In a galaxy not so far away, members of the press were invited to sit down and partake in a group conversation with the cast & creative talent behind “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
By Jake Goldberg
The film will not only conclude the sequel trilogy, but it also serves as the epic conclusion of the Skywalker saga.
The panel was moderated by director Ava DuVernay, (Disney’s “A Wrinkle In Time”) who was charged with energy after seeing the film, and had nothing but praise to share about it.
“It’s a finale of this whole thing! It’s so beautifully done. The dialogue, the act breaks, the art of the script is just an epic feat,” she said. “No one else wants to do [this], so I’m glad you all did it. It’s fantastic!”
DuVernay was not only joined by the leading ensemble of the “Star Wars” franchise, but also by the cast of new characters as well. Keri Russell is among those new faces, portraying a mysterious masked character Zorii Bliss.
When asked about playing a character who is always behind a mask, Russell said, “I love the mask. It’s a real power play because no one can see what you’re thinking, but you can see everyone else.”
Naomi Ackie will also be joining the cast as freedom fighter Jannah.
“Working with J.J. [Abrams] and figuring out like the balance between the strength of the character, but also [with] a vulnerable side,” said Ackie about her role. “You know someone with a heart. So you don’t always have to be strong and fit, but you can also use vulnerability as a strength at the same time.”
Ackie quickly changed the topic to discuss her thoughts after finally seeing “The Rise of Skywalker” earlier this week. Ackie said, “I’m not being funny. I left it and my heart was beating so hard. It is the most visually beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It makes you feel like a child.”
While we were beginning to become acquainted with new heroes, the panel quickly touched base with some familiar faces. Anthony Daniels, the man who brought C-3PO to life, discussed the unique experience of having a role in every Star Wars film thus far.
“I only just realized that because I’ve been in all of them, and all the spinoffs and stuff […] I’m beginning to get a perspective on it. That comes from talking with fans, to people who say what Star Wars meant to them,” he said. “But I’m finally getting to see if from the other perspective, and that’s the perspective of the audience.”
Daisy Ridley shared thoughts on her character’s journey and elaborated on the physical and emotional commitment her character has carried over the trilogy.
“Coming from the last one which was quite heavy, even the joyous scenes I found quite strange to do. And then obviously there is a lot of other stuff that is going on,” said Ridley. “Sustaining that emotion, and there is a certain – I would say a singular intention that was tiring. Even in the emotional scenes, there is physical containment that is tiring.”
Through the years, the “Star Wars” films have continued to strike a chord and communicate emotionally charged messages to fans. This includes director J.J. Abrams, who shared what “Star Wars” meant to him and what he hopes to communicate with fans:
“The truth is, there is the movie that you know you are presenting to the world, and then there is this thing that you’re doing […] not necessarily secretly, but 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, it was about the underdog.”
Abrams shared his perspective on how he believes “Star Wars” is about bringing people together and seeing unlikely friends becoming family. Abrams later added, “It really is about hope and it’s about coming back to the sense of possibility. It’s about unity, and if ‘Star Wars’ can’t do that for us, I don’t know what can.”
Abrams was later asked about how the creative team handled the daunting task of including the late Carrie Fisher into “The Rise of Skywalker.” Abrams shared, “The idea of continuing the story without Leia wasn’t a possibility.”
Lucasfilm had utilized CGI to replace a deceased actor once before, in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” with Peter Cushing. However, Abrams was quick to note that this was never going to be an option:
“There was no way we were gonna do a digital Leia, there was no way we were ever going to recast it. But we couldn’t do it without her, and when we went back to look at the scenes we hadn’t used in ‘The Force Awakens,’ what we realized is that we had an opportunity.”
As Abrams began to discuss the lighting of Fisher’s scenes, the lights in the ballroom suspiciously flicked off. He quickly joked that this was the work of Fisher from somewhere beyond proclaiming, “That was creepy. Hi Carrie! That’s so Carrie, by the way, to do that.”
Fisher was not the only tragic passing to hit the Star Wars universe, as actor Joonas Suotamo discussed taking over the role of Chewbacca for the late Peter Mayhew:
“I think Chebacca’s endurance has to do with the fact with Peter’s unique physicality that I sort of inherited, and I try to bring on-screen. When Peter [Mayhew] passed this last year, I was heartbroken. But I like to think that in this film, I attempt to do him justice while working with this incredible cast. I’m really happy that we are a part of something that is so much bigger than ourselves.”
“Star Wars: A New Hope” hit theaters in 1977, and the Skywalker saga has since seen eight feature film installments. Closing a 42-year-old adventure is no easy task, and screenwriter Chris Terrio shared his grievances in regards to ending the series.
“There was a moment in the process where J.J. and I were agonizing over what to do in the third act […] and we couldn’t seem to get it,” said Terrio. “And then 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.'”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” hits theaters on Dec. 20. You can check out the trailer below: