Entertainment

How the biggest Star Wars leaker in the galaxy gets his scoops

"I didn't want to be Spoiler Guy," Jason Ward tells Inverse. "That wasn't my original plan."

Lucasfilm

If you’ve read a Star Wars spoiler on the internet since 2014, there’s a high chance it originated with Jason Ward. As the proprietor and primary writer of the independently owned and operated website called Making Star Wars, he is someone many hardcore Star Wars Fans have serious opinions about. And that’s because he’s the guy who drops Star Wars leaks seemingly every single day. But why does he do it? Are his scoops legit? And, perhaps most importantly, does Ward’s work help or hurt the Star Wars community that’s made him a success?

👉 There are no Star Wars spoilers in this article, but links may be dangerous — if you care about that sort of thing.

“I really personally don’t think that spoilers are bad,” Ward tells Inverse. “If I read about [spoilers] and we imagine them, then it’s part of the wait. Everything with fan communities is about waiting. We don’t have lines like we used to. So we wait online.”

Jason Ward, editor-in-chief and creator of the fan site 'Making Star Wars'; defends himself.Making Star Wars

These days, buying movie tickets on your phone has made “line culture” vanish faster than Luke’s Force projection on Crait. Ward, age 40, clearly misses that era of pre-internet fan culture, but, at the same time, his spoiler enterprise was born out of the ashes of the prequels.

“Since the prequel era, I had been following spoilers and involved in that kind of culture,” Ward says. “I had stuff leaked to me all the time, but it wasn’t so easy to go and build a WordPress website back then. So, when Disney bought Lucasfilm, I had started a Tumblr around that time [2012], and people kept telling me, ‘Hey, you should make a website; you should go build a website.’”

The most singular aspect of Making Star Wars is that it’s not an anonymous fly-by-night operation, even though that would be easier. Even in the old days of early geek-scoop digital publications like Ain’t It Cool, certain contributors went by pseudonyms. But that’s not what happens here. We know Jason Ward is a real person. He’s a father of young children. He often wears sunglasses or looks very tired in his almost intentionally unglamorous YouTube videos. His writing style alternates between a geek formally nerdsplaining you on a piece of arcane Star Wars knowledge, to a guy in bar who might use a raunchy metaphor to make his point. If gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson did YouTube videos about Star Wars spoilers, he might be Jason Ward.

Some quick Googling might make you think Ward is a terrible person who’s said controversial things about subjects other than Star Wars, but his politics are slightly inscrutable. I got the sense he leaned left (he certainly defended The Last Jedi on Twitter a lot), but on the other hand, it’s just not clear.

None of this answers a bigger question, though. Why would any Lucasfilm insiders specifically give him spoilers about new Star Wars projects?

“I’m not afraid to ask questions.”

Ward lives in California and tells me that his proximity to Los Angeles is a big part of how he’s able to obtain the supposed top-secret Star Wars information he publishes regularly on Making Star Wars. He won’t reveal who these sources are specifically, requiring one to imagine a shadowy cadre of Star Wars deep throats willing to spill — as long as he protects their identities.

“This sounds kind of egotistical, but it has to do with me, and it’s because I talk about [Star Wars] and I write about it and I’m not afraid to ask questions,” he says, citing his podcast network as a pillar of legitimacy. “They would listen to the podcast and feel they know me because they’ve heard me talk about Star Wars for dozens and dozens of hours. They want to engage in what they’re seeing.”

Jason Ward sounds more convincing over the phone. During our call, I think Ward is telling me the truth about the existence of his sources. I’m game. I believe people who have signed NDAs with Lucasfilm and Disney would risk breaking those contracts to share something thrilling.

Even so, the motivations of these Star Wars deep throats are dubious. When I ask Ward why someone would want to leak, he suggests the secrecy means the people who work on one aspect of the movie are curious about others. So, Ward’s leaks come together by virtue of his role as a dot-connector for members of the The Rise of Skywalker crew.

“On Episode IX, things are so fragmented on who was doing what. I would have people in England asking me what other people had worked on. I was almost playing a game of middleman telephone,” Ward says. “[Lucasfilm] wanted to keep things so, so tightly locked down that if one person didn’t know about, like, what the Zorri Bliss character was about —Is that a robot? — I would tell them the conversations I had, and I would glean a ton of information about what they had worked on.”

It also doesn’t hurt that J.J. Abrams movies seem particularly prone to spoilers. His infamous Superman script leaked online and the fan reaction was so brutal the movie got scrapped entirely. And, in 2013, I personally managed to get my hands on the entire plot for Star Trek Into Darkness months before its release. Way ahead of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you could find all sorts of spoilers (including ones published by Ward) that pretty much described the biggest points of the movie.

“People have asked me, “Why do the J.J. Abrams movies leak so hard?” Ward says. “Some of it is a coincidence, but I think some of it has to do with the pressure on secrecy and the weirdness around it. It makes people feel like they are more in the dark.”

Again, this explanation has a ring of legitimacy to it, even if it’s not empirical proof. A scan of the Making Star Wars archive confirms that Ward did appear to have fewer scoops about The Last Jedi than The Rise of Skywalker. But the galaxy-brain notion that increased secrecy on a film leads to more secrets being spilled is exactly the kind of bizzaro logic that appeals to people who like to read spoilers. And if you think no one online wants to read spoilers, the existence of Making Star Wars — and about a million other sites, forums, and social media accounts — will prove you wrong.

“The one thing I find incredible is how there’s a section of Star Wars fandom that’s taken up the idea of citizen journalism (blurry pictures of sets, promotional materials, etc.) to spoil these movies for themselves,” John Saavedra, an associate editor at Den of Geek, tells Inverse. “It’s like the antithesis of the hyper-sensitive spoiler culture you see on Twitter and in comments sections most of the time. I think this, among other things, has made Making Star Wars a bit of a controversial subject among some in the Star Wars community.”

