It’s been mor than three months since Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released and since then, the eighth installment of the iconic sci-fi franchise has been in the frontal lobe of pop culture. The intergalactic space opera continued at SXSW with the premiere of the Anthony Wonke-directed documentary The Director and the Jedi, which follows Last Jedi helmer Rian Johnson and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the blockbuster.
Johnson took the stage to talk about his journey to Star Wars at a featured session — which included a guest appearance from Mark Hamill. And it just so happened that the portrayal of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi that polarized fans was the hot topic of the conversation.
Moderated by Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson, Johnson came out on stage — with trusty camera in hand — to a roar of applause as they talked about his work from Brick to Breaking Bad. But it wasn’t too long before the conversation turned to Star Wars — specifically Skywalker. After The Last Jedi was released and showed Luke’s fate, hardcore fanboys, fangirls and seasoned skeptics took to Twitter, Reddit and the multitude of social media platforms to argue their stance on the much “darker” storyline for the iconic Jedi. Johnson stands by the story arc he created for Luke — and with good reason.
“If you look at the hero’s journey, it goes into darker places,” Johnson said in referencing the classic tales of King Arthur and Beowulf and where they eventually go after their story is established.
“Myths are not made to sell action figures,” he continued. “Myths are meant to help us understand the most difficult transitions in life.”
He said the story is honest because it has to be honest. “To take him seriously, you have to take him into that realm,” he said. “It felt right to me.”
Halfway through the panel, Hamill stepped out onstage to surprise the audience (though it was expected he’d show up considering he was at the documentary’s premiere earlier in the morning). After some pleasantries, he chimed in on the “new” Luke in the latest installment of the franchise. Shortly after The Last Jedi was released, Hamill shared his criticisms of the portrayal of Luke in a series interviews, saying that it wasn’t his vision of the character. It wasn’t too long before social media spread his words like wildfire. He since has clarified his stance on Luke, saying he regrets what he said. He took the opportunity to reiterate this while sitting next to Johnson. “I wish I hadn’t expressed my insecurities publicly,” he said.
Hamill’s criticisms seemed to be cathartic for him because he wanted to be “completely honest with Rian.” He added, “I wanted to get it off my chest and throw it all away.” He said that he is of the “old school” George Lucas era and is glad that he is able to help open the doors to the new generation of Star Wars characters including Rey, Poe, and Finn.
With all the reboots, reimaginings and redos happening in Hollywood, Hamill joked that “reunions are inherently disappointing.” At first, they seem exciting, but as he pointed out, “Once you see them on TV, it’s not such a great idea anymore.”
The new batch of Star Wars trilogy is bringing something new to the table and Hamill recognizes that — especially with Luke. While filming The Last Jedi, he talked to Johnson about Luke and the direction he was headed. Having an attachment to the character, Hamill obviously had his apprehensions. Johnson told him “they can’t always give the audience what they expect and what they want” but they “can give them something they don’t expect and what we want.” Hamill admitted, “He’s always right.”