How to keep Star Wars Episode VII a surprise
It’s 1982 and you’re filming the most anticipated sequel of all time. You’re fed up with being bothered by the press and crazy fans. As if that isn’t bad enough, every location owner and service provider believes you’re made of money. Your solution? Instead of using the film’s real title, all the documents call the production “Blue Harvest – Horror beyond imagination”.
Although not foolproof, the plan worked. The crew of the massively anticipated third installment in the Star Wars franchise, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, fooled people into thinking it’s just some indie horror flick that doesn’t matter. While in reality, the “final episode” of the world’s biggest film franchise was being shot under their noses using a false working title to avoid attention from fans and press, and preventing price gouging.
Woody Allen never has this problem. But except for his small films, this “title ruse” technique is now very common practice. The Dark Knight trilogy, for example, was produced under the names Intimidation Game, Rory’s First Kiss, and Magnus Rex. But these days, with snoopy and sneaky bloggers everywhere, that isn’t enough to keep secrets anymore.
JJ Abrams, the director of the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII, LOVES keeping secrets. He has explained his love for mystery in a TED talk, and he’s famous for trying VERY HARD to give away as little as possible about the projects he’s working on. When pushed to reveal something about Star Trek Into Darkness on Conan, he gave fans way less than they asked for: A three frame long clip:
Speaking of Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams and his team went to ridiculous lengths to hide the fact that the villain was classic Trek character Khan (not a spoiler anymore, btw, considering that it’s included in the plot synopsis on the back of the blu-ray case). He did admit that it was a mistake, but JJ Abrams still remains second only to Christopher Nolan in keeping secrets about upcoming movies and maintaining the wonder, excitement, and surprise for the theater experience.
So here’s what Disney should have done to keep details on the arguably most anticipated film of all time secret (or maybe they have already?):
1. Hire scriptwriters, a director, and a creative crew that’s capable of keeping quiet, and let them make Star Wars in secret. Send them to shoot somewhere remote and weird, like China or Russia or something.
2. Meanwhile, hire the MASTER OF SECRETIVE MOVIEMAKING, JJ Abrams, to pretend he’s making Star Wars. He isn’t hired for film making, but rather for his reputation as secret keeper. He speaks to the press every few weeks, telling them something about how hard it is to keep these secrets.
3. Fans accept the secrecy, and get excited for experiencing things in the cinema.
4. Bloggers, tabloids, and paprazzi follow Abrams EVERYWHERE, and leave with false reports regarding who JJ is meeting or working with or shooting (he’s really shooting his next original film).
5. On release date, Disney goes “SURPRISE! Star Wars was really directed by Matthew Vaughn. Or Steven Spielberg. Or Woody Allen or whichever interesting director we picked.” Most people accept this, and only a small group of fans are violently disappointed. But the disappointment can’t be worse than The Phantom Menace, right?
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