I had the opportunity to attend the Star Wars: The Last Jedi Press Conference while on a sponsored trip for #TheLastJediEvent on the behalf of Disney. While this post is partnered, all opinions are mine.
I’m not sure if I could ever replicate the experience of having the cast of Star Wars: The Last Jedi walk right next to you flanked by Praetorian Guards.
Yep, that is me on the left, in the white blouse getting the stare down from the first guard! It was the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Last week I had the previlege of attending the Star Wars: The Last Jedi press conference with Mark Hamill (“Luke Skywalker”), Daisy Ridley (“Rey”), John Boyega (“Finn”), Oscar Isaac (“Poe Dameron”), Adam Driver (“Kylo Ren”), Domhnall Gleeson (“General Hux”), Gwendoline Christie (“Captain Phasma”), Andy Serkis (“Supreme Leader Snoke”), Laura Dern (“Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo”), Kelly Marie Tran (“Rose Tico”) and Director Rian Johnson. While no spoilers were given during the press conference we did get a little insight into the new film that is releasing on December 15th.
All of the actors were “hush, hush” about their newest film. The few pieces of fact we got about the upcoming movie came from Mark Hamill.
MARK HAMILL: It’s longer… I can promise you my part is twice as big as it was in The Force Awakens.
Director Rian Johnson did give us a brief overview of how he wanted the second movie in this trilogy to feel like.
RIAN JOHNSON: It’s a second movie in the trilogy and I think we’ve been kind of trained to expect it’ll be a little darker and obviously it looks a little darker and the thing is though for me I loved the tone of the original films and also that J.J. captured in The Force Awakens of fun, and that’s like to me it’s a Star Wars movie, you know, first and foremost we were trying to make it feel like a Star Wars movie. And that means you have the intensity and you’ve got the opera, but it also means that it makes you come out of the theater wanting to run in your backyard, grab your spaceship toys and make them fly around, you know, and that’s a key ingredient to it. So we’re going to go to some intense places in the movie but I hope also it’s fun, it’s funny.
Mark admitted that he was intimidated with returning to the role. He was also intimidated by Rian’s colorful choice of sockwear.
MARK HAMILL: I don’t think any line in the script epitomized my reaction more than this is not going to go the way you think. And Rian pushed me out of my comfort zone, as if I weren’t as intimidated and terrified to begin with, but I’m grateful, because you have to trust someone and he was the only Obi Wan available to me, not only in my choices as an actor, but my choices in sock wear. Because – well, I was so embarrassed. I looked at my drab black socks and I said, curse you, Rian Johnson, I’ll get my revenge.
How would you say this film feels different from The Force Awakens? What sets it apart from that film?
JOHN BOYEGA: I just think the story’s moving forward. I just feel like J.J. had a blueprint, a foundation of Force Awakens that was pretty good and now it’s about moving forward with the story and just challenging the characters. All the characters are under intense pressure, and so it’s a time which everyone has their own specific reckoning, and it’s all different. It’s like a lot going on. I’ve only watched it once and the first thing is that I want to watch it again because of the amount of information and Easter eggs in there as well.
OSCAR ISAAC: I think the thing as well is that often with the second chapter in a story of three, because the first one kind of sets the tone and the world and the new characters, introduced them, in the second one you don’t have to spend so much time doing that, you can really just delve into the story, into what’s happening, like John said, to the conflict of each of the characters. I think what Rian’s done so incredibly well is that he’s challenged deeply every single character, including the droids, with the biggest challenges they’ve ever faced, and that’s how you’re able to really get to learn about them, on all sides of the spectrum, from light to dark. It’s like he’s found a way to get to the central point of that character and try to challenge them as best as he can. I think it’s really amazing what he’s done.
DAISY RIDLEY: The biggest thing for me when I read the script, because you know, even though you’re trying to avoid what people are saying, it’s hard to, and because people responded well to John and I as a team, I was a big nervous about not being a team so much in this one. So I think for me personally it was a challenge. The film was a challenge and I don’t know what it was like for anyone else, but to be in different combinations of people. So in itself, we’re in different situations, we’re with different people that we are learning about, we’re meeting for the first time, so yeah, it felt pretty different for me.
ANDY SERKIS: I was blown away when I saw the movie. I just was so caught up with it, not least because it was really intimate and very emotional and I wasn’t expecting that at all. I mean, I know obviously that it was going to go that way, but it was very, very powerful and it touches you and what Rian’s done incredibly is make this dance between these great kind of epic moments and hilarious antics, literally flipping on a dime and then going right into the heart of these beautiful characters, and you really caring. And I think that was my takeaway, it was just an extraordinary viewing.
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: I was delighted by the film and what I was surprised by was that Star Wars has always been – I think the reason why it’s resonated with us all so deeply is that it’s our foundation story of good against evil, and where that balance is, and how we see elements of characters we’ve never seen before, things that can be unexpected. But there is something about this film and I think it’s because the world that we live in is a changing and evolving place, that it retains the simplicity of those elements, but it really resonates with what it is to follow your own human dark narcissistic tendencies, where that will take you, and I love that, and it’s done so beautifully aesthetically too.
Is there any part of you that geeks out a little bit when you start working on a Star Wars film?
LAURA DERN: Every part.
KELLY MARIE TAN: Every part. I’m trying not to cry right now ‘cause this is so weird and different. Yeah, I feel like Rian has said this before but it definitely feels like you have to find a way to just do the work and kind of block everything out, but then C-3PO comes up and you’re like oh, god. So you’re constantly figuring out how can I figure out how to work in this environment and then you’re like, but also this is awesome. So it’s kind of a balance, right?
