In 1977 the world was introduced to a galaxy far, far away with George Lucas’ Star Wars, which immediately became a global phenomenon. Now after 42 years and eight movies, the conclusion of the Skywalker sage comes to an end with the ninth and final episode, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In it, the remaining members of the Resistance face off for a final, epic battle with the First Order, led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
The movie, which was directed by JJ Abrams, stars the late Carrie Fisher (Leia), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO).
Journalists gathered in Pasadena on December 4th, 2019, where director Ava DuVernay (When they See Us) hosted a panel of the filmmakers and stars of Star Wars 9, including director JJ Abrams, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega.
JJ, it’s an awesome responsibility to wrap up nine films. At the moment that you accepted the invitation to do it were you thinking, “Oh wow, I’ve got to end this thing?”
JJ Abrams: The fact is that what Rian Johnson had done in Last Jedi set up some things that were wonderful for the story; one of (them) being that the characters weren’t together for the entire movie.
This was the first time that the group got to be together. (Writer) Chris (Terrio) and I knew immediately we wanted to tell a story of a group adventure. There were some very specific things that we were both drawn to immediately and we just started doing that thing you do, which is you say, “What do you desperately want to see? What feels right?”
We needed to keep the (film) feeling as human as possible and not like a massive machine, which is part of it in the background, but nothing that creatively mattered to us.
John, is there anything that you learned from the role of Finn now that we’re at the final episode?
John Boyega: Loyalty is something that I find very important in my personal life. I think it’s just super-important to be loyal and to understand the way in which people want to be loved and communicated with.
Proactive love is something that Finn does on a day-to-day basis. Throughout the film, a lot of the times, Rey is going off on this really hard journey as a character blessed with so much power. Finn tries to support her in that journey. Sometimes it’s hard.
In my real life, if I’ve tried to get in contact with you three, four times and you’re going off, I’m going to leave you alone. Finn’s going to come for you and try and make it work regardless. I’m not built like that. I think in general, I’m a nice guy. But obviously I’m not always nice and I guess that consistency of niceness from Finn (has given) me questions in my head over the years. .
Daisy, what was the scene that presented you with the greatest challenge, either physically or emotionally?
Daisy Ridley: It’s a good question, because with the physical stuff, you train, train and train and then the adrenaline helps you on the day. But I would say I was more tired emotionally because there really wasn’t a day where I was like, “It’s just a quick scene.”
Coming from the last one, which was quite heavy, even the joyous scenes I found very strange to do.
What was it about the joyous scenes that created an obstacle for you?
Daisy: It’s just so strange, because I’ve gone from a film with a lot of being like, “Please be my friend, Luke (Skywalker).” And he’s like, “Go away.” And then (I had) very emotional stuff with Adam (Driver, as Kylo Ren).
Coming back was so great, but you’re like, “Am I acting? Is this what is required?” Because I’m basically bouncing off of Oscar (Isaac, as Poe Dameron) John, Joonas (Suotomo, as Chewbacca) and Anthony (Daniels, as C-P30) in such a joyous way that you just feel like you’re having a chat with your pals. So, it’s not difficult in an ‘ugh’ way, but it’s strange wondering how that general vibe is going to translate into a scene.
John, I remember way back when you did Attack the Block in 2011. How does it feel to have a global audience love you as Finn, after coming from independent movies?
John: I don’t know. I’m not the only one in it, so it’s cool to be able to share the load. I guess I’ve been on this journey with Daisy really more than anyone else just in terms of circumstance and understanding of culture. There’s 100% understanding of our background and where we’re from. Most of the time actors have this kind of mystery about personal things. We stripped that bare. If I feel any type of way or if I experience something that’s weird, or if I’m at the store and I’m like, “Oh, I just saw something,” I always message Daisy, because I just know that that’s somebody that would 100% relate. And I guess this way has been my way of experiencing the whole thing.
But it has definitely also been a huge life change for all of us. And that in itself is exciting.
Daisy, being a part of the Star Wars universe offers great opportunity to be a force for good. What do you want your legacy to be in the Star Wars community?
Daisy: Oh my God. That is deep. I think being part of a team of people that look a little different, that are from different places, gender, race, that in itself is a legacy to be proud of.
This is a film of hope. And I think we are reflective of the world at large. There are a lot of people up against magnificent forces that are fighting the good fight. And the characters aren’t real, but what they’re doing is perilous in cinema. So, to be able to portray even a tiny part of that in this crazy world is very special.
JJ, what does this final piece mean to you and what do you want to say with it?
JJ: That’s a terrific question. We live in a crazy time. And Star Wars for me was about hope. It was about community, it was about the underdog, and it was about bringing people together. And seeing all odd balls represented in the most unlikely friends and the most unlikely places and the family that you make is really your family.
To tell a story that is a giant spectacle, the thing that mattered to me most is really the people who are sitting here (on this panel), the eyes and the heart of the characters.
It really is about hope and it’s about coming back to a sense of possibility, about unity. And if Star Wars can’t do that for us, I don’t know what can.