JJ Abrams pushes back on the rumors he cut Lupita Nyong’o's Star Wars role

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There have been a lot of rumors floating around this week about Lupita Nyong’o’s role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We already knew she was playing a CGI character, and that the character has lived for many, many years. Reportedly, director JJ Abrams was unimpressed with Lupita’s CGI performance, and he might have cut down her role and done something with the voice work. Even if the specifics of the story were not correct, there is still some concern (on my part) that Lupita’s inclusion in the Star Wars world is likely minimal. Well, JJ Abrams made an exclusive statement to Page Six about the rumors and… I feel like he’s parsing.

J.J. Abrams is shooting down rumors he’s axed several of Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o’s scenes from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” because her performance was subpar.

UK paper The Sun said Nyong’o’s “role has been massively cut in the finished edit” and that “there was a general sense that something wasn’t working so a lot of her scenes ended up being either reworked or cut.”

But Abrams told Page Six in a statement: “The number of rumors floating around about ‘The Force Awakens’ is truly stunning. Some are wonderfully funny, others simply preposterous. But the only one more ridiculous than Jar Jar Binks being a Sith Lord is that I cut Lupita Nyong’o’s performance because it wasn’t satisfactory.”

The director added: “In truth, her performance wasn’t satisfactory. It was spectacular. She has brought the character of Maz Kanata to life in the most wonderful, wise, touching, deep and funny way. Lupita never ceased to amaze me. Yes, we tried many approaches, and we finally landed on just what the film needed. She elevated all the scenes she is in, I’m forever grateful, and can’t wait for people to see her stunning performance.”

An insider added: “The movie hasn’t been screened, so no one, including Lupita, has seen it.”

[From Page Six]

Okay, so Lupita nailed it. But “we tried many approaches, and we finally landed on just what the film needed” – what does that mean? That actually doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement. Does that mean that there was a kernel of truth to Lupita not “getting” how to do a CGI performance, and JJ coaching her to do a lot of different things? Does it mean that her role was cut down for “story” rather than performance? That’s what I think. I think we’re going to watch The Force Awakens and we’ll be stunned by how small her part really is. Incidentally, I’m sort of thinking the same thing about Oscar Isaac – I wonder if his role is a lot smaller than we were led to believe.

Here are some photos of Lupita arriving at LAX yesterday, ahead of the big LA premiere of Star Wars:

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Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet.

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25 Responses to “JJ Abrams pushes back on the rumors he cut Lupita Nyong’o's Star Wars role”

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  1. Bridget says:

    I don’t think it was meant to be a big role to begin with. The way Boyega and Ridley are being pushed forward, as well as the OG cast, not to mention Driver as the villain – there’s only so much screen time to go around.

    • Josefina says:

      This. And I’m kinda excited for that, there’s many instances where the smallest characters turn out to be the best thing about the movie, like Evan Peters in his XMen film. With little screentime, you have to really make sure you’re memorable.

      • Luca76 says:

        Yeah one of the classic examples of that is Bobba Fett from the original Star Wars.

      • Bridget says:

        I personally disagree on Evan Peters. But re: Star Wars – this is one movie of 3. Who knows what characters are going to expand into the next ones. And some people are happy to take a small role just to be in the Star Wars movie at all.

    • mom2two says:

      I agree. I don’t think she, Oscar Issac, Domnhall Gleeson, or Mark Hamill (though his character drives the plot) have big roles. I think the stars are Boyega, Ridley, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver and Carrie Fischer.

      I thought I did read somewhere that Lupita’s role was supposed to larger in future installments and that might also go for some of these other actors whose roles don’t seem large in this one.

  2. Naya says:

    I think it just means they tried different approaches for the character. He is probably trying to explain where the root of the rumors. Like perhaps because she was told to tweak in a particular direction (which is what directors do all day, every day) and some hater decided to read that as “Lupita sucks”.

  3. chloe says:

    I get a feeling her character was meant to be this movies Yoda, which is a hard character to be compared too. I’m betting if he character was cut out of most of the film it wasn’t because of her acting but probably because a bad (boring) story line, but since this movie has such a huge cast I’m guessing there were a lot of scenes left on the cutting room floor.

  4. lucy2 says:

    It sounds pretty clear to me that any cuts were made for story. That happens all the time, including whole characters being cut out completely, so I don’t see this as being anything unusual.
    Just ordered my tickets!

  5. Leah says:

    downsizing a role doesnt mean an actor wasn’t doing a good job.