Jason WardMaking Star Wars

Ward’s scoops aren’t about abuses of power at Disney, or revealing that George Lucas suddenly has a million scandals he’s trying to cover up. Ward isn’t the Star Wars version of Ronan Farrow, nor has he courted some nerd version of a whistleblower.

In another dimension, I wonder if Ward could have just been a more traditional entertainment writer and journalist, but he insists that “the politics of dealing with Lucasfilm” made him feel “infantilized.” Ward’s experience with entertainment journalism, at least professionally, is limited, and yet, any journalist who has negotiated for interview access can sympathize.

As Saavedra put it, the reporting here is “citizen journalism” connected to what happens in the movies. Ward’s leaks are concerned about revelations regarding Supreme Leader Snoke, mysteries about different scripts, and even an early indication that Baby Yoda existed in The Mandalorian.

To put it another way, Jason Ward could be like Ronan Farrow, if Ronan Farrow was leaking plot details about Woody Allen and Roman Polanski movies instead of actual scandals. And when you think about it that way, what Ward does is not only odd but singular. Writers like myself benefit from Ward’s “reporting” and his endless leaks, if only because we get to pass them off as rumors or, even better, spin those things into our own fan theories.

Making Star Wars is Jason Ward’s livelihood — his website and podcast generate enough money to support his family — which could inform some of his editorial decisions. He tells me he’s not worried about his business model after The Rise of Skywalker, and that’s mostly because he claims there are several more Star Wars projects in the works that we haven’t even heard of yet. “I will be fine in 2020,” he says when I ask about what comes next.

In November, when I spoke to Ward, Making Star Wars had briefly been shut down a few weeks prior after allegedly pirated photos from The Rise of Skywalker hit the internet. Most mainstream publications decided not to publish the photos. It was the kind of Star Wars scoop that was just too close to a real spoiler to make anyone feel good. You could almost hear Disney lawyers straightening their Mickey Mouse hats.

Many assumed that Making Star Wars had been shut down as a result, but Ward claims it was a coincidence.

“We had a database on the website and we needed to change over,” he says. “We needed to get all of the website to a new server and our database for WordPress is huge. And it took a long time. There was no shutdown, there was no takedown. It was a total coincidence.”

I ask him if he thinks that publishing real-deal spoilers so close to the release of The Rise of Skywalker makes sense. He tells me that, yes, he is going to slow his roll on spoiler scoops this month.

“I kind of feel like it would be unsportsmanlike,” he says when I ask about posting spoilers too close to the December 20 release.

Since we spoke in November, Ward appears to have changed his mind. He’s published several major “scoops” which he claims not only spoil the opening scenes of The Rise of Skywalker, but also explain the identity of Supreme Leader Snoke relative to the return of Emperor Palpatine.

“I’ll cop to that being a bit contradictory and my excitement being a motivating factor for the Snoke scoop,” Ward says when I asked why he changed course.” Knowing the parameters of that scoop, I figured it was likely to lead to more cognitive dissonance if it wasn’t talked out.” He adds that he shared another recent leak because he hoped it would “put the fandom at ease” about “a controversial element” in the movie.

Ward hit another bump in the road in early December when he published details on what he claimed was the original Colin Trevorrow Episode IX script. When Trevorrow refuted its validity on Twitter, Ward published a new article and YouTube video claiming that what his sources leaked to him was really the Jack Throne script that Trevorrow was supposed to direct at one point, and not the one that Trevorrow wrote.

The video scans as “sorry not sorry” and feels like damage control. Ward defends conflating one script with another, saying, “I brought a pretty big piece of valuable information to the table still.”

Clearly, the scoop is valuable to Making Star Wars, and certainly it has value to publications like Inverse that explore fan theories. But the actual value of a movie spoiler is hard to measure, and most of them stop mattering as soon as opening night.

“I didn’t want to be Spoiler Guy. That wasn’t my original plan.”

There are those who believe everything Jason Ward says is a lie, or that his resources are more limited than he lets on. Some have even wondered that perhaps Ward simply saw trailers early, and it’s a reason the Rise of Skywalker marketing seems to fit so neatly with the leaks he published ahead of time.

This feels like the simplest explanation for Ward’s Rise of Skywalker leaks — which means it’s probably correct. It’s the Occam’s razor of Star Wars spoilers.

Even if everything was fabricated on Making Star Wars, Ward’s impact is undeniable. This isn’t to say it’s good, but that the impact exists. Some might say Jason Ward could be classified as Chaotic Evil, but he might be closer to Chaotic Neutral. He’s clearly passionate about Star Wars, but the fact that he’s still publishing spoilers a week before The Rise of Skywalker gestures at some hardcore cynicism, too. He knows there’s a demand for spoilers, and he’s there to provide them.

From Darth Vader to Kylo Ren, the story of Star Wars is full of men who get in over their heads or are overwhelmed by their own power. It’s unfair to compare Ward to Darth Vader, but it does seem like he found himself on a path that he didn’t necessarily intend to be on in the first place.

“[Lucasfilm] says they own what they own, but they control it legally, but not culturally,” Ward says, describing his motivations to leak. “And so, I just wanted to report about Star Wars because I’m enthusiastic and I like it. I didn’t want to be Spoiler Guy. That wasn’t my original plan.”

If Star Wars has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes destiny has bigger plans for us than we thought. But as the Skywalker saga comes to an end, both Star Wars and Jason Ward are at a crossroads. The future is wide open — at least until the next movie comes around.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out next week, December 20, 2019. And then, those who have followed Jason Ward’s leaks can make up their minds as to how much he really knows.

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