As a mom trying to juggle life and work, I respect the fact that Kathleen Kennedy, Producer & President of Lucasfilm, is where she is in her career both as a female and as a mom. After chatting with her about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I can see why she has been so successful. She is pretty amazing and definitely a force to be reckoned with. Here’s what she had to say about the film, her love of Star Wars and balancing it all…

Star Wars The Force Awakens Interview with Kathleen Kennedy

The decision to have a female lead

“…It’s something that J.J. and I started talking about day one. It was really important to us. We both have daughters, so, very important.”

“…without ruining the movie I’m gonna tell you that your daughters are gonna be so excited. This character of Rey is one of the most wonderful heroines to come along in movie history. I mean, she is great…They’re (girls) gonna have their own Luke Skywalker now. Let’s put it that way.”

Her Star Wars story

“I was actually in film school when I saw Star Wars for the first time. So as you can imagine, it was just jaw-dropping, mind-blowing. Everybody in film school was talking about it. You realize that there was so much possible beyond anything you could imagine once we all saw that movie. So, it was sort of perfectly timed. I suppose you were either seven or eight or you’re in film school.”

What Star Wars personally means to her as a producer

“To me. Well, I think that what has always been very obvious to me is that George created this from a very strong personal point of view. When he made this movie in 1977, obviously he was a young man coming out of film school and he had something to say. He didn’t step into New Hope and decide that he was gonna make some huge blockbuster movie that we would be sitting here 40 years later talking about. So, I think that that’s what I’ve always recognized with any of the filmmakers I work with is the really, really good ones, wanna find something of themselves as a reason to tell the story. So they’re looking for something that they wanna infuse into the characters and the storytelling and the emotion of the piece. J.J. did the same thing with this movie.

As a producer, I love recognizing that in somebody and then helping to find the resources to nurture that and guide that. And when somebody can’t find that, then I get a little concerned because if somebody’s just gonna go through the motions of making a movie without having that personal connection, then usually they’re not gonna be able to excavate what’s emotionally powerful in Star Wars, or in any movie for that matter.”

Why J.J. Abrams is the perfect director for this movie

I think there’s very few directors that have the bandwidth, if you will, that somebody like J.J. has. I think Steven’s an example. George is an example. There’s certain filmmakers where just who they are as a person, the exuberance, the childlike quality, the sense of humor. That just the understanding of what it is to just be delighted by entertaining stories and movies.

I think J.J.’s very definitely one of those filmmakers. He just accesses every beat of the storytelling process in a way that you feel that he’s always connected to the audience, whether they’re 7 or 700. He just has that unique ability. He made it such a fun experience. He’s meticulous about the story and he’s meticulous about the technical aspect of making the movie but he makes it a totally inclusive, really fun experience on the set.

I remember all the years I worked with Steven, he used to always say that that kind of energy in the creative process gets translated to the screen. I think that that’s very much what J.J. does as well.”

Bob Iger’s involvement in the film

“He’s really involved…at about 2:30 in the afternoon if my phone rang early, it was often Bob. He’d looked at dailies. He just wanted to check in. He was excited about something. He was absolutely involved. He’s been involved in every aspect of marketing. He’s had an absolute blast doing this with us. I think he’s really, really enjoyed it ’cause I think how often do CEOs of a company really get to touch what’s going on, you know? They, they see bits and pieces but they sit at 30,000 feet most of the time and I think this has been a really wonderful experience for him. And for us, by the way. He’s had lots of contributions that have been great.”

Balancing life and work

“…I think, you instinctually know how to make those choices, at least that’s what I’ve ended up doing in the heat of the moment. I weigh what the right thing to do is. Obviously nine and a half out of the ten times it’s the family…there’s no cookie cutter approach to here’s what you do to balance career and family. I think it’s so much the individual and where you’re values are and what’s important to you and, and the stage your kids are at.”

If she had a lightsaber in real life, the color would be…


Force For Change

“…that was really important to us when we started out the process of making the movie. And I might add for J.J., Bad Robot and Disney, all of us sat down and said, “Okay, we’re lucky enough to be involved in a franchise that’s gonna generate tremendous goodwill…What can we do to give back as a part of this phenomenon?” So we sat down very early to start to talk about where that might go.

The idea for calling it Force For Change, I think, was a pretty brilliant one. It came about very early. We’ve spent a bit of time kind of getting our head around what that means and how broad it can be…and now under the umbrella of Force For Change we’ve gone to each of the cast members and let them identify what it is they’d like to pull under the umbrella of Force For Change. It really does feel like it’s an initiative that can take on a lot of flexibility in how we acknowledge what the philanthropy is that we’re looking at.

It’s primarily looking at how do you recognize empowering people around the world who are making a contribution? And that gives us a lot of empowerment ourselves.”

Working on B.F.G.

“…B.F.G. is something that I had spent years off and on developing…Many, many years…I must say many, many conversations with Steven who I kept saying, “This is really right for you.” And then, of course, within a month after I decided to take over Lucasfilm he called me up and he goes, “You know, I read the script again and I really wanna make the movie.” And I was, like, ready to go through the phone and strangle him.

..Not only having Steven involved in this but the fact that technology has caught up with making the film is really quite spectacular. What he’s doing with this is gonna be pretty mind-blowing and very emotional. Sadly, we had Melissa Mathison pass away recently. She wrote the script and she did E.T., so I think people are gonna be incredibly pleased with how this movie turns out.”

Leanette Fernandez with Kathleen Kennedy

Have you checked out my interview with Harrison Ford? What about with John Boyega or Daisy Ridley? Keep checking back this week for more cast, producer & director interviews.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS arrives in theaters everywhere on December 18th!

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*Thank you for the images Mom Start!