A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Ok, it wasn’t that long ago, but on December 3rd the stars of Star Wars descended upon Los Angeles to attend the press conference for the 8th episode in the Star Wars saga, THE LAST JEDI. The 40 plus minute panel was hosted by Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican.
To talk as much as they could and to answer questions were the film’s stars Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domnhall Gleeson (General Hux), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Laura Dern (Admiral Holdo), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), and the only original Star Wars veteran, Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. Also present was THE LAST JEDI’s writer and director, Rian Johnson. Click below to listen to the entire audio from the event. Keep reading for a few choice quotes.
Right away, Rian Johnson established that this film was going to be darker than THE FORCE AWAKENS, much like THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK which was also the second episode of a trilogy.
Rian Johnson: 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, you know, 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.
After the initial film sets up the tone, story and characters the sequel can delve right into the deeper story. Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) continued with how the story is very challenging to the characters.
Oscar Isaac: 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. 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.
SInce Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, each film has had a growing number of female characters. This certainly means a lot to little girls. What does this mean to the cast? Daisy Ridley jumped in as the first female to lead a Star Wars film in THE FORCE AWAKENS.
Daisy Ridley: 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 know it was a big deal, but the response was so beyond anything I could have imagined. 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 (Kennedy), J.J. (Abrams), Michael (Arndt), Larry (Kasdan), 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.
Newcomer Kelly Marie Tran, who plays the first major female Asian character in a Star Wars film, continues Daisy’s line of thinking.
Kelly Marie Tran: 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 guys, 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 takes it up a level when talking about her character Amilyn Holdo, who was first introduced in the novel ‘Leia, Princess of Alderaan’.
Laura Dern: In the case of the look of my character, I was moved by the fact that he (Rian Johnson) 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, who plays the only female villain in THE FORCE AWAKENS and now THE LAST JEDI also weighs in.
Gwendoline Christie: 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.
Hot-shot fly boy, Oscar Isaac, talks about having strong women in his life.
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.
Andy Serkis, who plays the top-tier villain in Supreme Leader Snoke jokingly added, “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!”
Anthony Breznican brought the female character discussion around to Carrie Fisher who “isn’t here with us today except probably in spirit, giving everyone the finger from back there.” He then asked the cast of actresses about Leia’s impact on a generation of young girls.
Gwendoline Christie: 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.
Kelly Marie Tran: 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 you she was so unapologetic and so openly herself and that is something that I am really trying to do, and it’s hard. 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.
Although the Star Wars films have always had strong leading females from Princess Leia to Queen Amidala, STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI takes its heroines to a whole new level. But above all, males as well as females will connect with all of them. But like they all said at one point or another, in the bigger picture it’s just about strong characters fitting into broader categories.
Star Wars: THE LAST JEDI opens Friday December 15, 2017. I’ll be watching!