Fans at Disney's D23 get a preview of the saga's continuation
“It’s about family, and that’s what’s so powerful about it.”
Those were the final words spoken in a new behind the scenes teaser for Star Wars: The Last Jedi — and they were said by the late, great Carrie Fisher.
It was an emotional conclusion to a rousing video, beginning with footage of red sand being blasted from the surface of the planet Crait, creatures like a crystalline-looking wolf and penguin-like aliens from the sacred Jedi island of Ach-To, and familiar heroes facing new threats.
But those words from Fisher … they hit the heart at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California on Saturday, as thousands of fans gathered to preview the upcoming Lucasfilm movie.
Disney chair Alan Horn started out by paying tribute to Fisher, whose final Star Wars appearance will be in The Last Jedi. “I know we were all stunned and shocked that she passed away. She was a very, very special person,” he said. “I know it’s impossible to imagine you could lover her more than you already do, but you will really appreciate her performance in this film”
Then he introduced “our Jedi master on this film,” writer-director Rian Johnson.
“My friends, whenever I talk to them recently … ask me what the experience was like, I always come back and say I had the time of my life making this movie,” he told the crowd. “Part of that is what Star Wars means to me, and what it means to a lot of us.”
He began by introducing the familiar faces: Daisy Ridley, who returns as Rey, John Boyega as Stormtrooper-turned-Resistance-big-deal Finn, and Gwendoline Christie as chrome-armored Captain Phasma.
He then introduced Kelly Marie Tran as the Resistance mechanic Rose, Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, and Benicio Del Toro as a mystery character, nicknamed “D.J.”
Finn’s about to have a fight with a formidable opponent …” Boyega said, jokingly inching away from the towering Christie on stage. “It’s going to be … it’s going to be very, very cool.”
Christie said the silver suit is “very empowering, but it can also get very warm, so I tend to pop a casserole into there,” she joked.
Tran, who was pictured in a black-and-white behind-the-scenes photo being costumed in the uniform of a First Order officer, said her mindset on the movie was: “I felt like I got the golden ticket and was Charlie in the Chocolate Factory.”
Johnson showed a grainy photo of Dern wielding a blaster, and said he noticed her during takes saying “pew-pew-pew.”
“I didn’t remember that you don’t have to say the words you used to say when you were 8,” she said.
Del Toro was shown in an image sitting in the swivel chair aboard an unspecified starship. “I saw the original 1977 one when I was 10, so when you called me up and mentioned the title alone, I was like, ‘Let’s go,'” he told the director.
Johnson then introduced a final cast member. “We can’t do a Last Jedi panel without him … Let’s welcome Mark Hamill to the stage.”
Luke Skywalker himself emerged to a standing ovation. “It’s so kind of you to not make me stand next to Gwendoline,” he said, invoking a classic Star Wars line: “You think I’m too short for a Stormtrooper …?”
“There are so many unexpected elements, which is great with Star Wars because it’s getting harder and harder to do that,” Hamill said. “That’s much more artful,” he said, basically apologizing for a Vanity Fair interview in which he said he disagreed with the choices for the character. “I misspeak sometimes,” he said.
In the video, Hamill is perfectly clear: “Even though I think I know it all, they threw things at me storywise I could never have imagined.”