THE LAST JEDI Press Conference – This is Not Going to Go the Way You Think

What happens when you get 10 actors and the director together for the STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press conference?  Adam Driver channels his emo-Ren and riffs about death and drugs (and birthdays?) while Mark Hamill drops one-liners about socks.  Let’s just say, “this is not going to go the way you think.”  Grab your spaceship toys, we’re heading into THE LAST JEDI press conference.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event

(L-R) Actors Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis and a Praetorian Guard attend THE LAST JEDI press conference, photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney.

On Sunday, December 3, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), and Director Rian Johnson assembled at the InterContinental Los Angeles for THE LAST JEDI press conference. You could instantly tell how comfortable the group was with each other as they laughed and joked their way through the event.  However, some threads emerged from the wide-ranging discussion including the scope of the film, meeting your hero, how the characters deal with Han Solo’s death, the role of women in the film, and the legacy of Carrie Fisher.  In keeping with the theme, not all the answers went the way you think.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event

Atmosphere of the STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event, photo by Dave Parfitt

How THE LAST JEDI Differs from THE FORCE AWAKENS

Of course THE LAST JEDI is the second in the latest Star Wars trilogy, and it’s expected to be darker in tone than THE FORCE AWAKENS.  Director Rian Johnson affirmed, “it is darker, but it’s a Star Wars movie and it’s also fun.”  Johnson went on, “it [THE LAST JEDI] makes you come out of the theater wanting to run in your backyard, grab your spaceship toys and make them fly around.”  However, Mark Hamill was able to boil down the essential differences between THE LAST JEDI and THE FORCE AWAKENS.  “It’s longer,” Hamill quipped, and “it feels different because of the amount of screen time I have. I can promise you my part is twice as big as it was in THE FORCE AWAKENS.”

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event

(L-R) Director Rian Johnson, actors Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley attend THE LAST JEDI press conference, photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney.

Meeting Your Hero

A theme running throughout all the various storylines of the film is the perils of meeting your hero, and whether that hero lives up to expectations.  Mark Hamill elaborated, “I don’t think any line in the script epitomized my reaction more than this is not going to go the way you think.  And Rian pushed me out of my comfort zone, as if I weren’t as intimidated and terrified to begin with, but I’m grateful, because you have to trust someone and he was the only Obi Wan available to me.”  And then our sage on the stage took a weird turn. Hamill continued, “not only in my choices as an actor, but my choices in sock wear.  I was so embarrassed. I looked at my drab black socks and I said, curse you, Rian Johnson, I’ll get my revenge.”

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event

(L-R) Director Rian Johnson, actors Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley attend THE LAST JEDI press conference, photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney. 

The Death of Han Solo

There are certainly large issues to deal with in THE LAST JEDI, particularly Han Solo’s death.  While John Boyega (Finn) and Oscar Issac (Poe Dameron) both said their characters have to keep moving forward as it’s a time of war, Daisy Ridley said Rey has a different take on the impact of Han’s death.  Ridley added,

“Rey is very much affected by it. Rey, as a character has been alone for a really long time, and she’s really open to love and friendship.  Finn and BB-8 come along and it’s like this amazing adventure.  Rey seeks something from Han because there’s an intimacy and a figure of something she’s never dreamed of for her that gets snatched away. Everything’s moving forward, but Rey has some time to ask questions and wonder what it is that would have led someone to do something like that.  So I would say Rey’s maybe a little more affected, at least emotionally on screen, than the others.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Han Solo (Harrison Ford), photo by David James © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved. 

Women in the Star Wars Galaxy

The conversation continued to the role of women and more female characters introduced into the Star Wars saga.  The stars weighed in on what this means to them.  Daisy Ridley started saying, “as a girl growing up in London, obviously I knew there was a disparity in films but I wasn’t so aware of it growing up in a liberal household.  So when I got involved, I knew it was a big deal, but the response was so beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rey (Daisy Ridley) on Ahch-To Island, photo by David James © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Kelly Marie Tran jumped in, “I think that it feels like both an honor and a responsibility at the same time. I feel like from the beginning when I initially found out I got this role, I just felt like I wanted to do the whole thing justice, and I’m so excited the girls in this movie kick some butt.”

Laura Dern is no stranger to strong, independent female characters including the pioneering Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park.  Dern noted, “I was moved by the fact that he [Rian Johnson] wanted to see a powerful female character also be feminine. That moves away from a stereotype that strong female characters must be like the boys.”

Gwendoline Christie had a particularly thoughtful response.  “You get to see women that are not being strong just because they’re acting like men. You’re seeing a developed character or at least a developing character, that’s showing some complex character traits. And I’m just delighted about that. I’m delighted that something as legendary as Star Wars has decided to be modern and to reflect our society more as it is.”

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event

Gwendoline Christie listens to a question at the STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event, photo by Dave Parfitt

It wasn’t just the women actors who had strong opinions about the role of female characters in Star Wars.  Oscar Issac added that the most formative people in his life have been women. “To see that reflected in the film is really, really a beautiful thing,” Issac noted, “and it is more true to real life and what’s happening now, they’re the ones that shape you.”

