“From the start, Star Wars has always had the good guy confronting the extent to which the bad guy is a reflection of themselves,” writer-director Rian Johnson tells Us. “With Luke, he thinks Darth Vader is an evil guy who he has to kill. Then he realizes this person is apart of him.”
And Rey is dealing with an added struggle: She can’t find herself until she finds her family. Though she thought she had a glimmer of hope in Han Solo (Harrison Ford), “that was violently taken away,” says Johnson. “She’s still searching for her place in all this. She thinks figuring out who her parents are will help define her in this story.”
In the meantime, she has reliable Wookie Chewbacca to guide her. Following Han’s death, “Chewie now focuses on Rey,” he explains. “He always took care of Han and you get that sense with Rey. It’s like the family dog. You take care of it, but mostly, the dog is protecting you. Chewie knows he has to help her.”
Offscreen, Ridley had Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher as mentors. “They were protective of these young actors in a way that was really touching,” explains Johnson. “Mark and Carrie both saw what these kids were getting into. They have that perspective of the past 40 years of being in Star Wars and what that means for your life.”
The eighth installment will be a testament to Fisher’s. The star had finished shooting her scenes as the iconic Princess Leia before her untimely passing in December 2016 and, now, the film marks her final act. “Her performance is the best tribute possible,” says the director. “There is an extra layer cast over her performance. The places she goes to emotionally in it are going to mean a lot to fans.”
After all, she understood Leia’s importance more than anyone. “She was so conscious of her place in culture and what she meant to the female fans,” Johnson tells Us. “She always wanted to stay true to that. She made sure young girls grew up seeing Princess Leia as a female hero.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters Friday, December 15.
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