At the press conference for Star Wars: The Force Awakens two years ago, veterans Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher introduced the world to the new generation. For Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Mark Hamill joined Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Adam Driver in welcoming Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran to the cast and new director Rian Johnson.
The Last Jedi picks up where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey (Ridley) finding Luke Skywalker (Hamill) in hiding, and Kylo Ren (Driver) trying to strengthen The First Order to squash the rebellion. The Last Jedi opens Friday, December 15 everywhere.
Q: For the cast who was in The Force Awakens, how does The Last Jedi feel different?
MH: My answer will be in direct proportion to the amount of screen time I have.
JB: I just think the story is moving forward. I feel like J.J. [Abrams] had the sort of blueprint foundation in The Force Awakens that was pretty good. Now it’s about moving forward with the story and just changing the characters. All the characters are under intense pressure, so it’s a time in which everyone has their own specific reckoning and it’s all different. There’s a lot going on. I’ve only watched it once and the first thing is I want to watch it again because it’s a lot of information and Easter eggs in there as well.
OI: Often with a second chapter in a story of three, because the first one sets the tone and the world and the characters, it introduces them, in the second one you don’t have to spend so much time doing that. You can really just go into the story to what’s happening, like John said, with the conflict of each of the characters. I think what Rian’s done so incredibly well is he’s challenged deeply every single character, including the droids, the biggest challenges they’ve ever faced. That’s how you’ll be able to really get to learn about them on all sides of the spectrum, from light to dark. He’s found a way to get to the central point of that character and try to challenge them as best as he can.
DR: The biggest thing to me, when I read the script, even though you try to avoid what people are saying, it’s hard to. Because people responded well to John and I as a team, I was nervous about not being a team so much in this one. So I think for me personally, it was a challenge. The film was a challenge, I don’t know about anyone else, but to be in different combinations of people. So in itself we’re already in different situations with different people and learning about and meeting for the first time.
AS: I was blown away when I saw the movie. I was so caught up in it, not least because it was really intimate and very emotional. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I knew obviously that it was going to go that way but it’s very, very powerful. It touches you. What Rian’s done incredibly is make this dance, tonally, between these great epic moments and hilarious antics, literally flipping on a dime and then going right to the heart of these beautiful characters. You really care and I think that was for me my takeaway. It was an extraordinary viewing.
GC: I was delighted by the film and what I was surprised by was that Star Wars has always been, I think the reason why it’s resonated for us all so deeply is that it’s our foundation story of good against evil. And where that balance sits and how we see elements of characters we’ve never seen before, things that can be unexpected. But there was something about this film, and I think it’s because the world that we live in is a changing and evolving place, that it retains the simplicity of those elements but it really resonates with what it is to follow your own human, dark, narcissistic tendencies, where that will take you. I love that. It’s beautiful aesthetically too.
DG: I didn’t go to the screening.
RJ: He had a thing.
DG: I wanted to wait to see it with a huge crowd and see it the way I saw The Force Awakens which was with a lot of people losing their minds. But then I heard these guys lost their minds so I’m kind of annoyed I didn’t go.
Q: Rian, is there a little bit of you in Admiral Holdo?
RJ: I would be thrilled if there was. If Laura Dern could represent any part of me, I would be thrilled. It’s a dream to get to work with her. The character she plays in all this glorious purple haired wonder, we were really able to dig in and do some really exciting fun stuff. Laura, the moments on set where suddenly you would catch my eye and you would say, “This feels like we’re making an independent film.” Those were the moments that I was like yeah, it kind of does. That feels really good and added intimacy to the process I think.
Q: Do you geek out working on a Star Wars film?
KMT: I’m trying not to cry right now because it’s so weird and different. I feel like Rian has said this before but it definitely feels like you have to find a way to just do the work and block everything out, but then C3PO comes up and you’re like, “Oh.” You’re constantly figuring out how can I figure out how to work in this environment, and then you’re like but also this is awesome. So it’s kind of that
LD: Just to add to that, what Rian spoke to so beautifully and Andy was describing, the intimacy of discovering each character’s conflict was just extraordinary giving the enormity of the task. That he gave us that in the experience of the workplace. It was shocking and Oscar and I always talked about how stunned we were that we were in such a massive environment and did feel like we were making an indie movie. You were always encouraging us to try things and explore character, explore this duality of the light and the dark within the characters that the movie speaks to so beautifully. Not just that there are alternative universes but that that lies within which seems to be the place that George Lucas first started the mythology with that. It’s just so brilliant, and a group of us sitting together watching it for the first time, it was like we were with 3000 people. We were screaming. You missed something.
Q: What is Kylo and Hux’s relationship in this film?
AD: There’s definitely a competition and I think maybe it’s yet to be discovered where that comes from. If anything, I think that’s more of a testament to what everyone has been saying. Rian’s inability to not mine the character in every moment. He knows that spectacle won’t mean anything if you don’t care about anything that’s going on. It seems very obvious but I think it’s a really important thing to balance with this many moving parts and the scale of something like this. I loved playing those things especially with Domhnall. He’s a great actor and nothing is taken for granted, where oh, this happens and it moves on. If anything, Rian slows the pace. There’s not a moment that’s taken for granted. It’s always broken up into little pieces. The story, in our minds, comes first before an explosion.
