The Truth About THE FORCE AWAKENS Will Eventually Come Out
JW Rinzler wrote indispensible books about the making of the original Star Wars trilogy, real warts-and-all looks at the making of the saga and the people behind it. He also wrote one for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but you shouldn't go looking for it at your local bookstore; his Force Awakens book has been indefinitely delayed, and perhaps canceled.
Slashfilm has done the legwork on this, collecting Rinzler statements from all over the place, including this tweet:
@Timtooine Yes, am asked this often, but book was canceled. You'll have to ask Lucasfilm/Disney/publisher why...— J. W. Rinzler (@jwrinzler) August 4, 2016
I think he's talking about a canceled release date, not a totally canceled book, but at this point it's hard to say for sure.
Rinzler's book would have been incredibly in-depth, and he was present from the very earliest stages of Episode VII. Like, before JJ Abrams. Slashfilm quotes him as saying:
So I had a journal and interviewed 20 people early on just when they were starting the job before JJ [Abrams] was even hired as director. I was there at the first meeting at Skywalker Ranch when JJ came and officially started. … And I was there until the movie was released. And then afterwards, I shouldn’t say too much, but I interviewed people connected to the film.
He is very proud of the book he wrote, calling it 'compelling' (the sort of small brag that rings true to me), but he just has no idea when, if ever, it will be published. What's the delay?
Slashfilm speculates that the book contains information that will reveal things yet to come in the new Star Wars trilogy, possibly info from Lucas' original pitch for the new films. But Rinzler's own words make me doubt that:
You will get a few hints in this book, but you don’t get the whole thing. I think that something that big will come out eventually. I don’t know when or where but I just don’t see how it could not.
Rinzler himself quotes Lucas as saying that they didn't use any of his story, so is it likely that the future films will dip into his unused stuff? Maybe, but if that's the case... that's easy to cut out of the book! Just do some editing and rewriting.
What's harder to edit out is evidence of chaos behind the scenes. One of the great things about Rinzler's original trilogy books is that people are very honest in them; it's been 30 years since they were made and they were all huge hits and people went on to either successful careers or they've passed away. The behind the scenes chaos on those films become charming history, with the padding of time taking the sting out of some of them. But stuff that happened on set last year? Well, there's not as much perspective on those events just yet.
I've heard a lot about chaos behind the scenes, and I've often heard that, while people love working with JJ Abrams and he's apparently one of the most lovely people going, he's not particularly decisive on set. Is it possible that Rinzler's book doesn't quite fill a brand narrative that Lucasfilm and Abrams are trying to uphold? That's my suspicion; this close to the new Lucasfilm coming out of the sale to Disney and with Abrams trying to really solidify himself as the new Spielberg the nitty-gritty details that Rinzler shares could puncture the mystique.
I doubt that there's anything crazy in Rinzler's book. That stuff would have gotten out by now, if it had happened. It's probably just mundane stuff, like the new Lucasfilm restructuring itself and figuring out its future in stops and starts. It's probably full of insights into Abrams' process that would be interesting and revelatory but that doesn't make him out to be the strong auteur that many assume he is. Which is fine! This stuff isn't 'dirt,' and it's exactly the kind of stuff worth reading about. But I could see that, at this moment in time, nobody is ready to get that honest. Let's put it this way: the making of doc on the Force Awakens blu doesn't even mention Harrison Ford's accident. When you realize that you can begin to understand what the thinking is at Lucasfilm when it comes to writing their current history.
The delay is, I believe, a recommendation of Rinzler's book. I think he wrote a real making of, not a fluffy PR piece. Like his original trilogy books, The Making of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is probably the real deal as a work of movie production history... but at this moment in time the people who are involved in Star Wars are looking for more myth building than truth telling. I hope it eventually gets released some day.