Star Wars: The Force Awakens Almost Cut One of Its Most Iconic Shots

Star Wars: The Force Awakens came very close to removing one of its best shots.

For fans that don't remember the hype around Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead of its release, any nugget of information was sacred. When the first trailer finally revealed it not only broke records but was basically played on repeat and dissected for weeks and weeks. This process was repeated every time a new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer was released, including all of the ones released in other territories. Fresh out of these teases came one of the most iconic images from the film, a sunset shot of TIE Fighters flying through a planet's atmosphere, the kind of shot fans had never seen before in the franchise, and ahead of the movie's release it was plastered all over the internet, further contributing to the hype. Now we know, that fan-favorite shot was almost cut out entirety. 

Speaking on the latest episode of Corridor Crew's VFX Artists React YouTube series, Industrial Light & Magic VFX artist and Supervisor Todd Vaziri spoke about his time working on titles including Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Star Trek (2009), and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Vaziri spoke at length about the TIE Fighters on the horizon shot, since it was one he personally worked on, and the wild journey that it took to see it on the screen, including getting cut out of the movie entirely. 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens used the iconography in a new way

"One of the things that JJ wanted to do with The Force Awakens is to rely on the iconography of Star Wars as we know it but in different contexts," Vaziri said of the sequence. "This is the first time we'll have ever seen TIE Fighters in an atmosphere. What does that look like? What does that feel like? So that's something Paul Kavanaugh the animation director had to deal with and then I had this idea of like 'Okay, these Tie Fighters, it's like well, what's keeping them up?' And I was like wait a second they there's a power source there must be some exhaust or something could they be doing some exhaust like out the bottom of the bulb? And I asked around, asked Pablo Hidalgo, the bigwigs at Lucasfilm, 'Can I do this and they're like 'Yeah do it man... go for it.'"

Very observant Star Wars fans will notice that in the shot, small exhaust can be seen coming from the bottom of each of the TIE Fighters in the final sequence. As Vaziri revealed however, the love for the shot around the ILM offices didn't necessarily translate to it actually making the final cut. In the interview he confirmed there was talk about it being used in the first teaser trailer for the film, only to get cut from the trailer because it was cut from the film.

(Photo: Lucasfilm)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens TIE Fighter image was almost cut out of the movie

"I was devastated. Many months later somebody comes up to me and whispers 'Hey I think they're using it in the international trailer or something.' Yeah don't get my hopes up, don't get my hopes up. Sure enough it was in
the international trailer and people really liked it and it was the masthead, the banner of all these articles and
stuff and then we got the call, 'Oh they're moving some stuff around it's back in the movie!'"

Vaziri went on to point out however that he went back and re-worked on the shot for the final cut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens after it was confirmed to be in the film. After he did this however he admits that he thinks the version found in the international trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is even better than the one seen in the final cut of the movie.

"The culture at ILM is ideas can come from anywhere and anybody can can speak up and and say their piece and have an idea for a shot or a technique," he added. "Frequently that's what you see on the screen it's something (collaborative). I'm very proud of of the culture at ILM and that's what makes it never ever boring."