We were lucky enough to attend the official press conference for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker this week; the last time there will ever be such an event for a chapter in the iconic Skywalker Saga! It was a very bittersweet experience knowing that despite everything, this is literally the end of a legacy over 40 years in the making. The only people who have seen the film thus far are crew within Lucasfilm and the main cast themselves. This will all change in less than two weeks.
In typical Star Wars fashion, the conference managed to allude almost every fan’s dying questions. What is the deal with the Emperor? Do we get a definitive final answer to Rey’s origins? How many leads can we expect to bite the dust? These looming questions were not even discussed once, however, that does not mean that other insights refused to surface. TROS could not be a more fitting cinematic event to close out the decade. Get your preparation going for this monumental experience by reading up on the five biggest takeaways from the press conference. These insights are guaranteed to help mold your feelings and thoughts going into the film.
1. Why Bring Back J.J. Abrams?
Originally, Jurrasic World director Collin Trevorrow was tapped to direct the final installment in this series. The director had been attached to the project as early as 2015. After the tragic and untimely passing of Carrie Fisher in 2016, whatever plans Trevorrow and Lucasfilm had for Episode IX had to be almost scrapped. The production on Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi was too deep to not be affected by Fisher’s passing on a technical level. Trevorrow soon parted ways with Lucasfilm when they could not come to terms with finishing the saga.
The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams was soon brought in and almost completely reworked the entire film. He recruited Argo writer Chris Terrio to co-write the script, and thus came TROS. It should be noted that not all of Trevorrow’s ideas were removed for he is still receiving a story credit on the final cut. Out of all the possible candidates for a new Star Wars director, why bring back Abrams? Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy responded with the following when asked:
“The one thing I know about Star Wars and the one thing I know about these kind of tentpole movies is this unique combination of needing dramatic storytelling, gravitas, and a great sense of humor. I think that there are few filmmakers that really embody those things and also have the capability to really mange something this huge and J.J. was my first choice.”
Choosing to bring back someone who already knows how to steer the ship and produce great results is fair given the terrible circumstances of the change of tide. Abrams had also worked with Fisher in TFA, so him being the one to reintroduce Leia and write her last appearance carries a great sentiment. This was perhaps the biggest thread to tie, and Kennedy could not trust anyone else to do it at this time but Abrams. Abrams is also the only person to direct more than one Star Wars movie besides George Lucas himself. Perhaps he will use what he learned on TFA to his advantage?
2. Billy Dee Williams Did Little Preparation for His Return
For years, many fans were dying to know if they were ever going to see Billy Dee Williams return as Lando Calrissian. The iconic character who played a huge role in the original trilogy finally makes a comeback in TROS. His absence so far has yet to be explained, but that did not stop Williams from projecting how happy he is to be back.
When asked if he did any research on returning as Lando like watching the original trilogy he simply replied with: “No.” When asked if he just jumped back into the role seamlessly, he simply replied with: “Yeah.” Spoken like a true legend. Williams continued on to say that he never thought he would return to the series and it was something he already kind of “wrote off” at one point. It was the opportunity to work with someone like Abrams that convinced him to return. Interestingly enough, he says that Abrams was the one to call him and meet him for this comeback. This somewhat implies that Lando was absent from Trevorrow’s original version of Episode IX. More light should be shed on this subject post TROS release. You can see Williams’ full humble response to returning as Lando in our video below:
3. Hidden Faces
Longtime Abrams collaborator, Keri Russell, makes her way into the series as a brand new character. Thus far, not much is known about scoundrel Zorri Bliss but her being neutral in the war between the Resistance and First Order, and having a history with Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron. Abrams bringing an alum from his career with this much attention must mean that she plays an integral role in the film. What everyone can agree on so far is that she has one of the coolest new costumes. It is this very costume that came to attention during the conference.
Abrams spoke about how for the first few days of shooting Russell, he did not get to see Russell’s face behind the mask at all. She was so excited about the role that she walked on set with the whole costume on and was almost seen wearing it at all times. Abrams himself admitted that it got very weird and he would have to ask her to take it off (she refused). Russell admitted that the role and costume felt like a major “power play” considering no one can see what she is really thinking and feeling. Considering Abrams said he got to work with Russell for a few days without ever seeing Russell, it would be fair to assume that we never get to see her face in the film. Abrams’ and Russell’s construction of the character harkens back to the likes of Boba Fett from the original trilogy. It is cool to see the sequel trilogy get its own version of this type of character and have it be a woman no less!
4. Unsolved Problem in the Third Act
This insight will probably have the biggest payoff after watching TROS. Abrams and co-writer Terrio admitted that writing the final film in the Skywalker saga was no easy task. This was especially tedious when trying to wrap everything up in the third act. Abrams and Terrio said that they mourned the moment they typed the character’s name for the last time in the script. Despite this heartache, they truly realized that they were at the finish line when solving a pivotal moment in the finale.
There was a moment of great antagonization between the writers in the third act. For some reason, after each rewrite and retooling, they just could not get it to a point to their satisfaction. It was not until they both finally decided to reach out to voices outside of the writing room where they got an answer. Legendary Oscar-winning production designer Rick Carter returned with Abrams from TFA to work on this film. He solved the writers’ dilemma with some simple advice given to Terrio. “I think the reason you and J.J. can’t write this scene is because you don’t want Star Wars to end.”
When the two writers came to this realization, they went back with heavy hands and typed what they did not think was possible – an ending. This further cements the idea that this really is going to be the end of the saga. Many think Lucasfilm will dab into episodes X, XI, and XII in the future given the huge potential of profit. TROS is making the case that this is not true. Abrams and Terrio are officially calling it the end, and many other talents involved are echoing the same. It should be fun to guess what this exact crucial scene might be after watching the film. The reveal from Abrams and Terrio should also come soon after.
5. This is Bigger Than Any of Us
The most widespread belief shared by the entire cast and crew of the film was that this film is bigger than all of them combined. Star Wars does not belong to any group in particular – it belongs to the people. To see such thought proclaimed on stage by a diverse group of role models was inspiring. Each one grateful to be a part of such a massive bookend in pop culture. However, Abrams himself gave a heavy final word.
George Lucas always meant these films to be more than just a spectacle. He wanted to get personal and relevant messages across through a unique channel. When asked what message he wanted to invoke with this film, just exactly what he wants to personally say within TROS, Abrams responded with the following:
“The truth is that there is the movie that you know that you’re presenting to the world and then there is the thing that you’re doing meaningfully. We live in a crazy world. We live in a crazy time and Star Wars for me was about hope. It was about community, the underdog, and bringing people together. Seeing all oddballs represented, the most unlikely of friends, the most unlikely of places, and the family that you make really being your family. The thing that mattered to me the most, more than all the spectacle… were the characters. It really is about hope and coming back to a sense of possibility and unity, If Star Wars can’t do that for us then I don’t know what can.”
Regardless of what you take away from his words- one thing is for sure: TROS will truly be unlike any Star Wars film thus far. Get your marathons and recaps going because the release date is just around the corner.
What did you get out of this list? Let us know on our social media channels and get ready because TROS rolls into theaters on December 20th!
Check out more pictures from the Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker press conference below: