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Celebration Europe II: The Kathleen Kennedy Panel Recap

Kathleen Kennedy made her first appearance at a Star Wars Celebration earlier today, and while the big announcement during her panel was John Williams coming back to score Episode VII, she did share what the process is currently like developing Episode VII, working with J.J. Abrams, the great responsibly she has carrying on the legacy of Star Wars and George Lucas, and more. The official Star Wars Blog has a full recap of the Panel, which you can check out below.

Warwick Davis takes the stage to a standing ovation. Lots of lightsabers throughout the crowd today!

Davis talks to a fan in a Chewbacca outfit. “I can sympathize with you, because I’ve worn furry outfits in the past.”

Now playing a video retrospective of Kathleen Kennedy’s career. Features clips from Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and many more. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and others speak in video. “Kathy was amazing at organization.” – Dennis Muren. “She has tremendous knowledge and a great capacity for problem solving.” – Tom Cruise. “She’s fun and she’s always light-hearted.” – George Lucas. “She has been devoted to getting the best out of the filmmaker.” – Steven Spielberg. “Kathy is a perfect choice for Star Wars: Episode VII. – Dennis Muren.” Video ends with a photo of Kennedy sitting at a table with Lucas and J.J. Abrams.

Kennedy takes the stage. HUGE reception. Audience standing and cheering.

“[Shepherding Star Wars] is a daunting proposition and I can’t do this without every single one of you out there…It means a great deal to us and I see it means a great deal to you, and that’s something that we want to protect.” – Kathleen Kennedy

Davis asks about her start in the business. Kennedy says she’s not from LA and her family was not in the business. Going to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind was the real inspiration for getting into film. Her big break came in working on 1941, after which Spielberg asked her to work for him. The first script he gave her was Raiders of the Lost Ark.

“I had fantastic mentorship, there’s no question…the great thing about George is he’s just constantly full of ideas. It’s no surprise, the level of innovation going on in his company.” – Kathleen Kennedy

“I love it when I read a script and think it’s fantastic, then think to myself, ‘How are we going to do that?’” – Kathleen Kennedy on working on technologically innovative films.

“Much like many of you, looking at all the Star Wars movies and getting a feeling in what the early films did in combination with real locations and special effects — that’s something we’re looking very seriously at. We’re going to find some really cool locations for Ep VII. We’re going to use ever tool in the toolbox for this movie.”

“It’s using artwork that you can touch and feel in combination with CG effects.” – Kathleen Kennedy

Kennedy now talking about how Lucas asked her at lunch about taking over Lucasfilm. “I answered pretty quickly…it’s something that I realized would afford me an opportunity to take all my skills…and be a part of something so much bigger.”

Davis asks about selecting J.J. Abrams. “I’ve actually known J.J. Abrams since he was about 15,” Kennedy says. She was working for Spielberg, and someone called her office, saying he found some Super 8 films of Spielberg’s — the films he made as a kid. These were the films. Simultaneously, Kennedy read an article about high school students who won a video award, and she thought to hire them to restore the Super 8 tapes. The students were Abrams and Matt Reeves.

In selecting a director, she and Lucas had a shortlist of directors, and Abrams was at the top. “He has a sense of aspiration in what he does. His films tend to be hopeful. They’re fun and exciting…I think he’s going to do an amazing job.”

 On respecting the old and creating something new. “There’s been an amazing education process that has gone on with this.” Kennedy says they had many meetings with Lucas where he talked about where his ideas come from and how deep they go. “This is a huge responsibility and we’re all taking that really seriously.”

“I think the key was that George kept saying over and over again that not only are they aspirational, but they’re fun. He wanted to make sure that we maintained a sense of humor. – Kathleen Kennedy

“We know that if we don’t have great stories and great characters, then effects mean nothing.” – Kathleen Kennedy

Audience questions via Twitter: What have you learned about Star Wars fans? “They control everything. We’re in service to you.” Big applause.

Greatest pleasure in your job? “It’s such a rich universe, it’s just so much fun.” Kennedy talks about everything going on, from film to TV to online, and how exciting it is for her.

Davis now showing the sketch of a character he created for Episode VII during the Doug Chiang and Iain McCaig panel. “He’s quite short isn’t he…” Davis says. Laughter and applause…

Typical day? Kennedy spends part of her time at Lucasfilm, then the rest of the week with Abrams and the writing team at Bad Robot. They do a lot of Skyping and sit in long, lengthy story meetings. “Great stuff is coming out of those discussions.” At the Presidio office of Lucasfilm, she is in Lucas’ old office. Lucas is still at Skywalker Ranch.

What’s your favorite project? “It’s so hard to pick. In front of this crowd I’m going to say Ep VII!” Kennedy says. But she adds that Raiders of the Lost Ark holds a special place for her.

Which character in Star Wars do you like the most? Kennedy tells a story about how when one of her daughters was 3, she was obsessed with Darth Vader. Lucas sent Darth Vader to her birthday party, which she loved, but all the other kids were terrified.

Davis tells a story about how he attended Lucas’ daughter’s birthday party in costume, where children forced him to eat cake… until his mask was filled and he had to leave.

Is there something you can tell us about Episode VII, Davis asks… “I had breakfast with someone very important to the Star Wars family last Friday, and he has committed to working on [Episode VII]. And that is Mr. John Williams.” HUGE ovation!

Video interview with John Williams now playing. He says Kennedy and Abrams are “perfect” choices to carry on Star Wars. “You couldn’t find better candidates.”

Kennedy thanks the audience. That’s it! Thanks for reading!


Just reading what Kathleen Kennedy had to say about Star Wars and it’s fans during this panel just reassures that Star Wars is in great hands. Episode VII is going to be awesome!

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