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J.J. Abrams on His Grandfather

In an interview with Esquire magazine, film producer and director J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lost, Super 8) shared that his biggest influence as a child was his maternal grandfather, Harry Kelvin. Kelvin owned an electronics business where Abrams remembers his grandfather (in Abrams' words) "would take apart radios and telephones, all kinds of electronics, and explain why and how they worked. In a way, when I was a little kid, he was more of a father figure than my father; like most dads of that era, mine was always busy working."

Relatives said that J. J. was the son his grandpa never had. They would go on adventure walks together, walking around the neighborhood and making up stories. Esquire noted, "When you think about it, storytelling is a lot like electronics—it's all about how you take things apart and why each piece is necessary and where it fits in. The same is true of magic and illusion. That's what filmmaking is all about."

Kelvin also took Abrams on the Universal Studios tour. Abrams was seven or eight years old. "It was this aha moment for me," he says. "I saw how movies used illusion in this grand way. They talked about technology in a way that was fascinating. The use of cameras and special effects and different techniques—it just felt like the answer to a question I didn't even know I was asking. Suddenly I realized: This is the thing I want to do."

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