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Ava DuVernay Suggested These Star Wars: The Force Awakens Reshoots that Put the Focus on Rey’s Perspective

Movie-making is a collaborative process, and J.J. Abrams asked many of his fellow filmmaking friends for their input during the editing process for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. One of the brilliant minds who offered a piece of advice to Abrams is the incomparable Ava DuVernay, who directed Selmaa new documentary called 13th, OWN’s TV show Queen Sugar, and who has been tapped to helm an upcoming movie adaptation of the sci-fi novel A Wrinkle In Time.

DuVernay’s lengthy resume probably won’t ever include mention of The Force Awakens, but she did indeed contribute her opinions on the movie’s editing and suggested a very specific reshoot that made it into the final cut. In The Force Awakens‘ audio commentary, J.J. Abrams explained that the lightsaber fight scene between Rey and Kylo Ren went through multiple iterations over time, and the end result involved a lot more shots that focused on Rey’s facial expressions and emotions.

One big change to the scene didn’t involve a reshoot, but rather an editing change. As Abrams explains, the scene in which Rey closes her eyes, feels the power of the Force, and then continues battling with renewed strength, didn’t appear in the original version.

The main aspect that Ava DuVernay suggested was the inclusion of at least one moment during the fight when the camera focuses in on Rey’s face, and lets her have a moment of fierce determination while swinging her lightsaber dramatically towards Kylo Ren. Although it’s a tiny moment, clearly Abrams thought it was necessary enough to set up a reshoot just to capture that moment and to ensure that the fight included a lengthy shot of Rey’s face as she swings her saber.

So, the final version of the scene includes two lengthy close-ups of Rey’s facial expressions, which apparently wouldn’t have otherwise been there. Seems wild to imagine the scene without those close-ups; they both invite the audience in and allow the viewer to sympathize with Rey’s turmoil of emotions. Without them, the scene would be much more action-focused, and would focus primarily on Kylo Ren’s face and his feelings. That would send a very different message to the audience… and, frankly, a less compelling one. The scene now involves more of a push and pull between the two characters’ faces, allowing each of them their moments.

This small but notable contribution is probably why J.J. Abrams suggested Ava DuVernay immediately when asked who he thought should direct a future Star Wars movie. Specifically, Abrams said he believed DuVernay ” would just kill it” at directing Star Wars, if she had the chance. She seems to have no shortage of fantastic opportunities these days, but if anyone asks her to direct a future Star Wars project, we can only hope she’ll lend her talents to that universe once again!

(via /Film, image via screencap)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (