Secrets of Episode IX revealed at Star Wars Celebration — get all the details
There has been an awakening — did you feel it?
A new title. New characters. The conclusion of heroes we love and miss. And a new trailer, too.
EW updated this post throughout the panel — read on to see everything that happened…
11:33 a.m. ET: Ewok actor and Star Wars mainstay Warwick Davis warmed up the crowd before the Episode IX panel by taking questions from the audience. One of them was: “If Wicket had a lightsaber, what color would it be?”
“I don’t know. Brown?” he said. “It would look like a spear, but it could swing around and take your legs off.”
12:02 p.m. ET: Lucasfilm found a lifelong Star Wars fan to host the panel — Stephen Colbert.
The panel opened with behind-the-scenes footage from the original 1977 Star Wars, with Harrison Ford brutally blowing his “navicomputer” line during a rehearsal. Peter Mayhew, with his Chewie mask off, is making a Jim-from-The Office face at the camera. The video is a journey through the original trilogy, with Mark Hamill saying he hopes Star Wars is “justified as a series,” and makes audiences ask: “What happens next?”
“This is not about the past, present, or the future,” Alec Guinness says in a vintage interview. “Star Wars belongs to all those areas.”
12:05 p.m. ET: Colbert hits the stage cheering as the crowd of thousands chants his names and waves glowing lightsabers. “Hello, Star Wars Celebration!” he yells. “Folks, please sit down. You need to conserve your energy for the exciting hour you’re about to be a part of!”
“I just flew in from Dagobah, and boy are my attack foils locked in attack position. If you don’t understand what I just said, what are you doing here?” he asked. He noted that he has his own show to do tonight, and suggested he is on the roof of his theater in New York in the lotus position, projecting himself to the Chicago convention center.
“We know that Star Wars isn’t just a movie, or a cartoon, or a Christmas special, or a breakfast cereal, soap dispenser, or Pez dispenser,” he said. Colbert explained he’s hosting the event because J.J. Abrams, his “SoulCycle emergency contact,” understands “the spirit and the joy of science fiction.” Also, he added, Abrams let him visit the Episode IX set. Joking about the secrecy, he said, “This is going to be so much more exciting when we can use nouns.”
12:10 p.m. ET: Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and Abrams take the stage! Colbert asks where are they in production — “The process continues. We’re editing, and things are going well so far,” Abrams says.
“To keep this relevant and meaningful to the characters, and the people experiencing this tory, it has to feel like it’s of its time,” Kennedy says. “We’ve taken to heart everything that inspired George, and I think the inspiration J.J. has brought to this has given it even more depth.”
“In addition to being the end of three trilogies of movies, it has to work on its own as a movie,” Abrams said. “It’s about the new characters, as they face the light and the dark. Are they prepared?”
Colbert asked what he means when he says “the greatest evil.” Abrams looks desperately at Kennedy. “Kathy …?” They’re not saying. Moving on.
12:15 p.m. ET: The conversation moves to the late Carrie Fisher. Abrams said he and co-screenwriter Chris Terrio (Argo) discussed “how to move on.”
“It was impossible. There was no way. What are you gonna do? You can’t recast that part, and you’re not just going to have her disappear.” Abrams said. He called it a near miracle that there were unused scenes of her from The Force Awakens.
“The idea was what if we could write scenes around her, so she could be in the movie, and we have her performance,” he said. “Every day it hits me that she’s not here, but it’s so surreal because we’re working with her still. She’s in scenes.”
He added, “Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that is kind of mind-blowing to me.”
12:20 p.m. ET: Colbert asks where the characters are as we pick up. We see a scene of the Millennium flacon with Poe, Finn, Rey, Chewie, BB-8,and C-3PO on a lush jungle world.
“This is an adventure that the group goes on together,” Abrams said. “One of the great things about it is the dynamic between the characters.”
This film doesn’t pick up right after The Last Jedi, but will have an unspecified time jump.
Asked about the last day of shooting, Kennedy says, “It was emotional, but I can’t really give you details.”
Colbert presses a little, asking about how many people were on set, but she doesn’t tell him and he tossed his notes. “I see, you asked me to come to Chicago to ask questions, not get answers” Colbert said.
12:23 p.m. ET: Anthony Daniels walks out with his decades-long robotic associate R2-D2. Daniels has appeared in every Star Wars theatrical film, the only actor who can make that claim.
“One of the things you notice about Threepio is he is the voice of reason,” Daniels said. “Threepio is the one who tells you you’re in danger, you should get out of there. And what does everyone say in three trilogies of movies? They say, ‘Shut up.’ I’m here to say ‘Enough!’ The droid fights back!”
Would Daniels want to own his own protocol droid? “I regard Threepio as my best friends in many ways,” Daniels says. “And I would genuinely want a best friend who cares for me as much as Threepio does.”
Colbert asks about the title of Anthony Daniels’ new book, which supposedly was rejected. “The title of my memoir was Telling the Odds,” he said, a reference to Han Solo snapping, “Never tell me the odds.”
12:29 p.m. ET: Billy Dee Williams joins the stage! One week after his 82nd birthday, he greets fans with, “Sweet! Sweet! You’re all so sweet, and there’s an awful lot of you.”
He has no cape, but he has a colorful scarf and cool shades and a debonair cane. “I got lucky,” he says. “I ended up working with somebody I have a tremendous regard for — J.J. Abrams. I love his name. J.J. Abrams!”
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, I think 60 years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some pretty extraordinary people in my lifetime,” he said. “I regard this as a real highlight for me.”
“How did I find Lando again?” Williams says. “Lando never left me.” The crowd roars as we see an image of him in yellow, draped in a cape (of course) and standing inside the Millennium Falcon. “He’s a shade older, but still fit,” Williams said.
