Writethru after 8AM live post: Director Rian Johnson and Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy showed up at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando today with Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, BB-8 and actress Kelly Marie Tran in tow to drop a teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and tease whatever bits they could for the crowd.
Johnson told the audience at the onset that he’s officially in postproduction on Last Jedi, which Disney will release December 15.
The panel was hosted by Beauty and the Beast’s Josh Gad, and he did what any Star Wars fan would do: hammer away at the talent about vital questions. “Are you and Luke related by blood?” Ridley gave a slight shake of the head. “Are you a Skywalker? Is your name Rey Skywalker,” Gad asked to the actress’ big grins. “Are you Rey Kenobi?” asked Gad, addressing one of the most left-field theories out there on Rey’s familial relation in the Star Wars universe.
“In The Last Jedi,” Ridley said, “we go deeper into Rey’s story. And what is very apparent from where we left off in The Force Awakens, and where we begin with The Last Jedi, Rey has a certain expectation as to what she might be getting from Luke and what that might entail. … It’s difficult when you meet your heroes, because it might not be what you expect. That’s quite a lot, right?”
In regards to the resonance of Ridley’s Rey to young girls, Johnson said: “She’s not Rey, she’s a great actor who is playing Rey. So much of the stuff that people respond to in that character … the tenacity, and the bravery and the humor and the depth, and so many things that make little kids want to be Rey, just like the things that people looked up to Leia came from Carrie (Fisher), those things are Daisy.”
Said Ridley, “We’re all very excited for is Luke’s first words.”
Another big highlight at today’s panel was Johnson introducing the world to Tran, who plays Rose, a member of the Resistance who serves as a maintenance worker. Johnson always was fascinated as a kid by how an everyman like Skywalker was pulled out of his humdrum life and turned into a hero. In Last Jedi, Tran’s Rose is pulled into the action by Rey and Finn. The actress couldn’t tell her friends and family that she was cast in The Last Jedi; rather she told them that she was shooting an indie film in Canada.
While Ridley revealed little, it was more than Boyega, who said that his Finn, after being knocked out in Force Awakens is resuscitated. It’s possible, however, that he might return to the First Order as a Stormtrooper. Johnson further said that the bad guys are even more aggressive at the start of The Last Jedi, with the Resistance having taken out Starkiller base.
After Hamill took a seat onstage, Gad asked whether we’ll finally get to hear Luke speak in the sequel. “I might be one of the most valuable characters to Lucasfilm, not because I’m a legacy character, but I have short-term memory loss,” said Hamill, pleading the Fifth about any reveals. “Even when I did ADR, it was an out-of-body experience, it’s so contained in its own world.”
Said Hamill about the director, who he called his “seeing-eye dog”: “I totally turned my performance over to Rian. It’s not Luke’s story anymore.” He admitted that the character’s place in the trilogy remains a mystery. “He is so significantly important to this next film,” says Kennedy, before calling Hamill “Mr. Modesty.”
Gad lobbed softball questions at BB-8: “Who is the Last Jedi?” Responding to the droid’s beeps and bloops, Gad said, “Yeah, I love Looper too,” referring to Johnson’s 2012 sci-fi movie. “J.J.’s editors said you can’t have enough BB-8; he’s the Buster Keaton of this movie,” Johnson said, promising more robot slapstick.
On the top of the panel, Kennedy thanked the die-hard room for showing up to spinoff pic Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It was a risk for the franchise to go backward once again to prequels, but it paid off for Disney/Lucasfilm around the world with a global take of $1.055 billion. “It gives us the confidence to keep going in that direction,” Kennedy said about Lucasfilm’s plan for more Star Wars anthology movies.
In praising Johnson’s talents as a director in taking over the reins from J.J. Abrams, Kennedy said: “I’m going to embarrass him. … He’s on his way to standing alongside many of the great filmmakers I had the opportunity to work with. He writes as beautifully as he directs, and he writes amazingly, fierce and independent women.”
She added, “He also has a great sense of humor, which, as everyone in this room knows, is most important to Star Wars.”
Johnson, a true down-to-earth guy, took to the streets in Orlando to meet fans who were cued up since 3 AM. Like Jeff Bridges, who photographs the sets he works on in black and white, so does Johnson who revealed a coffee-table book’s worth of candid photos to the crowd, including one of Carrie Fisher. “The entire film was shot in black and white?” asked Gad. Quipped Johnson, “Yes, don’t tweet that — don’t tell Alan Horn, he doesn’t know that.” Speaking about working with Fisher, Johnson said, “I connected with her as a writer,” saying he had “jazz poetry”-like writing sessions.
Today’s panel ended with two big reveals: a teaser poster of Rey holding up a lightsaber — a throwback to the original Star Wars poster of Luke Skywalker holding his lightsaber above his head. “Everyone out there gets one of those,” Kennedy told to a screaming crowd.
And, a beaming Johnson said, “Of course there’s a trailer!” Watch The Last Jedi trailer here.