita Nyong’o
Age: 32
Character: Maz Kanata
Previous credits: 12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop

Andy Serkis
Age: 51
Character: Supreme Leader Snoke
Previous credits: Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, King Kong, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Max von Sydow
Age: 86
Character: Lor San Tekka
Previous credits: Never Say Never Again, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Seventh Seal and 10 other Ingmar Bergman films

Domhnall Gleeson
Age: 32
Character: General Hux
Previous credits: Harry Potter (Bill Weasley), Black Mirror (“Be Right Back”)

Billie Lourde
Age: 23
Character: TBD
Previous credits: Scream Queens, being Carrie Fisher’s daughter

Simon Pegg
Age: 45
Character: TBD
Previous credits: Shaun of the Dead, the new Star Trek movies, the last three Mission: Impossibles

Gwendoline Christie
Age: 37
Character: Captain Phasma
Previous credits: Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Ken Leung
Age: 45
Character: TBD
Previous credits: Lost, The Night Shift, Saw

Warwick Davis
Age: 45
Character: TBD
Previous credits: Leprechaun (as the Leprechaun), Harry Potter (Professor Flitwick)

CHARACTER POSTERS

Star Wars
Star Wars
Star Wars

BEHIND THE CAMERA

Director: J.J. Abrams, creator of Alias and Fringe, co-creator of Lost. His previous films are Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Super 8 and Mission: Impossible III.

Writers: J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, who penned Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, as well as The Big Chill, Dreamcatcher and The Bodyguard. Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) worked on the first draft.

Cinematographer: Dan Mindel, whose credits include Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Savages.

Composer: John Williams, 49-time Oscar nominee (and five-time winner) behind all the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies as well as Harry Potter, Jaws and Jurassic Park. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote, composed and starred in Broadway's Hamilton, also worked on the score, for a new cantina tune.

TRAILERS

No. 1, Thanksgiving 2014, 75.3 million views:

No. 2, April 2015, 72 million views:

No. 3, October 2015, 70.8 million views:

International trailer, Japanese version, November 2015, 12.8 million views:

International trailer Chinese version, December 2016, 256,000 views:

SELECTED PRODUCTION STORIES AND DETAILS

October 2012: Disney purchases Lucasfilm for $4 billion, announces Star Wars: Episode VII.

April 2014: First photo of cast, at a table read, emerges.

May 2014: Principal photography begins. Shot on 35mm film, partially in IMAX. “We're looking at what the early Star Wars films did; they used real locations with special effects,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in 2013. “So we're going to find some very cool locations, we're going to end up using every single tool in the toolbox."

June 2014: Harris Ford breaks ankle while filming a Millennium Falcon scene.

November 2014: Principal photography concludes.

Nov. 6, 2015: Terminally ill lifelong Star Wars fan Daniel Fleetwood gets to screen The Force Awakens early, five days before dying.

Nov. 30, 2015: J.J. Abrams says he hopes the new film will be as much “a movie that mothers could take their daughters to” as the boy-centric earlier films. (A supercut recently revealed the original trilogy only had 63 seconds of non-Leia female lines.)

Dec. 5, 2015: Fans begin lining up outside L.A.’s TCL Chinese Theater 12 days early, a marathon set up by LiningUp.net to benefit Starlight Children’s Foundation

Dec. 6, 2015: George Lucas sees The Force Awakens, says he “really liked it.” Shortly afterward he adds, “I think the fans are going to love it. It’s very much the kind of movie they’ve been looking for.”

TV SPOTS (WE’RE STOPPING AT FIVE BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY)

BOX OFFICE

Predicted domestic opening weekend: $200-$220 million 

Biggest domestic 2015 opener so far: Jurassic World, $208.8 million (eventual $1.67 billion global gross, third-biggest of all time behind Avatar’s $2.79 billion and Titanic’s $2.19 billion)

Global box office gross for previous Star Wars film, 2005’s Episode III – Revenge of the Sith: $848.75 million

Series' highest global box office gross: Episode I – The Phantom Menace’s $1.027 billion back in 1999

Portion of The Phantom Menace’s gross earned in America: $474.5 million

Total global box office gross for entire Star Wars series: $4.54 billion

WHAT’S NEXT?

December 16, 2016: Rogue One, the first non-trilogy film, directed by Gareth Edwards (the new Godzilla), screenplay by Chris Weitz (writer/director of The Golden Compass and About a Boy)

May 26, 2017: Episode VIII, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick, three perfect episodes of Breaking Bad)

May 25, 2018: Han Solo origin story movie directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 and 22 Jump Street, Clone High, The Last Man on Earth)

TBD 2019: Episode IX, directed by Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World, Safety Not Guaranteed)

Rumored for 2020: Boba Fett standalone movie

And then…more, forever! As Wired reported in a long Star Wars story in November:

"They are making more. A lot more. The company intends to put out a new Star Wars movie every year for as long as people will buy tickets. Let me put it another way: If everything works out for Disney, and if you are (like me) old enough to have been conscious for the first Star Wars film, you will probably not live to see the last one. It’s the forever franchise."

Until Dec. 18, and beyond: May the Force be with you.