‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…' Okay maybe not so long ago and not so far away, I had the opportunity to attend the Star Wars: The Last Jedi press conference. I know. Right! Color me ecstatic! From the good guys and the bad guys, we learn more about what Star Wars: The Last Jedi meant to them, the differences and distinguishes between The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens, and the affects Han's death in The Force Awakens had on the cast and characters of The Last Jedi. And of course, there's Leia. I dare you not to cry the first time you see Leia on-screen, or as you read what the girls of The Last Jedi, Daisy, Kelly Marie, Lauren, and Gwendoline, share about the impact that Princess Leia had on them as young girls growing up watching the Star Wars films.
Cast: Rian Johnson, the writer/director of The Last Jedi; Mark Hamill, you know him as Luke Skywalker; Daisy Ridley, AKA Rey; Adam Driver, Kylo Ren; Oscar Isaac, Poe Dameron; John Boyega, Finn; Kelly Marie Tran, the new character, Rose Tico; Laura Dern who plays Admiral Holdo; Domhnall Gleeson, General Hux; Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma; and Andy Serkis.
What did we think of Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Read our Rave Reviews Dominate Star Wars: The Last Jedi Reactions.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in theaters December 15. Get your tickets now: http://www.fandango.com/lastjedi
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Press Conference
Q: This is a sequel to The Force Awakens but it’s also Episode 7 in a series. So Rian, what would you say differentiates The Last Jedi from The Force Awakens, but also the Empire Strikes Back as the second chapter in a trilogy?
Rian Johnson: It’s a second movie in the trilogy and I think we’ve been kind of trained to expect it’ll be a little darker and obviously it looks a little darker. The thing is though, for me, I loved the tone of the original films and also that J.J. captured in The Force Awakens of fun, it’s a Star Wars movie, first and foremost we were trying to make it feel like a Star Wars movie. That means you have the intensity and you’ve got the opera, but it also means that it makes you come out of the theater wanting to run in your backyard, grab your spaceship toys and make them fly around. That’s a key ingredient to it. We’re going to go to some intense places in the movie but I hope also it’s fun, it’s funny. I don’t know, you’ve seen it.
Q: For the cast in The Force Awakens, how would you say this film feels different from The Force Awakens? What sets it apart from that film?
John Boyega: I just think the story’s moving forward. I just feel like J.J. had a blueprint, a foundation of Force Awakens that was pretty good and now it’s about moving forward with the story and just challenging the characters. All the characters are under intense pressure, so it’s a time which everyone has their own specific reckoning. It’s like a lot going on. I’ve only watched it once and the first thing is that I want to watch it again because of the amount of information and Easter eggs in there as well.
Oscar Isaac: Often with the second chapter in a story of three, because the first one kind of sets the tone and the world and the new characters, introduced them, in the second one you don’t have to spend so much time doing that, you can really just delve into the story, into what’s happening. Like John said, to the conflict of each of the characters. I think what Rian’s done so incredibly well is that he’s challenged deeply every single character, including the droids, with like the biggest challenges they’ve ever faced, and that’s how you’re able to really get to learn about them, on all sides of the spectrum, from light to dark. It’s like he’s found a way to get to the central point of that character and try to challenge them as best as he can. I think it’s really amazing what he’s done.
Daisy Ridley: The biggest thing for me when I read the script, because, even though you’re trying to avoid what people are saying, it’s hard to, and because people responded well to John and me as a team, I was a bit nervous about not being a team so much in this one. I think for me personally that was a challenge. The film was a challenge and I don’t know what it was like for anyone else, but to be in different combinations of people. We’re in different situations, we’re with different people that we are learning about, we’re meeting for the first time, that felt pretty different for me.
Q: Let’s hear from the bad guys. The bad kids always sit in the back at the party. Domhnall, Gwendoline, Andy, any thoughts on just the tone and how this movie distinguishes itself among all the different Star Wars films?
Andy Serkis: I was blown away when I saw the movie. I just was so caught up with it because it was really intimate and very emotional and I wasn’t expecting that at all. I knew obviously that it was going to go that way, but it was very, very powerful and it touches you, and what Rian’s done incredibly is make this dance between this great kind of epic moments and hilarious antics, literally flipping on a dime and then going right into the heart of these beautiful characters, and it gets you really caring. It was just an extraordinary viewing.
Gwendoline Christie: 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 with us all so deeply is that it’s our foundation story of good against evil, and where that balance is, and how we see elements of characters we’ve never seen before, things that can be unexpected. But there is something about this film and I think it’s because the world that we live in is a changing and evolving place, 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, and I love that, and it’s done so beautifully aesthetically too.
Q: Kelly and Laura, I know you’re there to do a job and be professional but is there any part of you that geeks out a little bit when you start working on a Star Wars film?
Kelly Marie Tran: Every part. I’m trying not to cry right now because this is 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 kind of block everything out, but then C-3PO comes up and you’re like oh, my, god. So you’re constantly figuring out how can I figure out how to work in this environment, but also this is awesome. So it’s kind of a balance, right?
Lauren Dern: Rian, as well as Andy, was describing the intimacy of discovering each character’s conflict, which is just extraordinary, given the enormity of the cast, that he gave us that in the experience of the workplace. It was shocking. 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. Rian was always encouraging us to try things and explore character, and explore this duality of the light and the dark within characters, the movie speaks to so beautifully, not just that there are alternative universes but that which lies within, which seems to be the place that George Lucas first started the mythology of that, and it’s just so brilliant.
