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Cast and Crew Talk 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

19 Dec, 2019   
GUESTS

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INTERVIEWER

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LANGUAGE

English

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Original Network

Screenpicks.com

All good things must come to an end, even the Skywalker Saga. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is that last installment of the Skywalker saga, and fans — who have been awaiting this moment since they saw their very first lightsaber battle onscreen — are experiencing all the feels.

Last week, the cast and crew behind the multi-billion-dollar franchise gathered in Los Angeles to discuss the final chapter of the Star Wars saga. Writer/director J.J. Abrams and writer Chris Terrio joined producer Kathleen Kennedy and stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Keri Russell, Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Joonas Suotamo, Billy Dee Williams, and Richard E. Grant on stage as director Ava DuVernay moderated the panel in a galaxy far, far away. Here is what we learned:

 

DuVernay directed the first question of the presser to Abrams about the difference in directing Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker the saga.

Abrams said the difference as simply, “the pressure.” The 53-year-old writer/director elaborated by saying that the pressure “shifted” from filming Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker.  “We didn’t know at the beginning of Force Awakens what it would look like…” Whereas, on the “first day of Rise of Skywalker, we knew those things were working. What we didn’t know was everything else.”

Abrams then shed let on how challenging it was to not only end a trilogy but also finding the perfect ending to sum up nine films. “The responsibility was significant,” he stressed. “The scale of the movie, this picture is enormous, we knew none of that would matter if you didn’t care about the people.”

Abrams then spoke about working with writer Chris Terrio to create an ending that would do the story justice while pleasing fans. “Chris and I, we got together, and we knew we wanted to tell a story of adventure…My job, as the director, was to make sure that all the pressures of all the obvious things, fan expectations, studios, practical logistical issues, weren’t a problem on the set…It was never quite an indie on the set of this movie. We needed to keep the thing feeling as human as possible and not like some masked machine.”

DuVernay then shifted the focus to the president of Lucasfilms and Steven Spielberg’s former protégé and producing partner, Kathleen Kennedy, to ask how she went from a camera operator on Monday Night Football to Star Wars.

“I think I learned that there’s never a job too small because when you’re doing that kind of work you get involved in every single thing that’s needed,” the Academy Award-winning producer said laughing. “That’s why, even when I’m standing on the set today, if I see a cable that’s kind of crimped, and I think somebody might trip, it’s very instinctive to me to start dressing the cables…It’s a part of me! I think that’s something that was instilled in doing that job.”

 

Clearly, Kennedy is still a very hands-on person when it comes to her project, and that seems to have contributed to not only her personal success but also the success of the franchise.

When DuVernay asked Kennedy about why she plucked Abrams to direct these films, she recounted the first time she met Abrams when he was only 15-year-old. But she and Spielberg knew that he had potential, needed to make a movie in a hurry, so he was her selection.

Terrio then chimed in to speak about the opportunity to write such an amazing piece of cinematic history. He said he didn’t have Abram’s number, so he let the offer call go to voicemail. “I listened to the message and I hyperventilated a little bit. I live in New York but I came out to LA. J.J. and I just started, at Bad Robot, there’s a room of these whiteboards. We just started writing on these whiteboards, and those whiteboards become a word document,” and that document became the screenplay for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The moderator then shifted the focus to Star Wars newcomer Keri Russell, and how she became a part of the final entry of this mega saga that has captivated millions of viewers across the globe. Russell recalls that the director reached out to her directly to ask if she wanted to be in the movie.

“He told me the idea about the mask and personally, I love them,” The Americans star said. “That’s my fantasy dream sequence that I can see everyone in this super-tough version of myself costume and no one can see me. It’s a real power play, in a way, so no one can really see what you’re thinking but you can see everyone else.”

Russell also said her relationship with Abrams was another reason she signed on, saying, “I’ve known J.J. for so long, I feel like we have a shorthand, we just speak the same language.”  Russell then went on add what being a part of the final chapter meant to her. “I feel like J.J. got to finish a piece of history in a way.”

Then the presser shifted toward the overall emotion behind continuing the saga without one if it’s original stars, the late Carrie Fisher. “Carrie was such a big part, and for me, personally, there was a sense of wanting to honor that,” Kelly Marie Tran said. Adding, “I think she’s pretty effing incredible in this movie.”

 

Richard E. Grant then confessed that after being a lifelong fan of the franchise, he got emotional when he finally watched the conclusion of the saga on-screen. “This extraordinary summation of the whole story that delivers an emotional whelp at the end of the movie that I was totally unprepared for and I wept, I got no sleep.”

Veteran Star Wars actor Billy Dee Williams then spoke about what it was like returning to the Lando Calrissian character. While he admits that he didn’t watch the old movie, he continues to have a growing respect for the franchise and Abrams that stems from the first time working with Star Wars creator George Lucas.

” I have a lot of admiration for these young man called Mr. J.J. Abrams,” Williams explained. “When I worked with George, that was an opportunity to work with somebody who was pretty extraordinary and here again I had the opportunity to work with somebody pretty extraordinary.”

He also told the crowd that when he got the call from Abrams to return to the films, he thought it was funny. “I thought it was just a wonderful gift, so I’m a very, very happy human being right now. Thank you.”

Oscar Isaac then shed some insight on altering the character Poe so that he’s no longer “squeaky” clean. “Just revealing a bit more of his personality,” Isaac insisted. “I’ve been taken away from my little box in space and I get to join my friends this time and you get to see the hope, in particular, that he brings in this one.” He went on to claim that it was this kind of trust and friendship that “allowed this spark of vitality.”

Daisy Ridley then provided insight on Rey’s legacy. The 27-year-old said she’s proud to promote diversity and to be able to portray a strong woman in today’s “crazy world.”

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker beams into theaters tomorrow. And while this may be last chapter of the Skywalker saga, it’s doubtful that Disney is done telling stories from a galaxy far, far away. May the force be with you, always.

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