Lucasfilm values its secrecy. It’s so worried about and vigilant against leaks about their upcoming Star Wars projects, they keep scripts locked away until actors come to them to audition, and lock them back up when the actors leave. It’s a process that gives actors virtually no time to prepare — which is a huge problem if it’s preventing actors like Michael B. Jordan from getting Star Wars roles.
While promoting his new Amazon Prime movie Without Remorse, Jordan talked about he “bombed” his audition for The Force Awakens with Variety’s “Just for Variety” podcast. “I think that was probably my worst audition to date,” he said, and the reason he thinks he blew it is partially because of Lucasfilm’s obsession with secrecy.
He talked about how he only received his sides — Hollywood lingo for small portions of the movie’s script (individual scenes, basically) that actors usually use to audition — after arriving at Pinewood Studios in London, which would be tough for any actor. It would be even tougher if the scene includes weird Star Wars terms like”hydrospanners” and “womp rats” that would be much harder to memorise and say with a sense of realism because they’re so unnatural.
Jordan also talked about how “super-vague” the bits of script were, which didn’t give him much to latch onto as an actor: “I think it was I couldn’t wrap my brain around some of the sides because you know when you’re reading for these high-level projects, there’s never really any specificity in the sides.” Again, if your casting system prevents you from hiring objectively phenomenal actors like Michael B. Jordan, your system is flawed.
His talent was already proven back in 2012 and 2013, when The Force Awakens auditions would have taken place, in roles in The Wire and Friday Night Lights. While all the actors in the new trilogy were great, Lucasfilm’s punishing process meant that the auditions favoured those who could make a mountain out of a molehill of a script at high speed and not necessarily the actor who would have been best had he been given normal scenes in a normal advance.
Again, this is because of Lucasfilm’s obsession with secrecy; they don’t want the risk of any information about the movie getting out because fans will go wild. But fans go wild over everything anyway, and writing a better scene and giving actors some time to prepare for it wouldn’t change that. Instead of using purposefully vague characters and hoping that actors guess what the role is, just write a better fake scene with characters that are adjacent enough to the intended roles to give actors something to work with. Or, just have the screenwriters do a couple of extra scenes in the script that are intended solely for these auditions.
Would have it diluted anyone’s enjoyment of The Force Awakens to learn that a Rebel pilot named Poe Dameron was going to be in the film a year earlier than we did? Not in the slightest.
Just chill out a little, Lucasfilm. Worry less about the scripts leaking and worry more about making the scripts good. And hire Michael B. Jordan.