Abrams says drew on Terrence Malick films for new 'Star Wars'

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As he set off for a galaxy far, far away to make the latest “Star Wars” film, director J.J. Abrams looked beyond the sci-fi saga’s past movies for inspiration.

Just like the films’ creator George Lucas, Abrams watched the works of late filmmakers Akira Kurosawa and John Ford.

“Instead of just having ‘Star Wars’ movies as a reference for this, I also went back and watched some of my favorite films,” Abrams told Reuters.

“Obviously ‘Seven Samurai’ ... some of the John Ford films, because I knew those were also influences that George (Lucas) had.”

The seventh episode in the franchise “The Force Awakens” hits cinemas next week in one of the most-anticipated movie openings of the year.

Abrams, who has already made sci-fi films such as “Star Trek” and “Star Trek Into Darkness”, also cited American cult director Terrence Malick, known for “The Tree of Life” and “The Thin Red Line”, as an important influence.

“Malick (is) not a director you would normally think you’d ... go to for a ‘Star Wars’ movie and yet ... I don’t know of a more profound and emotional filmmaker than Malick,” he said.

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“It sounds very pretentious to say ‘oh I’m inspired by this person, that person’, it’s more about ... seeing things that you can aspire to ... and where appropriate apply lessons that you’re learning from them.”

The movie, the first “Star Wars” film installment in 10 years, has been shrouded in secrecy with details kept tightly under wraps bar some broad character outlines.

It stars newcomers Daisy Ripley, Adam Driver, John Bodega as well as old “Star Wars” hands Harrison Ford, Mark Ham ill and Carrie Fisher.

“It’s a story that I think gets to see new characters, these underdogs, in a world that is bigger and more spectacular than they could ever imagine and existing characters that some people know and love,” Abrams said.

(Corrects name in headline.)

Reporting By Rollo Ross in Los Angeles; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in London; Editing by Tom Heneghan