In an interview with his hometown newspaper, Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams revealed that the inspiration for the bespectacled female pirate, Maz Kanata, came from his late high school teacher, Rose Gilbert.
"Yes, the character of Maz was originally based on the great Rose Gilbert," Abrams told The Palisadian Post (via THR). "We really wanted the story to feel authentic, despite being a wild fantasy. I mentioned Rose in an early story meeting as a sort of timeless, wise figure that I'd actually known in my life."
"Mama G," as her students and friends referred to her as, was an award-winning English teacher that started teaching at Palisades Charter High School when it opened in 1961. She retired in 2013 at the age of 94. She held a special place in the hearts of her students with her infectious love of literature and endless enthusiasm to educate.
You can see Gilbert's youthful zest in the thousand-year-old Star Wars character. Though, most people will notice the resemblance based on Maz's over-sized goggles and impish smile. "While we experimented with many looks and styles before settling on the character's final design, Rose was always at the center of the inspiration of Maz," he explained.
And Abrams wasn't the only member of The Force Awakens crew to have been taught by Gilbert. The film's production designer, Rick Carter, was also a student of hers.
"Rick and I had hoped to contact Rose and show her what we were doing, but she sadly passed away while we were in the prep of the film,"Abrams shared. Mama G passed away on Dec. 16, 2013 at the age of 95.
As long as the Star Wars universe lives on, so too will Rose Gilbert.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now playing at your local theater.