It’s nearly impossible to think of a franchise that has had quite as massive of an effect on pop culture as STAR WARS. Who could’ve conceived the unimaginable success that the adventures of Luke Skywalker and pals would bring? Yet here we are. This is one of those rare stories that has inspired generation upon generation. Whether it’s the movies or the books or the toys, this magical world has grown far bigger than even George Lucas would’ve ever dreamed. And with the upcoming STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, we are finally finishing off a legacy that started all the way back in 1977. It was one that was first introduced in a fun little flick called STAR WARS (A NEW HOPE) that became synonymous with how magical a movie going experience could be.
With December 20th fast approaching, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is about to become one of the biggest motion pictures ever made. And yes, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac and John Boyega are returning, as well as a few fresh faces that include Keri Russell, Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant, and so much more. As well, a few of our old favorites are back to face the fury of the dark side. Anthony Daniels will be playing C-3PO for his ninth film – tears are swelling on that alone – and of course, there is more than enough left over from the early films to give the late, great Carrie Fisher a proper goodbye – okay, now I’m typing through my tears. This is a big deal. No matter how you feel about STAR WARS, it’s impossible to not feel a bit of melancholy when it comes to the amazing history behind this phenomena.
This Wednesday, we had the honor of attending the final farewell press junket for the upcoming release. The press conference, moderated by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, offered a few laughs, a few tears, and a little insight on what it’s like to say goodbye. Those in attendance included J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Keri Russell, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Joonas Suotamo, Anthony Daniels, Richard E. Grant, Billy Dee Williams, Chris Terrio and Kathleen Kennedy. While the entire press conference should be available for all to view soon, here are a few highlights as we say goodbye to Luke, Leia, Rey, Poe, Finn and all the others that have given fans, young and old, an unforgettable adventure.
Being the only other person to direct two films in the franchise – aside from George Lucas – J.J. explains the difference between the first day on RISE OF SKYWALKER, as opposed to originally bringing THE FORCE AWAKENS to life?
J.J. Abrams: The difference is that the pressure is shifted. We didn’t know at the beginning of the FORCE AWAKENS exactly what it would look like with Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac and John Boyega you know, what would that cast be like? And we had discovered first day of RISE OF SKYWALKER, we certainly knew some of those things. We knew those things were working. What we didn’t know was everything else. And this is wrapping up not one film, not three films, but nine films. So the responsibility was significant. And the movie, I mean this is a pretty big picture, the scale of the movie is pretty enormous. We knew that none of that would matter or would work if you didn’t care deeply and connect with the people. So the most important thing, people, we were good. We knew we had this incredible cast who had gone above and beyond anyone’s expectation, and they are truly spectacular
Joining the cast is Keri Russell, and she was a massive fan of her character, Zorii Bliss’ mask.
Keri Russell: J.J. called me, or emailed me, and said, do you want to be in STAR WARS? I was like, yeah, but then he told me about the idea about the mask and I was like, YEAH. Personally, I love the mask. I mean, that’s my fantasy dream sequence that I can see everyone in the super tough version of myself in this costume, and no one can see me. That’s my dream. It’s a real power play in a way because no one can really see what you’re thinking, but you can see everyone else. It was amazing. And the other thing, because we all got to see it last night. It was just… you know, I’ve known J.J. for so long and I just feel like we have a shorthand and we speak the same language in a way. And I just feel like J.J. got to finish a piece of history in a way, and it’s just, he did such a great job.
How much did she love the mask?
J.J. Keri loved the mask so much that the first two days she worked as Zorii, the entire two days I never saw her face. She could have, like most people, taken the mask off between takes every couple of hours or after the whole day. But she walked onto set in character with the mask on. Not even in character, just with the mask on. I was like, hey, want to take it off? She’s like, no. And then the next day the same thing. I got to work with Keri for a couple of days and never saw her.
What was the camaraderie like on set getting the band back together?
Kelly Marie Tran: It was really wonderful. I think that from the last film there seems to be such a bond between everyone, and then also the new guys. Everyone just feels, it sounds so cheesy and so cliche and it is, but it truly feels like everyone’s a family and we’re all just there to have fun and be part of something that’s so much bigger than us as individuals. And that’s a really cool thing to share.
Joonas Suotamo on how iconic Chewbacca has become, and paying proper tribute to Peter Mayhew.
