Lawrence Kasdan Details Light & Magic Directing Process, Reveals His Fondest Day on a Star Wars Set

It took a village to construct the galaxy far, far away, both metaphorically and literally. Stop-motion master Phil Tippett and visual effects visionary Dennis Muren were among many responsible for bringing life to George Lucas' concepts, while screenwriters like Lawrence Kasdan built upon the world that was first established in 1977. Kasdan would join Star Wars in 1980 with his script for The Empire Strikes Back, and would go on to be one of the most influential cornerstones of the franchise for the next four decades. Kasdan's Star Wars journey came to an official close on 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story, but the acclaimed screenwriter returned to tell the stories of his colleagues in Disney+'s Light & Magic, a six-part docuseries chronicling the history of Industrial Light & Magic.

While unearthing the original storyboards for Luke Starkiller and the scale models of TIE Fighters are eye-catching, Kasdan said that the real magic of Light & Magic comes from the people behind the projects.

"I got interested in documentaries only recently. I made one with my wife, it was about a little restaurant that was closing that we went to all the time. What I found making that documentary with my wife was that this is better than things you write. People say things that you would never think to write for them," Kasdan told "This is much better than controlling the world, which is what screenwriting is about. Where you're sort of, determining oh, well they'll do this and they'll go there, they'll say this and react this way. Documentaries, they don't do that. I felt that if I could get these people sitting down and talking, I would hear things that I was really interested in. The technology was fine, but that's not what it was about. It was about the kind of people that do this, and what led them there. What were the various paths that led them to ILM, and why was it so satisfying for so many of them? Where they could stay there for 30 years, 40 years, and not be bored."

People like Tippett, Muren, and others interviewed are longtime friends of Kasdan's, but some of their stories were as much of a learning experience for him as viewers.

"There were a million things I didn't know. I went into it with the hope and the desire that I could tell the story of these people because they're geniuses. They didn't all start off on this road. They came to it. Some of them saw it when they were little kids. They'd see the logo for ILM and they'd ask, 'What's that? I want to do that!' Some of them took years to get there. I wanted to tell that story. What's it like to have that be your goal? To join a community of artists and geniuses to solve problems that no one even knows the problem exists when you start," Kasdan continued. "I learned a lot because I learned where these people came from and what they wanted and what they feel now, and how they look back on that experience. I felt like everything was new to me."

Light & Magic largely operates as a retrospective look at many of the projects ILM helped bring to life. That said, the visual effects company is still very involved with the Star Wars franchise in the present day, most notably in its construction of the Volume production stage for The Mandalorian.

Just as Star Wars evolves in visual effects, it also advances in screenwriting. Decorated directors like Jon Favreau and Taika Waititi have put their fingerprints on recent Star Wars scripts, by both recapturing the classic essence of the franchise while simultaneously making it their own. Kasdan said he is especially impressed with the new crop of Star Wars writers, specifically noting that he's fascinated by how they form concepts.

"I'm impressed with all youth. I'm impressed with people doing things new. The people that work within the universe have a certain set. The environment is established, but what they do with the environment is just like westerns. I love westerns because you can tell any kind of story you want in a western, and Star Wars is a little like that. You're not really pushed in any one direction," Kasdan proclaimed. "Now we're getting people who weren't even close to being born, and they're writing Mandalorian and Obi-Wan, and I love that. They didn't form their ideas from looking at A New Hope. They formed their ideas from being in this stew the whole time since they were born."

That new crop began in Disney's first project in the galaxy far, far away: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While current Star Wars films and streaming shows are fully in the hands of new talent, The Force Awakens had the enhancement of having Kasdan himself involved in the scripting process. 

That particular script created many immortal moments for the franchise, including the death of Harrison Ford's Han Solo. Even with all the scenes he saw shot on Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Kasdan revealed Ford's final day on set was an experience that he "wouldn't trade for anything."

"We had some moments on Force Awakens that were so emotional," Kasdan said. "When Han was coming down to the end of his journey. I love those actors, and Harrison was in a fabulous place. I wouldn't trade that for anything. Adam Driver's in the scene too, and it was just fun. I got to tell you, I've been very lucky. Between these movies and the ones I've directed, I've just had one experience after another where I've just said, 'I can't believe I got to do this.'"

Kasdan's latest directorial endeavor, Light & Magic, is now streaming on Disney+.