Anthony Breznican
August 09, 2017 AT 12:30 PM EDT

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Perhaps the only thing more unsettling than meeting your enemy is coming face-to-face with your hero.

That’s where the Star Wars saga left us at the end of The Force Awakens, with Daisy Ridley’s Rey standing atop a craggy, windswept island, holding out Luke Skywalker’s long-lost family lightsaber to the man she knew only as a legend. But in The Last Jedi, she actually has much further to go to find the warrior who inspired all those old stories.

This isn’t the Luke she’s heard about. It’s not the one we know either.

This is a broken man. One who would have preferred to stay lost. And he feels the same way about that lightsaber.

“The fact that Luke says, ‘I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end…’ I mean, that’s a pretty amazing statement for someone who was the symbol of hope and optimism in the original films,” Mark Hamill tells EW as part of our new cover story on the Dec. 15 film.

“When I first read it, my jaw dropped,” the actor says. “What would make someone that alienated from his original convictions? That’s not something that you can just make up in an afternoon, and I really struggled with this thing.”

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Luke definitely does not give Rey the warm welcome he received when he went in search of Alec Guinness’ Ben Kenobi in 1977’s original Star Wars. She is warned. She is given an explanation. Nevertheless …

“She’s so hopeful to everything,” Ridley says. “And obviously there’s a hint of, ‘What the hell?’”

This rejection hits Rey’s abandonment issues. Hard.

Jonathan Olley/ILM/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

IT’S A SHAME ABOUT REY

As we know, the young scavenger was ditched as a child on the hardscrabble junkyard world of Jakku by unknown parents and left for years to survive on her own. But lately, she has gotten accustomed to making fast friends, like BB-8, Finn, Chewbacca, and General Leia Organa. Even the murderous Kylo Ren became fascinated by her strength and resilience after kidnapping her.

“Regardless of everything else, she’s been welcomed. No one ever really turns away from her,” Ridley says.

That changes when she arrives on Ahch-To.

Luke’s brush-off makes Rey miss the gruff warmth of Han Solo, Ridley says, giving us a peek inside the head of her character: “’Oh my God, this other man that I lost within a couple days was somewhat of a father figure. Now he’s gone, and instead I’m with this grumpy guy on an island who doesn’t want me here.’”

But Ridley says Rey is also placing huge expectations on Luke. She arrives on the island of Ahch-To, site of a primitive Jedi temple, not to become a hero herself, but to shove Skywalker back into the fight.

“I don’t think one girl, who he doesn’t know, turning up with a lightsaber is gonna make him go, ‘Oh, s—, yeah, of course I’ll get back into the action,’” Ridley says.

“But does he not know her?” Hamill says in his separate interview.

That’s a question Star Wars fans have been debating for two years. Soon they’ll learn the answer.

Ed Miller/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

A big part of Rey’s future will be uncovering her own past: Who is connected to her? Where did she come from? And why was she cast away?

As she tries to pick up her own pieces, she may find they fit together well with the remnants of Luke Skywalker. Working together, they may become whole again.

RELATED: Exclusive New Star Wars: The Last Jedi Images

THE BROKEN WARRIOR

This isn’t going to be easy for fans. It wasn’t easy for Hamill.

No one wants their favorite hero to be laid low, but it’s worth remembering: Star Wars always begins with “A long time ago,” but it doesn’t end with “happily ever after.”

If there are going to be more stories, there has to be conflict, trauma, scars. A hero can’t still be the same triumphant figure he was decades before.

The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson inherited a Luke Skywalker who had banished himself, but apart from nebulous hints of a Jedi academy gone wrong in the J.J. Abrams film, no one got a full explanation for the character’s disappearance.

“The very first step in the writing of this was figuring out why he’s on that island,” Johnson says. “We know that he is not a coward. He’s not just hiding because he’s scared. But we also know that he must know his friends are in danger. He must know the galaxy needs him. And he’s sitting on this island in the middle of nowhere. There had to be an answer. It had to be something where Luke Skywalker believes he’s doing the right thing – and the process of figuring out what that is and unpacking it is the journey for Rey.”

Bruno Dayan/© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

The Force Awakens did tell us that Han and Leia’s son, Ben Solo, turned to the dark side and murdered his fellow students at Luke’s new Jedi academy – then went on to join the First Order under the name Kylo Ren. But it didn’t explain why Luke felt it was better to isolate himself than continuing to fight his former apprentice.

Hamill hints that Luke has begun to doubt his own connection to the Force, wondering if he has been misreading it all this time.

“[Luke] made a huge mistake in thinking that his nephew was the chosen one, so he invested everything he had in Kylo, much like Obi-Wan did with my character,” Hamill says. “And he is betrayed, with tragic consequences. Luke feels responsible for that. That’s the primary obstacle he has to rejoining the world and his place in the Jedi hierarchy, you know? It’s that guilt, that feeling that it’s his fault, that he didn’t detect the darkness in him until it was too late.”

But there’s more to it than we know. There’s also more to it than the film itself will reveal…

HIDDEN HISTORY

“There’s massive amounts of backstory that is left to your imagination and I couldn’t do my job without figuring out what that was,” Hamill says. “Since it’s not really important to the main story as a whole a lot of it is just for my own process. I talked with Rian about it and went into this elaborate scenario of what happened to Luke after the end of the Return of the Jedi.”

What we know for sure is that Luke is discovering there’s nowhere he can run that will allow him to escape himself.

He’s older now, about the same age Obi-Wan Kenobi was in the original film, but in many ways Luke is still that silhouette we remember standing on the rocks, staring out at the twin suns of Tatooine.

“I think he probably looks out on the horizon and wishes that he could be more effective, could be what Obi-Wan wanted him to be,” Hamill says. “But life is imperfect and without conflict there is no drama. Believe me, you’re going to see a lot of conflict in The Last Jedi. That is for sure.”

His dreams are different now. Less hopeful. More regretful.

But deep down, the farmboy turned warrior turned exile would also like to meet the hero known as Luke Skywalker again.

Part 1 – Luke and Rey

Part 2 – Finn and Rose

Part 3 – Porgs and Caretakers

Part 4 – Snoke and the Praetorian Guard

Part 5 – Leia and Poe

Part 6 – Benicio Del Toro’s DJ

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