A couple weeks ago I attended a press event with the director and cast of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which was a total dream come true for me! Being in the same room as Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, and the rest of this talented ensemble was a little surreal. Not to mention Poe Dameron himself, Oscar Issac, totally looked at me. I’m not kidding! Check this out:
Like, geez Poe Dameron, why are you so obsessed with me??
*ahem* Anyway, this was an interesting press event since none of us had seen the movie yet, but it was still fascinating to hear the cast and director Rian Johnson talk about the Star Wars franchise and its influence on them. It was also fun to hear from the new additions to the cast and what it’s like to join such an iconic film series when you’re already a big fan!
Included in the interviews are Mark Hamill (“Luke Skywalker”), Daisy Ridley (“Rey”), John Boyega (“Finn”), Oscar Isaac (“Poe Dameron”), Adam Driver (“Kylo Ren”), Gwendoline Christie (“Captain Phasma”), Domhnall Gleeson (“General Hux”), Andy Serkis (“Supreme Leader Snoke”), Laura Dern (“Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo”), Kelly Marie Tran (“Rose Tico”), Director Rian Johnson.
Interviews With the Cast of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
HOW IS THE LAST JEDI DIFFERENT FROM THE FORCE AWAKENS?
RIAN JOHNSON: Well, 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 and 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, and that’s like, to me, it’s a Star Wars movie, you know, first and foremost we were trying to make it feel like a Star Wars movie. And 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, and that’s a key ingredient to it. So we’re going to go to some intense places in the movie but I hope also it’s fun, it’s funny.
JOHN BOYEGA: I just think the story’s moving forward. I just feel like J.J. had a blueprint, a foundation of The Force Awakens that was pretty good and now it’s about moving forward with the story and just challenging the characters, and then all the characters are under intense pressure, and so it’s a time which everyone has their own specific reckoning, and it’s all different. 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: Yeah, I think the thing as well is that 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, you know, 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. You know, 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: I mean, the biggest thing for me when I read the script, because you know, even though you’re trying to avoid what people are saying it’s hard to, and because people responded well to John and I as a team, I was a bit 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 and I don’t know what it was like for anyone else, but to be in different combinations of people. So in itself, we’re in different situations, we’re with different people that we are learning about, we’re meeting for the first time, so yeah, felt pretty different for me.
FOR THE NEWCOMERS, WHAT WAS IT LIKE JOINING THE STAR WARS UNIVERSE?
KELLY MARIE TAN: I’m trying not to cry right now ‘cause this is so weird and different. Yeah, 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 and then you’re like, but also this is awesome. So it’s kind of a balance, right?
LAURA DERN: And just to add to that, what Rian … does so beautifully as well … 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, and it was shocking, and Oscar and I always talked about just how stunned we were that we were in such a massive environment and did feel like we were making a indie movie and [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 lies within, which seems to be the place that George Lucas first started the mythology of that, and it’s just so brilliant. And a group of us sitting together watching it for the first time was amazing ‘cause it was like we were with 3,000 people. We were screaming, standing up, crying.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO STEP BACK INTO THE ROLE OF LUKE SKYWALKER?
MARK HAMILL: I have to be really careful. People say, was it difficult to pick up and wield a light saber again, and I go, do I pick up a light saber? It’s difficult acting in this movie. Am I in this movie? I can promise you my part is twice as big as it was in The Force Awakens. [LAUGHTER]
WHAT’S UP WITH THE KYLO AND HUX RIVALRY?
ADAM DRIVER: I think 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 to kind 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. So I love playing those scenes, especially with Domhnall, ‘cause he’s a great actor and there’s nothing taken for granted where, you know, 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: I think it’s funny, you know, like there’s just such a huge amount of drama going on in that group of people but then also a huge amount of bitchy infighting as well, which I think is really fun to see them kind of really hurt each other from the inside as well as from the outside, you know, the united front thing is difficult for them sometimes.
WAS THE DIRECTOR INSPIRED BY THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK AT ALL?
RIAN JOHNSON: My cinematographer Steve Yedlin who I’ve been best friends with since I was 18 years old, we met in film school, and so to be standing next to each other on the Star Wars set was pretty surreal. But I mean, I think Empire is just the most beautiful – I mean all the films are beautiful – I think for my just tastes, I think the cinematography in Empire is the most gorgeous of the whole series. And so Steve and I looked at the lighting in that, it’s also kind of the most – it’s pretty daring in terms of how dark they were willing to go with some of it – literally dark, and how gorgeous they went with some of the choices they made with the shaping of the lighting. But then in terms of an actual visual aesthetic I made a choice very early on that I thought, well, I can either try and kind of copy my idea of what the original movies did, which was much more of kind of a formal, the camera didn’t move a ton and it was a much more formal type visual aesthetic, or I realized, we’re going to take visual cues lighting wise and design wise from the previous movies, but I need to just shoot this movie the way that I would shoot a movie, because at the end of the day, if I’m not engaged with it, and I’m not trying to tell the story the way that really makes me excited, then it’s not going to be up here on the screen. So I kind of cut myself loose camera movement wise and shot wise from trying to imitate the past and just try to tell the story as excitingly as I could up on the screen.
