Highlights from Vanity Fair’s ‘The Last Jedi’ Reddit AMA

Highlights from Vanity Fair’s ‘The Last Jedi’ Reddit AMA

David Kamp, contributing editor at Vanity Fair and writer of The Last Jedi feature in the new issue, took part in a Reddit AMA today and answered a bevy of Star Wars-related questions. Presented below are some of the highlights, but you can read through the entire AMA on Reddit here.

How did writing this story compare to other articles you’ve written? Was it easier/harder or you, and are you generally a Star Wars fan?

Hello, gang, it’s David Kamp from Vanity Fair. I’m so grateful for your questions, including this one. So, to begin: Yes, I am a Star Wars fan, same age (basically) as JJ Abrams and similarly thrilled that Lucasfilm went back into movie production in 2012. This story took a lot of reporting, but it was a joy to do, as you can imagine. (And as the photo I posted on Twitter of Mark Hamill and me indicates.)

Did you learn anything about the music and Rian Johnson’s collaboration with John Williams?

Yes, I asked Rian Johnson about this. Specifically, I asked if it is all John Williams in this movie or if there’s anything akin to the new cantina song that Abrams and Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote for TFA. Johnson told me that he didn’t want to overburden John Williams and was going to get his cousin, Nathan Johnson, who has scored Rian’s three films (Brick, Brothers Bloom, Looper), to write some incidental cues. But, to Rian’s delight, John Williams said he was happy to do the whole score. So it is ALL John Williams in this film.

What do you know about Benicio Del Toro’s character? Is he like Max Von Sydow’s character in TFA, a really little part?

I can’t speak to the size of Del Toro’s part. Johnson kept describing him as “shady,” and Del Toro told Annie Leibovitz and her crew that he borrowed some mannerisms for his character from Tom Waits. The character’s name is never made explicit in TLJ (at least that’s what Johnson says), but the filmmakers refer to him as DJ, and Johnson promises that we as viewers will understand why he is known as DJ.

Do we learn anything about Snoke’s identity? Does he get a fight scene?

I asked Rian Johnson about Snoke—Who/what is he?—and Rian was fairly up front in saying that Snoke is not a character he particularly gets into in TLJ. Hmmm.

Which new character from the sequels are you most excited about? (new characters from [The] Force Awakens included)

I like all the new characters, but I’m particularly intrigued by Finn. Did he really never have a name before? Is there more to that back story? And why did he, of all characters, get to handle a lightsaber in TFA. As you all know, civilians seldom get to handle lightsabers in Star Wars movies. I asked Boyega about this, and his answer will appear in another web extra running on Vanity Fair’s site tomorrow.

What are some of the thing[s] that you learn from the set that might surprise most of the audience?

Biggest surprise to me is how much creative leeway Lucasfilm is giving Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow to write their films and make up plot and characters from scratch. I had presumed (wrongly) that JJ Abrams and Larry Kasdan might have sketched out an arc for the entirety of the current trilogy. But as Rian Johnson told me, it really was a creative handoff—“Over to you, Rian.” And Rian is handing off to Colin Trevorrow in the same way. He said he’s made a mess that Colin will somehow have to clean up.

Did you get any sense of how they are going to deal with Carrie’s death for Episode IX, aside from the “no CGI” thing? Will Princess Leia be written out? Do you think they are considering recasting the role?

When I was doing these interviews, it was still Feb, March, April, and bear in mind that Carrie Fisher died only on Dec 27—still not that long ago. So it was a little heavy, dealing with people who are grieving but have to get back to work. The original plan was, as Kathleen Kennedy put it, for Episode IX to be “Carrie’s film,” in the sense that VII was Harrison Ford’s film and VIII is Mark Hamill’s film. As I was speaking with Kennedy, she said that Colin Trevorrow and the Lucasfilm Story Group were working on reconceiving the Episode IX script. I don’t think that they would consider recasting the role, and Kennedy seemed emphatic in asserting that they wouldn’t use the tech they used in Rogue One to reanimate Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin. I suspect, though I don’t know for sure, that Leia will not appear in Episode IX, and her absence/death will be alluded to in some elegant way.

What’s the one burning question you wanted answers to but you weren’t allowed to know?

Well, it’s a question a lot of us wonder: What is the meaning of that title? Does “Jedi” work in the singular or the plural? Does it refer to a specific character, and if so, who? I asked both Rian Johnson and Kathleen Kennedy this question, and their amusing and not totally forthcoming but still somehow helpful answers will appear in a VF web exclusive that will be going up on VF’s site tomorrow. (Further plug: We’ll be posting a lot more in terms of web extras tomorrow.)

From what you have seen of the movie does [The] Last Jedi feel like something different in the ways perhaps TFA wasn’t?

It’s definitely darker. Kathleen Kennedy described the natural arc of each trilogy as “Setup; Conflict; Resolution.” That makes TLJ the “Conflict” chapter. And if you look at two of Johnson’s movies, Brick and Looper, they have a dark, dystopian quality to them. But also a lot of humor. Johnson is aware that his movie by its very nature is dark—he used the word “operatic” with me—but he is also conscious of not wanting it to be a “dirge.” So he has gone out of his way to leaven the movie with humor. I don’t know exactly how, but he says there’s a lot of humor in the film.

I should add that Johnson really wanted to create something that was visually new for a Star Wars film: a fancy place where the swells of the galaxy hang out. If you think about it, the Star Wars visual vocabulary is full of desolate deserts and frozen tundra and scrapyards full of disused and broken droids. He thought, “Let’s go upscale, let’s go Monte Carlo!” The result is the casino city of Canto Bight, which you can catch a glimpse of in some of our photos in the new issue.

How does the chemistry feel between all of the actors/actresses? Are Del Toro, Dern, and Hamill teaching all of the newer/younger actors and actresses tips and tricks? I feel like the acting in The Force Awakens was so so, but with some tips and direction from the more experienced guys I’m sure they can improve drastically.

In some of the web extras going up on Vanity Fair‘s site tomorrow, there’s a little more on this subject. One leitmotif is that everyone who is not Adam Driver says that Adam Driver is uncommonly intense on set. He’s really all-in on becoming Kylo Ren. John Boyega told me that he likes to try to break the Kylo spell by running up to [D]river and giving him unexpected hugs. But evidently, it doesn’t shake Driver.

How much, if any, TLJ production crossover occurred with the two spin-off films in progress occurred? Rogue One and the untitled Han Solo film.

I spent some time with Kiri Hart, who is the head of Lucasfilm’s story group, up in San Francisco, and she said that Rian Johnson was working on TLJ at more or less the same time that Gareth Edwards was working on Rogue One. I don’t know that there was creative overlap, but I think that, for the story group, it led to some especially productive weeks and months. The two projects fed off of each other in that regard, energy-wise. As for the young Han Solo movie, I think Rian was too busy with TLJ to cross over into their process. By the way, Kathleen Kennedy told me that we should expect an announcement fairly soon about what the next one-off Star Wars story film will be—the one that will come out (they hope) in 2020.

Got any other quotes from Adam about Kylo? I only saw he mentioned he has internal as well as external scars…

Adam is very good not only about not revealing spoilers, but also being private and circumspect about his actorly motivations. He told me that there’s something within him, personally, that he calls upon to portray Kylo Ren, but that he’d prefer to keep that something private. Extraordinary actor.

You can find the latest updates from Vanity Fair, the exclusive covers and all-new images, here and here. You can find David Kamp’s piece on The Last Jedi here.

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