Q: Domhnall and Adam about your two characters, Hux and Kylo Ren, had a really interesting relationship in The Force Awakens that I understand is expanded on in this movie, where Snoke sort of plays them against each other, they’re allies but not really. I wondered if you two could talk about their bond or lack thereof, as we enter this film.
Adam Driver: I think it’s definitely there’s a competition and it’s maybe yet to be discovered where that comes from. If anything I think that’s more of a testament of what everyone has been saying of Rian’s inability to not mind a character in every moment, which seems like an obvious thing, but he doesn’t so he knows that spectacle, it won’t mean anything if you don’t care about anything that’s going on, which again, seems very obvious but I think it’s a really hard thing to balance with this many moving parts in the scale of something like this. I love playing those scenes, especially with Domhnall, because he’s a great actor and there’s nothing taken for granted where this happens and it moves on. If anything, Rian slows the pace and there’s not a moment that’s taken for granted. It’s always broken up into little pieces and the story in our mind comes first before an explosion.
Domhnall Gleeson: There’s just such a huge amount of drama going on in that group of people but then also just a huge amount of bitchy infighting as well, which I think is really fun to see them really hurt each other from the inside as well as from the outside, the united front thing is difficult for them sometimes.
Q: Obviously the death of Han Solo is a huge moment in The Force Awakens, and I’m wondering how impactful is that, without spoiling anything, to the characters who knew him in the last movie and the previous films?
John Boyega: I think we’re just keeping it moving, to be honest with you. It’s true, the pressure’s on man, there’s no time. I think that’s the one thing that’s unique to me about watching this movie was just the commentary on war. There hasn’t been a Star Wars movie yet that has explored war in the way The Last Jedi does. It’s very messy, the categorizing of good and evil is all mixed together. In terms of Han, there’s no, I’m sure we all feel sentimental if someone was to sit Finn down or sit Rey down, but Rey’s off training, she’s got stuff to do. I’ve got back injury, I’ve got stuff to do. I can’t think about Han at the moment. He died.
Oscar Isaac: I think it’s reverberating but he’s right. It’s a dire situation, it’s critical. The resistance is on its last legs. They’re trying to survive. First Order’s right on top of us. It is like war, where you go to just keep moving to try to survive, and you feel I think the momentum of everything that happened in The Force Awakens just pushing and getting to a critical mass in this film.
Daisy Ridley: I think this is the beauty of having storylines that are sort of happening in tandem and affecting each other because I would say that Rey at least is very much affected by it. What did I say? What did I do? Rey, as a character has been alone for a really long time and she’s really open to love and friendship. Finn and BB-8 come along and it’s this amazing adventure. Then Han, without trying to, she seeks something from him because there’s an intimacy and there’s a figure of something she’s never dreamed of for her, and that gets snatched away. For Rey, at least, there is some time.
Everything’s moving forward but she has some time to ask questions and wonder what it is that would have led someone to do something like that, and also how that directly affects the world around her. She’s worried about Finn at home, so I would say she’s maybe a little more affected, at least emotionally on-screen than the others.
Q: For a long time when I was growing up there was really only one character, and that was Princess Leia and now General Leia, and of course Carrie Fisher isn’t here with us today except probably in spirit, giving everyone the finger from back there. But I wanted to ask the women in this film about the impact that Princess Leia had on generations of young girls who were watching these movies, even though there wasn’t a whole lot of variety for them. I think this is a character that spoke to them and Gwendonline speaking as one of the idols of the bad girls, as Captain Phasma, what role did Leia play in your life as a young Star Wars fan?
Gwendoline Christie: She was very significant because I was first shown A New Hope when I was six, and I remember thinking, wow, that character’s really different. I watched TV and film obsessively from such a young age but it stayed with me throughout my formative years, for she’s really interesting, she’s really smart, she’s really funny, she’s courageous, she’s bold, 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. That was really instrumental to me as someone who didn’t feel like they fitted that homogenized view of what a woman was supposed to be, that there was inspiration there, that you could be an individual and celebrate yourself and be successful without giving yourself over, without necessarily making some sort of terrible, huge compromise. It was a big inspiration for 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 elements of the costume, and here we were seeing character whereby a woman wasn’t – her femininity was not delineated in terms of the shape of her body, in terms of her physical attractiveness. Those elements, that weird random group of elements which we’re born with in some kind of odd lottery and then we’re judged on in society. I was just delighted to be able to have that opportunity.
Laura Dern: Endless thoughts and also a profound impact that she made on me as a girl, and spoken so beautifully by Gwen, so I’ll just speak to this present experience, to say that as we always had with 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 who would hold those descriptions, but not that they would be without shame, and 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 Carrie, who she was so directly and to be without shame, and to share her story, and to expect nothing less from any of us. 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 subservience and they had this dance that gives us this performance that I was just so moved by.
Daisy Ridley: I don’t think I can really follow that, except to say Carrie’s daughter Billie is all of those qualities. She’s smart and funny and shameless. I think Carrie bringing up a daughter obviously with Brian, bringing up a daughter who is all of those qualities and then some, in this world, if that’s what she did, you know, just her being her, I think it speaks volumes to what she did as her in the spotlight and also her as Leia.
Kelly Marie Tran: I agree with everything that was said. I think that something about Carrie that I really look up to is, 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 or when possibly a lot of people will be looking at you. She was so unapologetic and so openly herself and that is something that I am really trying to do, and it’s hard. Just like Daisy said, like Laura said, like Gwendoline said, I think that she will always be an icon as Leia but also as Carrie. What an example, you know? I am so fortunate to have met her and I think that she will really live on forever.
Portions of the material for the Star Wars: The Last Jedi press conference have been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.