WHY DO YOU THINK STAR WARS HAS RESONATED WITH SO MANY PEOPLE FOR SO LONG?
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, 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, and I love that, and it’s done so beautifully aesthetically too.
RIAN JOHNSON: I think these movies to some extent are always about, to really boil it down, you know, if you look back at Lucas kind of, famously drawing from The Hero’s Journey myth that Joseph Campbell wrote about, and the hero’s journey is not about becoming a hero, it’s not about becoming Hercules, it’s about really adolescents, it’s about the transition from childhood into adulthood, and finding your place in the world, and you have these new powers that you’re feeling inside yourself for the first time, you don’t know what to do with them, you don’t know who it is you’re going to get help from, who’s going to be unreliable, who’s not. Navigating those very tricky waters that we all have to navigate, that’s why it’s so universal. So part of that is, you know, your relationship to heroes and people you thought were your heroes, people you don’t expect to become your heroes. And that’s definitely something that plays out in this film.
ON STRONG FEMALE ROLE MODELS IN THE STAR WARS UNIVERSE
DAISY RIDLEY: I think like as a girl growing up in London, obviously I knew there was a disparity in films but I wasn’t so aware of it, like growing up in a liberal household. I was never really made to feel any one way. So when I got involved I didn’t really – like, I knew it was a big deal, but the response was so beyond anything I could have imagined, that I’m still like – it was only afterwards I was like, oh, oh yeah. And it’s not like I ever took it for granted or anything but it was just so monumental, the response and how people felt about it, and obviously that’s a testament to Kathy, J.J., Michael, Larry, everyone who created the characters in the beginning, and I think what’s great about everyone is it’s not like “she’s a girl, this is a guy,” this is anything, everyone’s just, it’s just great characters that happily are falling into broader categories now, so I’m thrilled.
KELLY MARIE TRAN: Yeah, I agree. I think that it feels like both an honor and a responsibility at the same time. I feel like from the beginning when I initially found out I got this role, I just felt like I wanted to do the whole thing justice, and I’m so excited that the girls in this movie kick some butt. Every single one is so good, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
LAURA DERN: I just want to pay tribute to Rian for being one of the most brilliantly subversive filmmakers I’ve ever been able to bear witness to, and in the case of the look of my character, I was moved by the fact that he really wanted her strength to first lead with a very deep femininity and to see a powerful female character also be feminine is something that moves away from a stereotype that’s sometimes perceived in strong female characters must be like the boys. I thought that was a really interesting choice to get to witness.
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: I was so delighted. I wasn’t cast in the first Star Wars film yet when I heard about the casting, and I was utterly delighted to see that there was a more representative selection of actors that were going to be in these incredible Star Wars films, and that has continued. And you know, everything that my amazing colleagues say is absolutely right. You get to see women that are not being strong just because they’re acting like men. They’re doing something else. And also you’re seeing a developed character or at least a developing character, that’s showing some complex character traits. And I’m just delighted about that. I’m delighted that something as legendary as Star Wars has decided to be modern and to reflect our society more as it is.
OSCAR ISAAC: As a guy I’d like to say that for me the most formative people in my life have been women. And so that has shaped my destiny so much and so to see that reflected in the film is really, really a beautiful thing, and it does, it is more true to real life and what’s happening now, but what’s always happened which is, you know, they’re the ones, you know, that shape you. [Editor’s note – *swoon*]
ANDY SERKIS: Well, speaking as the leader of the First Order, I would say that Snoke is very unimpressed with the fact that there is such a huge female force that seems to be growing in the universe. Its deeply threatening, it’s deeply undermining, it’s got to be stopped! [LAUGHTER]
HOW DID PRINCESS LEIA, AND CARRIE FISHER, INFLUENCE YOUR LIFE?
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: Well, 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, of “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.” And 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 to me as someone that 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. So it was a big inspiration for me. And you know, 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 element 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. And I was just delighted to be able to have that opportunity.
LAURA DERN: Well, 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, and 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, 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. 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 subservice 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 just say Carrie’s daughter Billie is I think all of those qualities. She’s smart and funny and shameless and –
MALE SPEAKER: Always late.
DAISY RIDLEY: – and wonderful.
DAISY RIDLEY: And 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, 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, and she was so unapologetic and so openly herself and that is something that I am really trying to do, and it’s hard. And 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? And I am so fortunate to have met her and I think that she will really live on forever.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in theatres everywhere December 15th!