  6. Tiffany :) says:

    The thing about voice work is that you CAN change it, easily. The visuals might take a while to create, but the voice can be redone many times until you feel the vocals match your vision.

    With voiceover work, there are endless possibilities of what you can do. When an actor is constrained by their own physical features, that really limits where a character can go (a 30 year old would have to work REALLY hard to play a convincing 90 year old, for example). However, when you are doing voice work there are none of those constraints. It makes sense to take advantage of the freedom and try multiple options before picking the one that works best.

  7. Loo says:

    I didn’t see anything shady about what he said. Actors don’t direct themselves, directors are supposed to guide them towards the best and right performance for a film.

    This rumor came from a Fox owned tabloid that used to distribute the Star Wars movies before Disney bought LucasFilm, why is anyone treating it seriously?

    The Lupita backlash was inevitable I suppose, especially considering that people should never have been deeming her the greatest actress ever based on one supporting role. I know Hollywood is racist and I’m rooting on Lupita but I always found her popularity absurd because it was based on a small supporting role in one film. I have no doubt that she has talent but we still don’t know how talented she is, we don’t know whether or not she can lead a film or is a how versatile she is.

    • Pondering thoughts says:

      THIS!

      Btw. the one who does really profit from these rumours is Lupita. see my comment below.

  8. Mgsota says:

    He said she was spectacular. That sounds like a ringing endorsement to me.

  9. Shabs says:

    It’s a film, cuts are made when and where appropriate to fit the directors vision. Why should we be concerned for her? She’s an actress she knows the score.

  10. CherryB says:

    I think they are going more with an ensamble anyway. And judging on how the last trilogy went down it’s probably the right strategy. I could be wrong of course.

  11. db says:

    I wonder if JJ Abrams is the kind of director who likes to shoot a number of different ways, different approaches, so he feels he’s maximized his options for editing. Some people know exactly what they want, to the point of being rigid about it; he seems more collaborative. That’s the vibe I’m getting from his quote anyway.

    • Pondering thoughts says:

      Those movies are expensive. If one of them fails it would be a HUGE loss of money. Therefore there better be some options for the editing.

    • CK says:

      I believe Kathleen Kennedy was quoted saying that he likes to get lots of takes to the point that she’s had to say “Enough Already, JJ” (or something similar to that) while watching him on set.

  12. antipodean says:

    On a superficial note, her coat is perfection, and that cerise colour is gorgeous on her.

  13. Ughhhhhh says:

    This isn’t a one-off. It’s a trilogy. She will likely have a larger role in subsequent films.

  14. Pondering thoughts says:

    So she is doing a lot more talking and underground promotion for her role in star wars than the size of that role would justify?
    I bet those comments on Lupita’s role being cut down are coming from Lupita’s camp.

    I think it is rather uncomfortable for JJ Abrahms right now as he has to justify his movie and Lupita’s role already although it isn’t out yet and nobody really knows how big her role is.
    The only one who is winning in this mess is Lupita. She will either get a major part in promoting the movie which increases her presence in the media. Or she can position herself as the poor discriminated black woman whose role has been cut down so much.

    Famewhoring and playing the victim. I don’t like it.

    • Pondering thoughts says:

      What Lupita is really really good at is this:
      Promoting the hell and her bargain out of anything she does: supporting roles, fashionable clothes, interviews …

      As for her acting: I want to see more of her acting before judging her.

  15. CK says:

    I may be being a Lupita apologist, but if the CGI character didn’t work, then it’s not solely her fault. She didn’t direct the film, write the lines, or animate the character so if Maz Kanata doesn’t work in the context the film, there is more than enough blame to go around. The terrible thing about this is now that the Sun threw that rumor out there, idiots are going to take to it as an excuse to bash Lupita no matter how good or long her scenes are. I’ve already seen it happening on boards.

  16. anne_000 says:

    I don’t know if this has anything to do with anything, but I saw a YT video which timed all the female speaking lines in the first three movies (ep. 4, 5, 6) and it came out to about 1 minute.

    Of course the next 3 movies (ep. 1, 2, 3) would have more female speaking lines because of the Padme Amidala role, but overall, I don’t think female roles, especially those that aren’t of the main cast, have a lot of presence in any of the Star Wars movies. It’s more of a male-centric series in terms of roles, imo.

    If they’re cutting down the presence of minor cast members, hopefully they’ve learned from the Jar Jar Binks catastrophe.