How many times does Star Wars: The Force Awakens need to refer to things that happened in the original trilogy? How often does the new movie need to namedrop long-gone characters or battles? At what point do these kinds of things popping up in The Force Awakens stop forming connective tissue to what came before and start becoming unnecessary baggage, weighing the story down?

That's one of the many delicate balancing acts faced by director J.J. Abrams, but fans should be heartened to know that he takes this stuff seriously and filters everything through a lens of "what services the characters."

Playlist has posted a telling quote from Abrams' Vanity Fair interview — a part of the article that hasn't been posted online yet (and for all we know, may never be) — in which the director explains how he approached balancing the old with the new. With events in The Force Awakens taking place three decades after Return of the Jedi, how much would Han, Luke and Leia realistically talk about things that happened 30 years ago? And how many hints need to be dropped about things to come from future movies and other media?

Here's the Vanity Fair excerpt.

"...we've obviously had a lot of time [during the development process] to talk about what's happened outside of the borders of the story that you're seeing. So there are, of course, references to things, and some are very oblique so that hopefully the audience can infer what the characters are referring to. We used to have more references to things that we pulled out because they almost felt like they were trying too hard to allude to something. I think that the key is — and whether we've accomplished that or not is, of course, up to the audience — but the key is that references be essential so that you don't reference a lot of things that feel like, oh, we're laying pipe for, you know, an animated series or further movies. It should feel like things are being referenced for a reason."

Later in the article, he explains his filter for deciding whether these little references stay or get cut. He describes it as his "constant struggle."

"[We have to] make sure that none of these things are treated like either they're a museum piece and we're trying to honor them, or they're gratuitous and thrown in. Because it's a Star Wars movie, so you've got to put these things in. Everything has to be essential to the characters in the film."

So don't expect the line "I have a bad feeling about this" to be shoehorned into The Force Awakens. It's also a safe bet that no one's hand will get cut off, but you never know.

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