J.J. Abrams: 'It's an enormous relief that "The Force Awakens" is now out'

London (CNN)"I'm so relieved to get this out into the world," says J.J. Abrams with, well, a sigh of relief.

Speaking at the U.K. press event for the release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the director of the extremely well received movie pointed out that the film is the result of "a few years of intense work from thousands of people, all of whom lost lots of sleep and didn't see their families, so yeah, it's an enormous relief that it is now out."
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A sentiment echoed, but for different reasons, by co-writer Lawrence Kasdan: "It's a miracle that it came out so close to what we had hoped."
Kasdan, a "Star Wars" veteran with screenwriting credits for "Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" under his belt, revealed that the collaboration with Abrams was based on a simple agreement: "Being funny. That's what had touched us about Episode IV. It was a funny, endearing and charming movie. So we wanted that back."

    "Material and tangible"

    It wasn't only the tone of the movie that marked a return to form.
    Abrams was quick to pick up on the aesthetic values of the original trilogy: "'A New Hope' had an incredible sense of being real, material and tangible," he argued.
    In one anecdote the director recalled a conversation with actor Simon Pegg (who has a brief cameo in the film), in which he told Abrams that for his young daughter, iconic Jedi Master Yoda only became "real" when she first saw Frank Oz's puppet in "The Empire Strikes Back." The CGI-Yoda from the prequels just didn't cut it.
    "That was what we wanted," said Abrams, "that physicality."

    "I overslept"

    If Abrams and Kasdan were the brains of the operation, the actors were the face, and many were in a buoyant mood the morning after "The Force Awakens'" European premiere.
    Talking about the shoot, a chipper Harrison Ford said he "relished the entire experience... a rare one for an old man such as myself," and was full of compliments for the director.
    "It helps a lot to have somebody who gives as much as J.J. does," Ford said. "His human kindness, what he brings to the set every day, is what makes the movie what it is."
    But when asked whether he intends to participate in the upcoming Han Solo prequel, he firmly remarked: "I want nothing to do with it."
    The biggest laugh of the day came courtesy of John Boyega, who stormed in ten minutes late saying "Apologies, I overslept. Very busy night."
    Carrie Fisher also offered an abundance of comic relief: "The wrap party? Who remembers that?!"

    "A fairer reflection"

    Asked about the reasoning behind having a female lead, Abrams said that "The notion of a woman at the center was exciting to me. In addition to Leia we wanted other women and female characters in the story.
    "We wanted to make the film look and feel more like a fairer reflection of the world we live in."

    "Family"

    When the group was asked to define "Star Wars" with just one word, the first to have a go was Gwendoline Christie, who plays Captain Phasma.
    "Hopeful," she said.
    Lupita Nyong'o -- whose motion captured performance gave life to Maz Kanata -- went with "Adventure."
    Lawrence Kasdan chose "Potential," and J.J. Abrams "Possibility."
    Finally, Carrie Fisher tugged at collective heartstrings with a heartfelt "Family."
    "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" opens in the U.S. on Friday December 18.