Joonas Suotamo: I mean, for that we have to go back to 1977 or whatever, when George found Peter Mayhew to play this character that was supposed to be, you know, nobody knew what it was going to be. It’s that thing where you don’t know, going into these things, how it’s going to look. Chewbacca’s endurance has to do with Peter’s unique physicality that I sort of inherited, and I try to bring onto the screen. He created this character that moves not quite like a human, it’s very unique the way Chewbacca appears on screen. That’s what created the memorability of that character and what people, even if they haven’t seen STAR WARS, they might know what Chewbacca is. And that’s what I’m custodian of. And that’s what I’ve taken. And when Peter passed this last year, I was heartbroken. But what I’d like to think that in this film, you know, I attempted to do it justice, while working with this incredible cast. I’m really happy that we’re part of something that’s so much bigger than ourselves, but that we still get to play. I’m very grateful to be a part of this
Anthony Daniels opens up about playing this character for nine films.
Anthony Daniels: I just realized the last few months, something that I haven’t been involved with before. The questions I really don’t like is what was it like to play him, or how does it feel to be in STAR WARS? Well I’ve only just realized, after all the spinoffs and stuff, I am so close to it. And I said it’s rather like having your nose up against the planet. You can’t see how big that planet is. Now I am beginning to a have a perspective on it. And that comes from talking to fans, to people who say what STAR WARS has meant to them over the years. It’s meant something completely different to me. It’s a job. It’s kind of fun. It’s kind of a ball, but sometimes as we all know, it’s not a smooth ride. But finally I’m getting to see it almost from the other perspective of the audience.
Adam Driver on how Kylo Ren has grown since THE FORCE AWAKENS.
Adam Driver: Being called THE FORCE AWAKENS was intentional in that it was the force awakening for both sides of the light and the dark. And J.J. even in those first meetings was talking about someone who is unformed and not quintessentially in control of his faculties. He knows where he fits in, which again is helpful for me as an actor because we were figuring out the same thing and it totally echoes what’s going on in the story. You know, especially in the first one, new cast, figuring out where you fit in, you know, a legacy that spans so much time.
What was more demanding for Daisy Ridley? The physical preparation or the emotional preparation?
Daisy Ridley: With the physical stuff, you train and train and train and then the adrenaline helps you on the day to do the thing. But obviously the stuntman needs to be there to continue to do the thing. But I would say I was more tired emotionally. There really wasn’t a day where I was like, oh, it’s just a quick scene. Coming from the last one, which was quite heavy, even the joyous scenes I found very straining to do because of all the other stuff that’s going on. And it’s also tricky because understanding what J.J. was asking me. I’d be like, I know what you’re asking, I just can’t quite get there yet. So that was probably the most tricky thing and sustaining that emotion, and that’s more of a certain, I would say like a singular intention that was tiring.
Chris Terrio about what it felt like to finally finish this last chapter.
Chris Terrio: There was a moment in the process when J.J. and I we’re agonizing over something in the third act and we were in a room with Michelle Rejwan and Kathy [Kennedy] and we couldn’t seem to get it. And we went outside of the room and Rick Carter, the legendary production designer said, I think the reason you and J.J. can’t write this scene is because you don’t want STAR WARS to end. And I looked at J.J. and we knew he was right and then we had to go and write it. And then of course the movie is remade on the set, in editing, remade in scoring and remade and all kinds of ways. So we kept rediscovering the story, but I have to say it was, I think [it hit] both of us more in the moment when we typed the characters names for the last time.
J.J. discusses working Carrie Fisher into the final film.
J.J.: I, like everyone here who knew her loved Carrie. I knew her for a long time, but not very well, but I knew her for awhile before THE FORCE AWAKENS. Obviously as we discussed, the idea of continuing the story without Leia wasn’t a possibility and there was no way we were going to do a digital Leia. There was no way we were going to recast it, but we couldn’t do it without her. And when we went back to look at the scenes that we hadn’t used in THE FORCE AWAKENS, what we realized is we had an opportunity and we could use that footage. We could use the lines she was saying.
We knew that we had the opportunity to use the footage to create scenes that Leia would be in. Of course… it’s still impossible for me to believe that, you know, she isn’t [around] because we were editing with her for about a year. She’s been very much alive with us in every scene. And it ended up being set up. If we had Carrie around and you’ve done some different things here and there, of course we would have. But we had an opportunity to have Carrie in the movie, working with all the actors, including Billie Lourd, her daughter who’s in scenes with her. We were able to, I think do something that Carrie herself, I’d like to think would be happy with. She’s great in the movie of course. And it’s still emotional and moving to think of a her and how sad we all are that she’s not sitting here with us today.
Are you ready for STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER? This coming December 20th, this story that began decades ago will finally present it’s last chapter to audiences everywhere.