Everyone wanted to be in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and who could blame that. But of course there was only a finite number of roles that director JJ Abrams could fill, leaving many out of luck. But if you happened to be a friend or frequent collaborator with Abrams, there was a chance that you just might have been able to sneak into the film, like these folks.
The British actor first came to prominence in the BBC sitcom Spaced, in which he wrote, starred and filled with numerous references to geek culture, Star Wars included, long before it was hip to do so. Pegg has previously appeared in the first season of the rebooted Doctor Who, and thanks to Abrams casting him in Mission: Impossible III, has been gone on to be included in the cast of the rebooted Star Trek and now here by Abrams as well. That gives him appearances in perhaps the three biggest science-fiction franchises that don’t feature Marvel superheroes. Not a bad geek trifecta.
Pegg initially denied that he was going to appear in the film. That is until a set photo showing him in the costume, sans head, of alien junk merchant Unkar Plutt showed up online.
Another actor who denied rumors that he was going to be in the film is current James Bond Daniel Craig. When confronted he actively scoffed at the idea saying “Why would I ever bother doing something like that? F—ing hell! Pffft. Play an extra in another movie.”
Of course, that all proved to be subterfuge, as Craig is indeed in the film, giving an uncharacteristically lighthearted performance as the stormtrooper whom a captive Rey uses the Force on to convince him to release her. The only way to identify Craig is by his voice, which is difficult to do as it goes through the same filtering that all stormtrooper dialogue does. Rest assured, though it is him.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams has two lucky charms he likes to include in all his projects. The first is the dropping of the name “Kelvin,” a tribute to his grandfather Harry Kelvin. The second is actor Greg Grunberg. Grunberg and Abrams are actually childhood friends and their working relationship started when Grunberg played the character Sean Blumberg on Abrams first TV series, Felicity. Since then, Grunberg has appeared in virtually all of Abrams projects in one form or another. He was a series regular on Alias and guest starred in the pilot episode of Lost. When Abrams made the jump to film with Mission: Impossible III, there was a small part for Grunberg. He also made a vocal appearance in Abrams’ Star Trek reboot playing the voice of young James Kirk’s stepfather and had a cameo in 2011’s Super 8.
For The Force Awakens, Grunberg has a bit more of a role, that of bearded Resistence pilot Snap Wexley. It is Snap who lead the (unseen on the screen) reconnaissance of the First Order’s Starkiller Base and who heads up one of the squadrons who attack said base in the film’s finale. He is also seen in the briefing room scene helping with the preparations before the attack.
Jedi Voices – Ewan MacGregor, Frank OZ and Sir Alec Guiness
While Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is asking old friend Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) for help in getting droid BB-8 back to the Resistance, Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds herself mysteriously drawn to a storage room below Maz Kanata’s establishment where she finds Luke SKywalker’s long lost, original lightsaber. Reaching out to pick it up, Rey is overcome with a vision that offers our first clue that she may have a sensitivity to the Force that could lead her to becoming a Jedi. In that vision is a swirl of familiar voices, those of past Jedi masters Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. For the audio for the scene, Abrams was able to get the actors who portrayed the characters – Frank Oz and Ewan McGregor who played Obi-Wan in the prequel trilogy – to contribute new
As he explained to EW –
The idea of the voices was, we wanted the audience to feel – but not necessarily be presented right in your face — this idea that familiar, Force-strong voices were connecting with her. At least as well as they could.
You do hear a little bit of Yoda. You hear Luke yelling out, ‘Nooo!’ from that moment in Empire. And you hear Obi-Wan at the end say, ‘Rey… these are your first steps.’ Here’s the cool part. We asked Ewan McGregor to come in and do the line. And he was awesome and we were very grateful. He was incredibly sweet and handsome, and all that stuff. Then he rode off on his motorcycle. Literally the coolest voice over actor ever.
But it wasn’t just McGregor who gave voice to Obi-Wan’s line of dialogue. Producer Bryan Burk was able to surprise Abrams with the source of the of the first part of the sentence, Kenobi calling out Rey’s name.
I said, ‘That’s cool, is that the thing from Ewan McGregor?’ He said ‘No, we took a line from Alec Guinness saying ‘Afraid.’ They cut it, and you hear the performance – he’s saying it the way I would have begged Alec Guinness to have said it. It is so crazy perfect. So when you hear Obi-Wan talk to Rey it is both Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor doing the voice.
Interestingly, it turns out that MacGregor was not the first actor recorded for that line from Obi-Wan. James Arnold Taylor, the voice actor who played Kenobi on the animated The Clone Wars TV series, had originally provided the line, but was replaced when MacGregor becameav ailable. As you can see from this tweet, he wasn’t too upset about it.
@t_betts94 yes, it was me originally but they replaced my version with Ewan. I guess if I'm gonna be replaced it should be him! 😀
— James Arnold Taylor (@JATactor) December 19, 2015
Abrams also told EW that Oz came into the offices of his production company Bad Robot to record the material that would be needed to add Yoda to the soundscape oft he sequence.
He was incredibly generous and came in to Bad Robot, where we had a recording area, and he was doing Yoda, saying a number of lines we gave to him… This whole experience has been one outrageous moment after another. Just watching Frank Oz, you look at him and talk to him and his voice is very deep. I don’t know why I would have thought he sounded like Miss Piggy! He was very generous to say, ‘Whatever makes the movie better, I’m happy to help out.’
Additional Voices – Kevin Smith and Dave Filoni
If you’re like me, you’re the type who sits through all the credits of a film. And if you did for The Force Awakens, you may have seen two names under the list of those who supplied “Additional Voices” that you may now – Kevin Smith and Dave Filoni. For Filoni, it seems only fitting that the one who has overseen the animated output of the Star Wars franchise – First with the animated series The Clone Wars and currently with its followup, Rebels – be given a small voice over role. We’re just not sure yet where it is. Indie writer/director Smith, of course, is an avowed Star Wars fan and has mentions of the franchise in virtually every one of his films. And how ironically appropriate that the man who is best known on screen for the nearly mute character “Silent Bob,” should make his appearance in the franchise in voice over only.