The Last Jedi: Carrie Fisher's gift to Star Wars fans
PUBLISHED: 09:03 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:08 14 December 2017
As Star Wars: The Last Jedi finally arrives in cinemas, Carrie Fisher’s last performance in her iconic role of Princess Leia is unveiled. The film’s stars Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega discuss life without her and taking the franchise forward.
The famous score is playing, the logo is flashing, the opening crawl is scrolling across the giant movie screen and just like that, Star Wars is back, as if it had never been away.
It’s been two long years since The Force Awakens, the seventh instalment in the beloved franchise, reunited fans with heroes Han Solo, General Leia Organa and, for the briefest of tantalising moments, Luke Skywalker.
It also introduced audiences around the world to a new generation of fighters to root for - Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn, and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron.
By now many of the region’s hardcore fans will already have seen the film in the series — exactly 40 years since the release of the first Star Wars — many having been out in force for midnight screenings at cinemas right across the region.
While 2016’s spin-off Rogue One might have filled the Star Wars-shaped hole in our lives, it is the arrival of an all new episode in the Skywalker story that has been hugely anticipated.
The word has so far been positive on a film whose cast members took to the red carpet at London’s Royal Albert Hall for the film’s European premiere on Tuesday — the event was live streamed to millions across the globe such was the anticipation.
The film is also special as providing a fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher, who died aged 60, shortly after completing her final scenes as Leia and just shy of a year before the film hits cinemas.
When the end credits roll on Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi thay come replete with a poignant on-screen tribute to “our princess Carrie Fisher”, a bell tolls on nostalgia-steeped memories of George Lucas’s epic space saga.
Mark Hamill, who has played her brother since the 1977 original, says the latest instalment is a fitting send-off.
“She’s wonderful in the movie,” he says. “She was such a integral part of the Star Wars family, there is no replacing her.
“We will always miss her, but I do know she would want us to enjoy it, she would want us to be laughing.”
Leaning forward earnestly, he adds: “I know she would be moved by the outpouring of emotion around the world because everybody reacted to it like a loss in their own family but you’re going to love her in the movie and I just wish she were here because we would be laughing right now if she were. I will never stop missing her.”
Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed the film, is also anxious the film is a fitting tribute to a woman he admired so much.
“It’s an extraordinary performance,” he says reassuringly. “She’s so beautiful in the movie. Obviously, we didn’t know it was her last performance as Leia when we did it but I think it has some emotionally resonant things in there that I hope are really going to mean something for the fans.”
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Johnson is also committed to providing some twists and surprises for those fans, who are anxious to see how the saga plays out.
While Hamill’s aged Skywalker appeared only fleetingly in The Force Awakens, when he met Ridley’s Rey on an isolated outpost in the middle of the ocean in the dramatic climax, he features more prominently in The Last Jedi and returns to the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
“He says in the trailer ‘This is not going to go the way you think’, so expect the unexpected,” Hamill warns.
“I was shocked. What could have traumatised him? What could have happened that he would wind up being this bitter elderly recluse?
“It’s really surprising - but just the fact that they could surprise me is credit to Rian Johnson’s storytelling ability.”
Johnson, best known for helming the film Looper, will soon be overseeing a new trilogy of Star Wars films that will explore far away corners of the galaxy unrelated to the Skywalker saga.
It is unlikely those films will include Ridley and Boyega, who have become international stars since they were cast as unknowns in The Force Awakens.
While they will both appear in the as-yet-untitled Episode XI, Ridley says: “I think in my mind I’ve already moved away from it.
“It just so happens I come back because there are a few of the films, but I did an awesome documentary and a Studio Ghibli [animated] film and Murder On The Orient Express just came out so I feel very very lucky that people are giving me the opportunity to do other things.”
Life has changed beyond recognition for the star, now 25, who adds it can be difficult to live up to the expectations of Star Wars fans: “The distinction can become blurry for people and ultimately that is a character, that is not me.
“Occasionally when I’m walking down the road and I’m very much not that, I’m like arrgh [screams], and you feel you have to be a certain way to fulfil some kind of expectation.
She continues: “I try and be brave and do all the things that Rey does but probably don’t succeed as well. I’m sure it will gets easier.”
However, she adamantly denies reports that she wants to quit the role.
“When I signed up, it was for three films and that’s where I sort of saw the story ending, JJ [Abrams, director of The Force Awakens] said the same thing.
“I think everyone has perhaps taken that as me going, ‘I don’t want anything to do with it’, which is vastly untrue because this is awesome.”
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For Boyega, also 25, it’s his timetable and travel schedule that have changed most since he became Finn.
“It’s the schedule side of life that’s a tad bit more busy,” he says, in what must be a dramatic understatement.
“Commitments I do have are not at home, they are always in different countries and that is something that takes getting used to.”
But being a megastar certainly didn’t stop him from showing off his moves at the Notting Hill Carnival earlier this year.
“I do my thing there and then go back into my hole,” he laughs.
One thing that unites these young actors is the shared experience of the Star Wars universe - and the fact they have all adopted traits that were once the defining qualities of Luke Skywalker.
Hamill muses: “What is weird is you get to see portions of your character being divvied up amongst other characters.
“I used to be the hotshot pilot and now Oscar Isaac is, I used to be sneaking around dressed up as the bad guys on the Death Star and now Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega are.
“What about the orphan who is discovering mystical powers that he had? That is now Daisy Ridley.
“It’s good, it’s the next generation, they should do the heavy lifting.”
And heavy lifting is what they will do.
Facts from a Galaxy Far Away…
• The Force Awakens ended with Rey finally discovering Luke Skywalker’s location and handing the aging hero his old lightsaber. The Last Jedi picks up immediately from that cliffhanger.
• Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson had a brief cameo in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story aboard the Death Star as an Imperial gunnery technician.
• The director says while developing Star Wars: The Last Jedi he looked at for inspiration in films including 12 O’Clock High, To Catch a Thief and Three Outlaw Samurai.
• Oscar-winning production designer Rick Heinrichs created 120 sets utilising all stages and backlots at Pinewood and Longcross Studios in Surrey as well as on location in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and on the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland.
• From Ewoks to Jar Jar, Star Wars has mixed record with cute creatures. The latest, the Porgs are a adorable mix of puffin, owl and baby seal.
• One familiar face is missing, following the death of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo at the hands of own son Ben Solo in The Force Awakens.