‘Rise of Skywalker’: Why J.J. Abrams Was Terrified to Make New ‘Star Wars’

Whether you like J. J. Abrams movies or not, the director is generally considered a consummate  craftsman within the movie industry. Abrams is a professional who knows how to make a crowd-pleaser. Despite his decades of industry experience, Abrams found the process of making Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker terrifying. Here’s why he feels this way.

J.J. Abrams speaking into a microphone
J.J. Abrams, the director of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Mike Windle/Getty Images for SXSW

Why J. J. Abrams is scared

Vanity Fair reports during the premiere of the film, Abrams spoke in front of an audience alongside people who worked on the film, as well as Disney insiders, including Bob Iger and Kathleen Kennedy. The director said, “Well, this is terrifying. It’s 8% or 9% fun, and 90% to 92% terrifying. People assure me I felt the same way at The Force Awakens, but I think those people are liars.”

Abrams elaborated on why the responsibility of creating Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker meant so much to him. “In our mad, divisive, siloed age, it’s rare to find something that brings the world together,” he said. “Nothing does that quite like Star Wars, and I tried to never forget that responsibility.”

Is ‘Star Wars’ a religion?

Abrams’ remarks about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker echo earlier comments he made about the franchise. Daisy Ridley told Vanity Fair about a conversation she had with Abrams when she first got involved with the franchise. He told her Star Wars is a “religion,” adding, “You don’t know what you’re getting into.”

a person wearing a Darth Vader costume
Darth Vader in a Berlin church | Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images

Abrams’ comments might seem a touch shocking. Few would consider Star Wars a religion. However, Star Wars fans are known for getting extremely passionate about the films they love and hate.

The idea that Star Wars works as a substitute religion isn’t even new. In 1999, George Lucas was interviewed by Bill Moyers for Time. Moyers said, “One explanation for the popularity of Star Wars when it appeared is that by the end of the 1970s, the hunger for spiritual experience was no longer being satisfied sufficiently by the traditional vessels of faith.”

Lucas said, “I hope that doesn’t end up being the course this whole thing takes, because I think there’s definitely a place for organized religion. I would hate to find ourselves in a completely secular world where entertainment was passing for some kind of religious experience.”

How J. J. Abrams got through the stress of ‘The Rise of Skywalker’

J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg (right) helped J.J. Abrams (left) during the making of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Turner

If Star Wars truly is a religion, Abrams is and was in a delicate situation when making The Rise of Skywalker. Abrams did find some help during the stressful creation of this film. At the premiere, he said, “I’d like to thank Mr. Steven Spielberg. Your generosity and your optimism knows no bounds. We should all aspire to that. Your help on this picture has meant the world to me, and your friendship has meant so much more.”

Abrams’ involvement with the franchise is much like Star Wars itself. There were many hardships. However, he was able to get through them with a little help from his friends.