Entertainment Weekly has posted more about their discussion with JJ Abrams about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As usual for the director it contained virtually no real information other than lots of feel good thoughts but some might find it interesting. The key bit of "news" is that Simon Pegg helped provide input on the film. Not as a writer but as a sounding board for story ideas. Details below.
On Simon Pegg's contribution to the film
“I will say this in terms of Simon: while he won’t be recognizable in the movie, in all honesty, his role in this – not the performance or the character – but his support and friendship has been massively important and helpful in the process. He was a wonderful partner in crime to kick the story around and ask questions and come up with ideas, and he was an incredibly helpful part of the process for all of us. I’m very grateful. He was a sounding board. He would drop by the set because he wanted to, and when he could, he would help… We could talk about things, and he was a perfect combination of incredibly smart screenwriter, fan of the series, critical fan of the series, and friend of mine – but not just blindly supportive. He was an honest, critical friend. And he wasn’t so close to it that he became immune to things. He would come in with fresh eyes and very smart ideas. He’s one of a handful of people along the way that has been really priceless.”
On fandom and keeping film secrets:
“One of the great things that Lucasfilm has done over the years is embracing the community of Star Wars fans, and it’s because they realize that it’s really the fans’ story. And that understanding, that sharing of information and engaging with the fans is something that I really admire. My instinct is to typically keep things quiet – and if I had my way, perhaps we would be showing less – but the truth is, I want to make sure that the fans aren’t feeling like we are holding back for the sake of it. I also have read more comments than I ever expected where people say, ‘don’t spoil it for me, don’t show me everything, don’t ruin the story, I don’t want to know it yet. And I’m always grateful for that. So it’s a little bit of a tightrope, and we want to make sure we’re being forthcoming, but that we’re not spoiling."
About Ben Burtt the sound designer for the original trilogy (aka the guy who created all the blaster, starship, lightsaber duel, etc sounds)
“I can’t talk about what he’s doing specifically on this movie, but I’ll say that I’m thrilled to get to work with Ben again. We worked together on the Star Trek films, on Super 8, and now on this. We also are lucky to have Gary Rydstrom, of course, and Matt Wood. We have an amazing sound team. The thing that keeps being remarkable to me is how much George Lucas got right when he did Star Wars. Like, it is a preposterous ratio of things that work that were brand-new, and bold, and thrilling. The sound certainly was one of those things. And when you hear that specific roar of a TIE fighter, or the sound of a lightsaber coming on, or the sound of a droid, or any number of things – and there are so many – the idea that you can close your eyes and hear a couple sound effects and know exactly what movie that is, is completely a testament to the work that Ben Burtt did then, and that he’s contributing to now.”
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke (using motion capture)
"I have nothing about him yet, but I will say that Andy Serkis is like working with someone who is an historically great actor. He is the kindest, sweetest, most lovely guy, so it’s not that he puts on any airs of being pretentious or anything at all, but he’s simply so damn good, that when I’m working with him, I feel like I’m working with someone who is, you know, like a Charles Laughton, or someone who is just so extraordinary. Then there’s the whole matter of how he incorporates technology in a way that no one has seen or done… There are many levels to his genius, but he is certainly a genius.”