The King of Star Wars Leaks Talks Scoops and Spoilers
If you’re the kind of Star Wars fanatic who puts on a blast shield helmet to avoid seeing spoilers, you’ve probably never read Making Star Wars, a scoop site that’s become a go-to omnibus of surprisingly spot-on Force Awakens plot points. Created by Jason Ward, a 36-year-old writer-editor in Long Beach, California, MSW was launched in 2012 as an all-purpose Star Wars site—until Ward began digging into The Force Awakens. Soon, he was getting on-set intel from a Bothan-like network of worldwide spies, who provided him with enough leaked scripts, concept art, photos, and call sheets to piece together the story of The Force Awakens. “I got information in every single form you could possibly imagine,” Ward says. “From emails to phone calls to people saying, ‘Meet me at this place by the beach, and we can talk.”
Ward didn’t get everything right, of course, and he was inundated by fake leaks and false leads (“I’ve probably published about five percent of what I’ve gotten,” he says). But over time, Making Star Wars revealed some of the movie’s biggest secrets long before its release date. With The Force Awakens finally in theaters, we to spoke to Ward about getting scoops, getting duped, and his plans for Episode VIII.
Note: This story contains major spoilers for The Force Awakens. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t read any further—just take Lando’s advice and be on your way.
WIRED: How did your Star Wars reporting career begin?
Ward: I knew that to have a successful Star Wars site, I would need a few scoops, but I didn’t expect it going as far as it did. I started going to Facebook groups and sites where people from [London’s] Pinewood Studios congregated online, because I had bet on that being one of the studios they filmed Force Awakens at. I talked to people there about the movies they were working on, and I’d ask, “Do you think you’re gonna get Star Wars?” And when they finally did, they were like, “Oh, dude, I did get it,” and stayed in touch.
Sometimes, people would just go through Pinewood, for whatever reason, and send me photos. People think the place was locked down like Fort Knox or some C.I.A. base in the Antarctic, and it was open. But I actually mostly had sit-downs with people, going to coffee shops and things like that.
This was a super-secretive project. Why do you think they were talking to you about it?
I think it has to do with the fact that I’ve been writing about Star Wars for so long, and they know I love it. That’s a big part of it: They’re so elated and excited about everything that’s going on, they want to talk about it with someone who can geek out with them at that same level. But I don’t want to put words into their mouths. If I had a gig at Lucasfilm or Bad Robot or Disney, I wouldn’t say anything.
So you were hearing from people directly at those companies?
From all over. Sometimes it was people just associated and affiliated, sometimes they were in those companies—it was a broad canvass of people.
Did you ever get the sense they were worried about getting caught?
Once, I was buying something at [a coffee shop], and I said, “Okay, I need to know if Rey is a Solo,” and they wouldn’t tell me. So I was like, “If she is, get me an espresso shot.” They’d laugh—but when they came back, I knew Rey wasn’t a Solo.
So sometimes it was playful, and other times, I would use the technique of getting a few strands of correct information, and then fishing around and taking it to lots of other sources: “Hey, they’re saying this.” Once the picture got more clearer, people would talk more.
Did you ever hear from lawyers, or from the companies involved?
I never heard anything about legal action. I probably shouldn’t say anything about the other stuff.
Over the course of the last two years, what were some of the big stories you got right, and what were some of the ones you got wrong?
Kylo Ren was Han Solo’s son. And there was this moment when someone passed us this [handwritten] sheet of paper that said, “Kylo Ren meets Han Solo. Kylo Ren silences the conversation forever.” And every single scene that came after that didn’t have Han Solo in it. So it was like, “Okay, he is apparently related to him, and he does apparently kill his father.”
[But] for a long time, we were on the opposite end— we thought Rey was Han solo’s daughter. Because there were all these moments: She inherits the Millennium Falcon, he gives her a gun, and they’re finishing each other’s sentences. It still makes me wonder if, at some point in the writing process, that was true, and if that relationship evolved.
So that was our biggest wrong. The other big one was, early on, we saw a batch of concept art. One picture had the character who would become Kylo Ren holding Darth Vader’s helmet—but Ren was partially a cyborg, and Mark Hamill’s face was used to draw that character. I don’t think Adam Driver was cast yet, or they didn’t know who was playing the part, so they figured, “He’s going to be related to the Skywalker lineage, we’ll just draw him as Mark Hamill.” I saw that piece of concept art and thought, “Oh my God, Luke Skywalker’s the bad guy. He’s gone to the dark side, and he has this reverence for Darth Vader now.” But running that led to tons of other people trying to set us straight. So, sometimes, getting one story wrong leads to getting ten right.
So knowing all of this beforehand doesn’t ruin the fun of the movie?
Not at all. I knew pretty much everything about this movie inside and out. You can direct a movie in your head based on all that knowledge, but it’s not going to be as good as [when] J.J. Abrams directs it. I get that some people don’t like spoilers, and I will never run a headline like “HAN SOLO DIES IN EPISODE VII, READ HERE!”—I always put a warning. But I also think that this is a really fun way to experience the movie. I’ve had two years of enjoying The Force Awakens. And now the movie’s out, and I get to enjoy it more.
How often did people try to fool you with fake info?
Every day. That’s been the challenge as the site’s gotten bigger and the readership has grown. I almost ran something this month where someone had the The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary early—but I guess they don’t like the site, so they gave us a bunch of accurate information, and then put a bunch of fake stuff. I was like, “Man, this sounds like Reddit trolls.” So I actually wound up running it by another source who had the book and said, “No, Finn is definitely not a Solo by the end of the movie.” I always run everything by multiple sources. [But] I’m not infallible at all.
There was also the semi-infamous “My baby girl” fake rumor, which has become a bit of an in-joke on Reddit.
That was supposed to be in the very final sequence: Luke looks at Rey and says, “My baby girl.” We never took it seriously, and never ran it. Of all the really good things I did get tricked by, I did not get tricked by that dumb-ass line!
What are your plans for the next two movies, Star Wars: Rogue One and Episode VIII?
Their release dates are like five months apart, so the new challenge when we do hear things will be: Is this a Rogue One scoop, or an Episode VIII scoop? Do the people know what they’re talking about? That’s what I plan on doing for the next year and a half. I was afraid I wasn’t going to like Force Awakens, and then this would become tedious—I’d have to quit or do something I wouldn’t enjoy. But I loved the movie, so now I’m into Star Wars more than ever.
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