Steven Spielberg Says 'Star Wars' Pressure Has J.J. Abrams 'Terrified'

J.J. Abrams
J.J. Abrams speaks at a news conference for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Yuya Shino/Reuters

Throughout the promotion of Star Wars: The Force Awakens—and there has been a lot of it—director J.J. Abrams has been the picture of cool. At least publicly. In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday night, Steven Spielberg—whom Abrams has long considered a mentor—told Bill Whitaker that Abrams is not as laid-back as he seems.

"Oh, J.J. is terrified," Spielberg said. "There's a lot of pressure on J.J. to start paying Disney back for, you know, the franchise they bought from George Lucas."

Disney bought Lucasfilm, and the Star Wars franchise with it, in 2012 for a whopping $4 billion. While most blockbuster films hope to recoup their big budgets by grossing well into nine figures, the stakes are immeasurably greater when it comes to The Force Awakens. Its success or failure will set the tone for the rest of this new era of Star Wars, which Disney hopes will continue without end. For Abrams, not only is failure not an option, but anything other than an absolute record-shattering smash would be considered a failure. Disney is thinking billions, not millions, when it comes to overall gross.

"You just know that there will be people, no matter what you do, that will have issues with some aspect," Abrams said on 60 Minutes. "You just know there is some number that is being thrown out there that will not be hit."

But what is more important to Abrams than the film's quantifiable success is its legacy. For many directors—especially one Abrams's age, since he was about to turn 11 when the original was released in 1977—Star Wars is holier than the Bible. To be entrusted with the franchise and fail to uphold the tradition, to disappoint the die-hard fans, would be devastating. Lucas, who created the franchise, is currently maligned by many fans because of what he did—or didn't—do with episodes 1 through 3. Part of Abrams's job is to redeem those three films...while upholding the legacy of the original three...while bringing in billions of dollars for Disney. So, yeah, you're damn right he's terrified.