“Honestly, it was an emotional thing,” said Abrams, who described the hush of Williams appearing on set.
“It’s nice to have all of these accolades, and all this admiration,” Williams said. “But I really enjoy this more than just making money. And don’t get me wrong, I love making money!”
Colbert notes that Lando isn’t fully a good guy or a bad guy. “There’s a thing called expediency,” Williams said. “When you’re in a situation — especially when you’re up against someone like Darth Vader — and you own something that sort of like owning Las Vegas, and you have this threat. … I get sick and tired of being accused of betraying Han Solo!”
“He was up against Darth Vader, he had to figure something out!” Williams said. “By the way, did anybody die?”
Laughter and cheers from the crowd. “Nobody died!” William said.
12:35 p.m. ET: The core cast takes the stage — Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, and BB-8. Along with them is newcomer Naomi Ackie — best known for playing the largely mute housemaid Anna in the 2016 dark period drama Lady Macbeth.
“I’m very ready to celebrate,” Ackie says. “I’ve been waiting for this!”
What’s it like to get the call that you’re in the new Star Wars film? “I was in bed,” Ackie says. “I got the call at 7 o’clock in the morning. I yelped and my dad ran up the stairs and sat at the end of the bed.”
Then the secrecy began, and she couldn’t even tell her best friend, who was sleeping over downstairs. Her father was the only one who know and was shushing her to talk softer. “He knew from the beginning — sorry J.J.,” she said.
She confirmed her character’s name is Jannah. “The original group are going on this epic, epic adventure together, and I’m so excited about where Jannah crosses paths with them,” she says. “It’s wicked.”
Colbert then goes “full Maury Povich” on her: “Is your father on this stage?”
“Listen, Lando is a very charming man, so he could have children all over the universe, am I right?” she responds. (That’s … not a no!)
12:40 p.m. ET: Boyega says Finn is no longer questioning where he is. He is a “full fledged sexy young man,” committed to the Resistance, he said.
He noted that Finn never gets his own identity from his costume, since he was always wearing whatever he could find or was given to him. This time, he chooses his own look, reflecting his newfound confidence as a Resistance warrior.
Colbert: “It seemed like there was a little bit of a love triangle going on with Finn, and Rey and Rose?”
“Add Poe there as well,” Boyega said. “It’s a love pentagon … Finn is single and ready to mingle.”
12:43 p.m. ET: Colbert tried to see if Phasma would return, but no one would clarify.
Next question: Who is a better pilot — Finn or Han Solo?
“No one can pilot the Millennium Falcon like Han,” Isaac said. “However, Poe can literally fly anything. I’m just saying, Poe is the better Uber driver.”
Isaac, asked why he doesn’t take anything seriously, throws fuel on the “love pentagon” theory: “I think he takes his love for Finn very seriously,” the actor says.
12:51 p.m.: Ridley reveals something shocking: Even though the Skywalker family lightsaber, that once belonged to Anakin, was destroyed in The Last Jedi, it is making a comeback in this film. “The lightsaber that Rey inherited from Luke Skywalker lives.”
“There are no more semi-naked Kylos,” Ridley says.
“Only full,” Isaac said. “We gotta step it up a notch.”
Ridley comes close to saying how long the time jump is between The Last Jedi and the new film, but stops short. Was it enough time to read the books she stole from the Jedi temple in the last movie? Maybe.
Unlike Luke in Return of the Jedi, who appeared as a full Jedi dressed in black, Rey is costumed in this new film in a kind of angelic white.
12:55 p.m. ET: “As a trained mechanic,” Colbert asks, what would Rose Tico think of the Millennium Falcon. Even though it’s universally considered a “pile of junk,” she would think it’s “Pretty cool,” the actress aid.
Last seen in a coma, Tran noted that now she’s back up and serving the Resistance as we see a shot of her in a military base with Rey.
“I was grateful to Rian Johnson for so many things he did in Episode VIII,” Abrams said. “And the greatest for me was casting Kelly Marie.”
12:59 p.m. ET: Suotamo gives the crowd a Chewbacca greeting in Shyriiwook roars, and then in English calls for cheers to his predecessor Peter Mayhew. He notes that the costume hasn’t changed since 1977 — Chewie is the same guy, he’s just played by someone different inside.
“I think, for me, playing Chewbacca is sort of a duty at this point,” Suotamo said. “When I was sitting on our living room carpet watching that saga start [as a kid], I was sure that in this world there is a place for everyone. [With Chewbacca,] I have to show everyone, no matter how big or small you are, there is a place for you in this world.”
Colbert asked: What do porgs taste like? Suotamo explains, “They taste best fried.”
“That’s my son, right there,” Suotamo says, saying he was one of the “new creatures” on set. He thanks everyone for “welcoming little [AH-bose], whose name nobody can pronounced, just like mine.”
1:01 p.m. ET: Abrams shows off an armless, slug-like being with a shocked expression — Klawd. “He is a friend of the Resistance, and someone Chewie brought in,” the director said. The photo of Klawd showed him in a woodland setting alongside Greg Grunberg’s X-wing pilot “Snap” Wexley.
And another new being — D/O, an even tinier droid who rolls out on a wide disk with a cone shaped head, almost birdlike. Just as when BB-8 appeared onstage at Celebration in 2015, Abrams said he wanted to show people that D/O was real.
1:08 p.m. ET: “Who here wants to see a teaser trailer,” Abrams asked. The audience roars. “We’re going to get out of your way,” he says. “Hope you enjoy.”
When the teaser ends, actor Ian McDiarmid — who brought Emperor Palpatine to life in the original films and prequels — appears on stage. In the character’s signature growl, he says: “Roll it AGAIN!”
Watch that footage at the top of this post, and head here for more details on this first look at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.