When George Lucas first created Star Wars, it was a mishmash of inspirations from ancient mythology and Japanese samurai films through to classic Westerns and Flash Gordon. Director JJ Abrams is about to unleash The Force Awakens onto the world, and one of his inspirations is equally eclectic.

The Cloverfield and Mission: Impossible director said: "The fact is watching any inspiring storyteller, a film-maker, watching Terrence Malick movies – who's not a director you would normally think you'd go to for a Star Wars movie – and yet I don't know of a more profound and emotional film-maker than Malick."

Malick is a director who is known for playing down conventional narrative for more impressionistic and existential cinematics, in films such as The Thin Red Line and The New World, which have clearly influenced Abrams.

Abrams continued: "There were many scenes where I might have typically wanted to rush the camera around or cut more frequently, but in trying to grow a little bit and in trying to tell the most powerful story possible, you learn lessons in restraint, you learn lessons in stillness, you learn lessons and confidence and trust, in your characters and the audience.

"And so I found myself working to not just keep things moving as fast as I could, which sometimes has been my default, but rather sometimes to keep things as still as I possibly could or let things breathe, as a balance to the action of which there is much in the movie."

How much influence Malick has on the final production will be seen when Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits cinemas worldwide on 17 December.