Shifting directions, leave it to Supreme Leader Snoke to break up this love fest.  Andy Serkis – “Well, speaking as the leader of the First Order, I would say that Snoke is very unimpressed with the fact that there is such a huge female force that seems to be growing in the universe. Its deeply threatening, it’s deeply undermining, it’s got to be stopped, it cannot go on.”  Again, not quite the direction we thought.

The Lasting Legacy of Carrie Fisher

Of course you can’t talk about strong, female characters without discussing Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia.  Many of the panelists had thoughts about the iconic actress.  I’m including the quotes uncut, because they were so thoughtful and touching.

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, from StarWars.com

Gwendoline Christie: “Well, she was very significant because I was first shown A New Hope when I was six, and I remember thinking, wow, that character’s really different. I watched TV and film obsessively from such a young age but it stayed with me throughout my formative years.  She’s really interesting, she’s really smart, she’s really funny, she’s courageous, she’s bold, she doesn’t care what people think, and she isn’t prepared to be told what to do.

And she doesn’t look the same as a sort of homogenized presentation of a woman that we had been used to seeing. So that was really instrumental to me as someone that didn’t feel like they fitted that homogenized view of what a woman was supposed to be, that there was inspiration there, that you could be an individual and celebrate yourself and be successful without giving yourself over, without necessarily making some sort of terrible, huge compromise. So it was a big inspiration for me.

To play a character as well from what we’ve seen in The Force Awakens, I was very excited when I was shown just the basic element of the costume, and here we were seeing a woman where her femininity was not delineated in terms of the shape of her body, in terms of her physical attractiveness. That weird random group of elements which we’re born with in some kind of odd lottery and then we’re judged on in society. I was just delighted to be able to have that opportunity.”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

General Leia (Carrie Fisher) © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Laura Dern: “Well, endless thoughts and also a profound impact that she made on me as a girl, and spoken so beautifully by Gwen, so I’ll just speak to this present experience, to say that as we always had with Carrie, not just Leia, her wisdom.  People speak about people who are brave or fearless, but beyond that, without shame.  That’s what moved me the most about the icon she gave us, but also what she gave us individually and personally is Carrie – who she was so directly, without shame, and to share her story, and to expect nothing less from any of us. And the privilege of watching how Rian has so beautifully captured all of that and her grace in this amazing, beautiful, pure performance that I was just so moved by.”

Daisy Ridley: “I don’t think I can really follow that, except to just say Carrie’s daughter Billie is I think all of those qualities. She’s smart and funny and shameless and –

Mark Hamill interjects, “always late.”

Daisy Ridley continues, “- and wonderful.

And I think Carrie bringing up a daughter who is all of those qualities and then some, in this world, I think it speaks volumes to what she did as her in the spotlight and also her as Leia.”

Star Wars Celebration Orlando

Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s daughter, speaking at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. Photo by Dave Parfitt

Kelly Marie Tran: “I think that something about Carrie that I really look up to is, and something I didn’t realize until recently, was just how much courage it takes to truly be yourself when you’re on a public platform or when possibly a lot of people will be looking at you.  And she was so unapologetic and so openly herself and that is something that I am really trying to do, and it’s hard.  Just like Daisy said, like Laura said, like Gwendoline said, I think that she will always be an icon as Leia but also as Carrie.  I am so fortunate to have met her and I think that she will really live on forever.”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

In closing, one reported asked – “in every movie we walk away learning something. What will we walk away learning from THE LAST JEDI?”  Leave it to Adam Driver to give us our “this is not going to go the way you think,” answer.

Adam Driver: “for some it will be nothing.”  Driver elaborated, “whatever your life is outside, you bring it to the theater, whatever circumstances, whether there be death or drugs or birthdays.” Ok, that took a dark turn, but I see Adam Driver’s point.  “Obviously where you are in your life speaks to you in a different way than anybody else,” Kylo, sorry I mean Adam, continued, “so it’s hard to blanket say, ‘I think you’ll feel this,’ because again, we’re not you.”  That’s right, we’re definitely not Adam Driver.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event

(L-R) Daisy Ridley looks on as Adam Driver takes a turn towards the Dark Side at THE LAST JEDI press conference, photo by Dave Parfitt

Finally, saving the best for last, once the press conference ended, the cast all dispered, and I was able to grab a quick 1:1 interview with Mark Hamill…

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event

Mark Hamill answering a question at the STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event, photo by Dave Parfitt

Sorry, my sentence got cut off there. I was able to grab a quick 1:1 interview with Mark Hamill’s dog Millie.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event

Mark Hamill’s dog Millie answering questions at the STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI press event, photo by Dave Parfitt

What did we talk about?  Mostly snack food and Taytos.  See, once again, that did not go the way you think.

We finally see how THE LAST JEDI goes, when it opens in theaters on December 15th.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.