"If we got intoxicated by the nostalgia of what we were doing, the movie was gonna suck," Abrams, 49, admits in PEOPLE's new Star Wars special issue
Credit: Disney

When the impressionable 11-year-old J.J. Abrams first saw Star Wars, he was blown away. “As a kid, it was a mind-expanding amazement,” he recalls. Now with the world waiting for his reboot, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Abrams didn’t want to blow it.

“If we got intoxicated by the nostalgia of what we were doing, the movie was gonna suck,” Abrams, 49, admits in PEOPLE’s new Star Wars special issue. “We had to very quickly move on to the job at hand, which was to be actors and crew members and filmmakers and directors, and do the work we were all there to do.”

See exclusive photos, get a first look at new characters and learn more secrets from the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in PEOPLE’s Star Wars collector’s edition, on newsstands Dec. 9. And for more exclusive Star Wars news, come back to PEOPLE.com every day until it hits theaters Dec. 18

Abrams was initially hesitant to take on Star Wars after having just rebooted the Star Trek franchise. But then the new president of Lucasfilm hooked him.

“Kathleen Kennedy brought up the idea of ‘Who is Luke Skywalker?’,” Abrams says. “George Lucas told a story about everyman, everywoman characters who were nobodies who had to step up and become somebody. The idea that there would be a new crop of nobodies in the Star Wars universe who didn’t realize yet they would become somebody, that was a very powerful feeling.”

To create a story of the new “nobodies,” Abrams wrote the Force Awakens script with Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (plus Raiders of the Lost Ark for Lucas, too). They also had the “somebodies” coming back, including Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. “We wanted to see them after 30 years,” Kasdan told PEOPLE. “There was nothing really that we had to do but there were enormous possibilities of what we could do.”

Abrams also teamed with cinematographer Daniel Mindel, whom he had worked with on the two Star Trek movies and Mission: Impossible III. “The thing about J.J.’s scripts is, as a cinematographer, it is hugely intimidating to read them in a cold way,” Mindel tells PEOPLE. “My initial instinct is, ‘How are we going to do that?!’ They’re just massive moments.”

So do the characters, the story and those massive moments come together for a new Star Wars movie that doesn’t … well, suck?

One key fan has already seen it: Star Wars‘ creator himself, George Lucas. And he’s apparently sold.

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy revealed that the film was screened for Lucas. The verdict? “He really liked it,” she said.