Q: Is there a corollary in our world to their relationship?
DG: I don’t know. I think there’s just such a human drama going on in that group of people, but then also just human bitching, in fighting as well. It’s really fun to see them really hurt each other’s feeling as well as from the outside. The united front is difficult for them sometimes.
Q: There’s been a lot of questions about how The Last Jedi is different from The Force Awakens. How is it different from other Star Wars movies?
MH: It’s longer.
RJ: Not much longer, not much longer.
DR: As an actor, it was much more easy to draw comparison or similarity. I’m just speaking for me, but I’m real new to this all. It was my first film and all that. I’ve worked on smaller films this year and genuinely it feels the same. The sets tend to be smaller. We’ve shot in Prague instead of London but it’s, not a small feeling but it’s like that family thing. So going into something could’ve been really scary. Being surrounded by people that make you feel really comfortable for me is the only thing you can ask for, because you can only do what you can do. If you’re in a really safe environment then you’re able to do more. Coming back I think felt different obviously in ways because the story is different, the characters are being challenged in different ways but the crew was similar. I think it says a lot about Rian. How a set is run is so incredibly important. What J.J. and Tommy [Gormley] did the first time around, what Rian and Jamie [Christopher] did this time, ti’s a really happy set where everyone feels heard and respected. Just in an acting sense, taking everything away, I think the same feeling was captured of love and everyone trying to work together to make this thing that hopefully other people will love. I think to me, in the most notable way, it’s more similar than different.
Q: When did you transition from fan to filmmaker and felt ownership of a Star Wars movie?
RJ: Oh, I keep waiting for that moment to happen. Even standing up here, I see the big Star Wars behind me and I’m like oh, do I belong to this? There’ s no eureka moment where it’s like now I’m doing it. You’re always riding that line between feeling like you’re a fan who snuck in the back gate and is getting away with something, which I think is probably a good thing. I’m actually curious to hear John because you’re the biggest fan I know.
JB: I’m still trying to get over it. What we forget is that when we filmed The Force Awakens was about two years between then and starting on The Last Jedi. We come back and it just felt like you’re back in school. The best part of every day was a new set, the practical effects. I think it might’ve doubled on this film. The sets were bigger. It was really exciting and amazing, but like everyone said, you still feel an intimacy when you’re doing these scenes. An independent movie with a bigger budget.
LD: Oscar described yesterday watching the roll at the top as the lights went down. Even though all of us feel giddy, we’re excited about being part of this, suddenly you’re an obsessed fan regardless.
DG: That sounds great.
Q: Fortunately the late Carrie Fisher is still in The Last Jedi. What impact did Princess Leia have on the women on this panel?
GC: She was very significant because I was first shown A New Hope when I was six and I remember thinking, “My, that character is really different.” I watched TV and film obsessively at such a young age, but it stayed with me throughout my formative years. She’s really interesting. She’s really smart. She’s really funny. She’s courageous. She’s [brilliant?] She doesn’t care what people think and she isn’t prepared to be told what to do. She doesn’t look the same as a sort of homogenized presentation of a woman that we had been used to seeing. So that was really instrumental for me as someone who didn’t feel that they fit into that homogenized view of what a woman was supposed to be. But that was inspirational, that you could be an individual and celebrate yourself and be successful without giving yourself over, without necessarily making some terrible, huge compromise. So it was a big inspiration to me. To play a character as well, from what we’ve seen in The Force Awakens, I was very excited when I was shown just the basic costume. Here we were seeing a character whereby a woman wasn’t — her femininity was not delineated in terms of the shape of her body and in terms of her physical attractiveness, those elements, that weird random group of elements which we’re born with. It’s some kind of odd lottery and then we’re judged by society. I was just delighted to be able to have that opportunity.
LD: Endless thoughts and also a profound impact she made on me as a girl. I’ll just speak to this present experience to say that as we always have Carrie. Not just Leia, her wisdom. People speak about people who are brave or fearless but beyond that I’ve known luckily a few people that would hold those descriptions. But not that they would be without shame. That’s what moved me the most about the icon she gave us but also what she gave us individually and personally which is to carry who she was so directly and to be without shame and to share her story and expect nothing less from any of us. And the privilege of watching how Rian has so beautifully captured all of that and her grace in this amazing, beautiful, pure performance but also I think she found an equal, irreverent, subversive and they had this dance that gives us this performance.
DR: I don’t think I can really follow that except to just say Carrie’s daughter Billie is I think all of those qualities. She’s smart and funny and shameless and —
MH: Always late.
DR: Wonderful. I think Carrie bringing up her daughter who is all of those qualities and then some in this world, if that’s what she did just her being her, I think it speaks volumes to what she did as her in this world and also her and Leia.
KMT: I agree with everything that was said. Something about Carrie that I really look up to, and something I didn’t realize until recently was just how much courage it takes to truly be yourself when you’re on a public platform and when people are looking at you. To be so unapologetic and so open yourself is something I really try to do. I think she will always be an icon as Leia but also as Carrie. What an example. I’m so fortunate to have met her and I think she will really live on forever.
Photo Credits: Disney, Lucasfilm Ltd.