If you felt a disturbance in the Star Wars hype on Sunday, there was a good reason: The cast of The Last Jedi came together in a secret location Sunday morning for a press conference, to talk about the making of the film and to share teases (but no spoilers — never spoilers!) about the newest chapter in the saga.
Most of the space opera’s large cast joined director Rian Johnson on the stage, including returning Force Awakens stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domnhall Gleeson, and Gwendoline Christie; new Last Jedi additions Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran; and, of course, Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. Unfortunately, there were no porgs in attendance.
EW’s Anthony Breznican moderated the press conference. Read on for our live rundown of the event. (All times are Pacific.)
10:13 a.m. The entire cast took the stage flanked by the Praetorian guard, and Breznican kicked things off by asking how the the second chapter of the third Star Wars trilogy feels different from The Force Awakens. “It’s the second movie in the trilogy, and I think we’ve been kind of trained to expect it will be a little darker, and obviously it looks a little darker,” Johnson said. “I loved the tone of the original films and also that [director J.J. Abrams] captured in The Force Awakens … First and foremost, we were trying to make it feel like a Star Wars movie” — which means, he promised, that the film will have “the intensity, and the opera” we’ve come to expect as well as the “key ingredient” that The Last Jedi will make you want to run to you backyard and play with your toy lightsaber.
10:19 a.m. Now time to hear from the bad guys. “It’s very, very powerful, and it touches you,” Serkis said of the new film. “What Rian’s done incredibly is make this dance between these great, epic moments and hilarious antics.” Christie observed that Star Wars “resonates so deeply” with us because “it’s our foundation story of good versus evil … but there is something about this film, and I think it’s because the world 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.”
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10:21 a.m. Gleeson wanted to see the film with the crowds when it opened, so he skipped the cast screening, a decision which, after hearing his co-stars’ rapturous responses, he now regrets.
10:22 a.m. Breznican threw the conversation to the members of the panel who are new to the Star Wars galaxy, including Johnson. “I’m like the new boyfriend at Thanksgiving dinner,” the director said. As the new boss, Breznican asked, does Johnson identify with Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo? “I would be thrilled,” Johnson said, “if Laura Dern [or] the character that she plays, in all this glorious purple-haired wonder, [could represent me].”
10:24 a.m. So did any part of Dern “geek out” when she got to her first Star Wars set? “Every part,” the actress said without hesitation. “You have to do the work and block everything out,” Tran added, “but then C3P-0 comes up, and you’re like … [freaks out].” After Dern got past the initial geekery, she said that The Last Jedi felt almost like an indie behind the scenes, despite its enormous scope. “The intimacy of discovering each character’s conflict is just extraordinary given the enormity of the cast,” the actress said. “Oscar and I always talked about how stunned we were that we were in such a massive environment and it did feel like we were making an indie movie, and you always urged us to explore character to explore this duality between light and dark within the characters.”
10:27 a.m. Like Ridley said, the characters are all rearranged into some unlikely pairings in The Last Jedi. For one, the connection between her Rey and Driver’s Kylo Ren — both young people still working to master their strength with the Force — is a fraught one. “There’s a competition, and it’s yet to be discovered where it comes from,” Driver said. “[Johnson] knows that spectacle wont mean anything if you don’t care about what’s going on … There’s not a moment that’s taken for granted.” Despite not having seen the movie, Gleeson did say he loved the “huge amount of drama going on amongst that group of people, but also a lot of bitchy infighting as well.”
10:28 a.m. One of the journalists in the audience asked about the partnership of Luke Skywalker training Rey, but Hamill wasn’t having it: “Well, you’re assuming that I train Rey,” he said. “People ask if it was difficult to pick up and wield a lightsaber again, and I go, ‘Do I?’” All he would promise is that “my part is twice as big as it was in the last one.”
10:29 a.m. Johnson has said that he used the first trilogy’s great second chapter as something of a guide. When asked about this, he said he was struck by how dark — literally, visually dark as well as narratively — The Empire Strikes Back was willing to go. However, “I made a choice very early on … [I thought,] ‘I can either try and copy my idea of what the original movies did,’ which was much more formal visual aesthetic … [but] I realized, we’re going to take visual cues from the previous movies, but I need to just shoot this movie the way I shoot the movie.”
10: 30 a.m. Will there be Ewoks? Johnson: “It depends what kind of drugs you take before you see it.”
10:30 a.m. A member of the press asked the women onstage about their feelings being a part of such a girl-powered galaxy, and they were effusive in their responses. “When I [first] got involved, I knew it was a big deal, but the response was so beyond anything I could have imagined,” Ridley said. But best of all, her Rey and the rest of the ladies onscreen don’t just get the condescending title great female characters — “It’s just great characters.” Tran agreed: “I think that it feels like both an honor and responsibility at the same time. From the beginning, when I actually found out I got this role, I just wanted to do the whole thing justice … And the girls in this movie kick some butt. Every single one is so good.”
