J.J. Abrams tells PEOPLE what it was like directing Harrison Ford at the Star Wars: Force Awakens premiere on Monday
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Giving Harrison Ford directions on how to play Han Solo sounds about as strange as trying to give Michael Jordan basketball lessons.

But fortunately for Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, the experience of coaching Ford on his iconic character wasn’t as awkward as he anticipated.

“It’s funny, because it was a little weird – just the idea of doing that,” Abrams confessed to PEOPLE at the Hollywood premiere of The Force Awakens on Monday night.

“But it ended up being shockingly easy because he was so cooperative and so hungry to do the work,” he revealed. “What was weird was how it wasn’t weird.”

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Abrams was a couple months away from his 11th birthday when the original Star Wars hit theaters in 1977, and he was determined to recreate that sense of childhood wonder he felt the first time he was transported to the galaxy far, far away.

“I think we all feel like we’re still the same kid we were. It’s not like there’s this moment when you stop being that kid,” Abrams explained. “So for me, I was aware of certain feelings I had and wanted to try and give the audience that sense that anything was possible.”

While finding a balance between the old and the new was a “tightrope to walk,” Abrams says he tried “to harness that feeling” of amazement George Lucas accomplished with the original.

As a lifelong fan of the franchise, Abrams says helming the project “is obviously as surreal as it gets.” Recognizing the experience could pass him by in a flash, Abrams says he made sure to stay present in the moment. “Because this is so overwhelming and such a blur … I want to make sure that I feel like I’m here and I’m aware of this, because it’s going to be over in about two seconds.”