"We're not screwing around," declares The Rise of Skywalker director. 

“Endings are the thing that scare me the most,” admits J.J. Abrams, which means co-writing and directing Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker must have been at least a little terrifying.

After all, there has arguably never been a film tasked with wrapping up more stories that span a longer cinematic time period than Skywalker. The film not only finishes Abrams’ Disney-produced trilogy that launched with 2015’s The Force Awakens, but also George Lucas’ six previous “Episode” films that began with 1977’s A New Hope. So that’s 42 years of blockbuster sci-fi adventures somehow concluding in one film.

“This is about bringing this thing to a close in a way that is emotional and meaningful and also satisfying in terms of actually answering [as many] questions as possible,” Abrams tells EW in its November issue. “So if years from now, someone’s watching these movies, all nine of them, they’re watching a story that is as cohesive as possible.”

That said, Abrams noted that in writing the film (along with Chris Terrio), the filmmaker left room for inspiration and the unexpected. “While there were many things that were planned for and discussed — George Lucas himself said when he created this he saw it as three, three-act plays — that doesn’t mean there isn’t discovery, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that come up that make you realize, ‘Oh, here’s an opportunity,'” adds Abrams, who returned to helm the final Skywalker Saga chapter after directing 2015’s The Force Awakens. “It also doesn’t mean that there’s a list of payoffs that we have to do because of setups. But we also were very much aware this is the end of the trilogy and it needs to satisfy. We went into this thing knowing it has to be an ending. We’re not screwing around.”

If Skywalker didn’t have enough to handle in its narrative galaxy, the film is also bringing back Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian for the first time since 1983’s Return of the Jedi, the late Carrie Fisher’s beloved Leia Organa (by repurposing previously unseen footage shot for Force Awakens) and Ian McDiarmid’s sinister Emperor Palpatine.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) L to R: Director/Producer/Screenwriter J.J. Abrams ON SET
| Credit: David James/©Lucasfilm 2015

Plus, Skywalker has new characters, such as Keri Russell’s mysterious Zorri Bliss and Naomi Ackie’s bow-and-arrow-weilding Jannah, while also taking time to answer the current trilogy’s biggest burning questions.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens Dec. 20.

Anthony Breznican contributed to this report.

For more on the most anticipated fall movies, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly at Barnes & Noble Friday, or buy it here now. (The November issue will be available on newsstands starting Oct. 23.) Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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