10:34 a.m. “I just want to pay tribute to Rian for being one of the most brilliantly subversive filmmakers I’ve ever [worked with],” Dern added, singling out the unique look of her Holdo. “I was moved by the fact that he really wanted her strength to lead with very deep femininity. To see a very powerful character also be very feminine is to move away from a stereotype that a strong female character must be like the boys.” Christie added, “You get to see women that are not big and strong just because they’re acting like men. They’re doing something else. And also you’re seeing a developed character, or a developing character, that is showing some complex character traits. I’m delighted that something as legendary as Star Wars has decided to reflect our society.”
10:37 a.m. One journalist in attendance noted that Ridley was wearing very dark lipstick, which puzzled the entire cast (especially so soon after the long discussion about how women’s appearances don’t define them). “Obviously Rey goes to the Dark Side,” Breznican observed. “S—,” Johnson said.
10:38 a.m. Johnson said we won’t get the droid’s-eye view quite as much in the last film, but regarding the perspective, Ridley observed, “You’re with every character … I think it makes for compassionate viewing, because you’re really understanding both sides, why people are doing the things they’re doing, and the consequences of people’s actions.”
10:40 a.m. One member of the press asked what lesson the film imparts. “That’s a personal kind of thing,” Driver replied. “For some, that will be nothing.” After the laughter died down, he elaborated: “Whatever’s happening in the movie, wherever you are in your life, I think, speaks to you like no one else … So potentially nothing.”
10:42 a.m. As Breznican explored in his recent EW cover story, The Last Jedi illustrates the dangers of meeting one’s heroes — specifically when it comes to Rey’s first encounters with Luke. When asked about this theme, Johnson looked back to the saga’s roots, of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. “It’s not about becoming a hero, it’s about adolescence, it’s about the transition from childhood to adulthood,” the director said. “Navigating those very tricky waters that we all have to navigate, that’s why it so universal. And part of that is your relationship to heroes … and that’s something that plays out in this film.”
10:44 a.m. So how was it for Hamill, having now played both sides of that hero meeting? “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,” the actor said. “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. I was so embarrassed, I lived in my drab black socks, and I said, ‘Curse you, Rian Johnson! I will get my revenge.’”
10:47 a.m. How is this movie different from all the others? Hamill: “It’s longer.” Johnson: “Not much longer! Not much longer!”
10:48 a.m. While the cast stayed mum on how The Last Jedi differs from previous installments in the saga, Ridley echoed Dern, noting that making the film felt the same as some of the smaller indie sets she’s been on in the last year. “It’s just a really happy set, that everyone feels, I think, heard and respected. The same feeling was captured, of love, and of everyone trying to make this thing.” Boyega chimed in: “You still feel an intimacy when you’re doing these scenes. [It’s like] an independent with a big budget. A big-ass budget.”
10:49 a.m. Boyega observed, “There hasn’t been a Star Wars movie yet that has explored war in the way The Last Jedi does. It’s very messy.” Isaac agreed, “It’s a dire situation, it’s critical, the resistance is on its last legs … It is like war, where you’ve got to just keep moving to try to survive, so you feel the momentum of everything that happened in The Force Awakens just pushing and getting to critical mass in this film.”
10:50 a.m. As the press conference drew to a close, Isaac brought it back to the amazing women of the galaxy. “As a guy, I’d like to say, for me, the most formative people in my life have been women,” he said. “So that has shaped my destiny so much, so to see that reflected in the film, is really, really beautiful, and it is more true to real life and what’s happened now, but what’s always happened.” Serkis, however, wants none of it — or at least his character doesn’t. “Speaking as the head of the First Order, Snoke is very unimpressed that there is such a huge female force that has been growing in the universe.”
10:52 a.m. Even with all that female talent on the stage, though, one woman’s absence was deeply felt. “Carrie Fisher isn’t here with us today, except probably in spirit, giving everyone the finger from back there,” Breznican said, before each of the women in the cast spoke about the impact of both the actress and her iconic Star Wars character.“She was very significant, because I was first shown A New Hope when I was 6, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that character’s really different,’” Christie said. “She’s really smart, she’s really funny, she’s courageous, she’s bold. She doesn’t care what people think, and she isn’t prepared to be told what to do. That was instrumental to someone like me, who didn’t feel like she fit that homogenized view of what a woman should be. You can celebrate yourself and be successful without giving yourself over.”
10:54 a.m. Dern followed: “People speak about people who are brave or fearless, but beyond that, I’ve known, luckily, a few people that would hold those descriptions, but not that they would be without shame. And that’s what moved me the most about the icon she gave us, but also what she gave us individually and personally, which was Carrie.” Ridley added that the actress’ daughter, Billie Lourd, is a testament to her greatness. “Billie is, I think, all of those qualities. She’s smart and funny and shameless, and I think Carrie bringing up a daughter who is all of those qualities, and then some, in this world — if that’s what she did just her being her, I think that speaks volumes to what she did, her in the spotlight.”
10:57 a.m. “Something about Carrie that I really look up to and that I didn’t realize until recently was how much courage it takes to be yourself when you’re on a public platform,” Tran said, concluding the series of odes. “She was so unapologetic and so openly herself, and that is something that I’ve tried to do, but that’s hard. I think she will always be an icon as Leia, but also as Carrie. What an example.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters Dec. 15.