LAURA DERN: And just to add to that, what Rian spoke to, that he does so beautifully as well as Andy was describing the intimacy of discovering each character’s conflict, which is just extraordinary, given the enormity of the cast, that he gave us that in the experience of the workplace, and it was shocking. Oscar and I always talked about just how stunned we were that we were in such a massive environment and did feel like we were making a indie movie and you were always encouraging us to try things and explore character, and explore this duality of the light and the dark within characters the movie speaks to so beautifully, not just that there are alternative universes but that that lies within, which seems to be the place that George Lucas first started the mythology of that. It’s just so brilliant. A group of us sitting together watching it for the first time was amazing ‘cause it was like we were with 3,000 people. We were screaming, standing up, crying.
Like rival coworkers or brothers? What about the relationship between Kylo Ren and General Hux?
ADAM DRIVER: I think it’s definitely there’s a competition and it’s maybe yet to be discovered where that comes from. If anything I think that’s more of a testament to kind of what everyone has been saying of Rian’s inability to not mind a character in every moment, which seems like an obvious thing, but he doesn’t so he knows that spectacle, it won’t mean anything if you don’t care about anything that’s going on, which again, seems very obvious but I think it’s a really hard thing to balance with this many moving parts in the scale of something like this. So I love playing those scenes, especially with Domhnall, ‘cause he’s a great actor and there’s nothing is kind of taken for granted where, oh, this happens and it moves on. If anything, Rian slows the pace and there’s not a moment that’s taken for granted. It’s always broken up into little pieces and the story in our mind comes first before an explosion.
DOMHNALL GLEESON: I don’t know. I think it’s funny, you know, like there’s just such a huge amount of drama going on in that group of people but then also just a huge amount of bitchy infighting as well, which I think is really fun to see them kind of really hurt each other from the inside as well as from the outside, you know, the united front thing is difficult for them sometimes. I think, it’s such a privilege to be in the film.
How did the death of Han Solo affect the characters in this Film?
DAISY RIDLEY: I think this is the beauty of having storylines that are sort of happening in tandem and affecting each other, ‘cause I would say that Rey at least is very much affected by it. Rey, as a character has been alone for a really long time and she’s really open to like love and friendship, so Finn and BB-8 come along and it’s like this amazing adventure. And then Han, like without trying to, she seeks something from him because there’s an intimacy and there’s a sort of figure of something she’s never dreamed of for her, that gets snatched away. She’s understanding everything’s new to her, she’s understanding things in a different way, luckily for me, ‘cause I was trying to get to grips with everything going on, and then Rey’s trying to get to grips with everything going on… Everything’s moving forward but she has some time to ask questions and wonder what it is that would have led someone to do something like that, and also how that directly affects the world around her. And then she’s worried about Finn at home, so I would say she’s maybe a little more affected, at least emotionally on screen, than the others.
There are way more female characters in this move, certainly in the first three movies. That’s going to mean a lot to little girls. I want to know what it means to you guys.
DAISY RIDLEY: I think like as a girl growing up in London, obviously I knew there was a disparity in films but I wasn’t so aware of it, like growing up in a liberal household. I was never really made to feel any one way. So when I got involved I knew it was a big deal, but the response was so beyond anything I could have imagined, it was only afterwards I was like, oh, oh yeah. And it’s not like I ever took it for granted or anything but it was just so monumental, the response and how people felt about it, and obviously that’s a testament to Kathy, J.J., Michael, Larry, everyone who created the characters in the beginning, and I think what’s great about everyone is it’s not like she’s a girl, this is a guy, this is anything, everyone’s just great characters that happily are falling into broader categories now, so I’m thrilled.
KELLY MARIE TRAN: I think that it feels like both an honor and a responsibility at the same time. I feel like from the beginning when I initially found out I got this role, I just felt like I wanted to do the whole thing justice, and I’m so excited that the girls in this movie kick some butt. Every single one is so good, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
LAURA DERN: I just want to pay tribute to Rian for being one of the most brilliantly subversive filmmakers I’ve ever been able to bear witness to, and in the case of the look of my character, I was moved by the fact that he really wanted her strength to first lead with a very deep femininity and to see a powerful female character also be feminine is something that moves away from a stereotype that’s sometimes perceived in strong female characters must be like the boys. I thought that was a really interesting choice to get to witness.
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: I wasn’t cast in the first Star Wars film yet when I heard about the casting, and I was utterly delighted to see that there was a more representative selection of actors that were going to be in these incredible Star Wars films, and that has continued. And you know, everything that my amazing colleagues say is absolutely right. You get to see women that are not being strong just because they’re acting like men. They’re doing something else. And also you’re seeing a developed character or at least a developing character, that’s showing some complex character traits. And I’m just delighted about that. I’m delighted that something as legendary as Star Wars has decided to be modern and to reflect our society more as it is.
We are about to find out about all of what happens in this second chapter when The Last Jedi releases nationwide on December 15th!
Be sure to revisit this entire week when I share the interviews from the global press event including our interviews with Laura Dern (“Vice Admiral, Amilyn Holdo”), Gwendoline Christie (“Captain Phasma”), Domhnall Gleeson (“General Hux”) and Kelly Marie Tran (“Rose Tico”). Also be sure to check out my time at the global press event.
Make plans now to see STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI in theaters this Friday, December 15th!