Star Wars The Last Jedi Commentary

Along with the spectacular feature length behind-the-scenes documentary available on the home video release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, there’s also commentary from director Rian Johnson that provides even more insight into the movie.

Below, we run through the fascinating details revealed by Rian Johnson, including alternate shots, cinematic influences, the motivation behind certain sequences, the director’s two cameos, and details about things that were included in earlier drafts of the movie that ended up on the cutting room floor.

So here’s everything we learned from the Star Wars The Last Jedi commentary track.

An Opening Fake Out

Originally, there was an alternate opening shot after the crawl (which got some grammar assistance from The Hangover sequels writer Craig Mazin), with a pan down to Finn’s medical helmet looking like a planet. But it just took too long for the movie to get moving and it needed to be faster paced. So Finn was brought in later after the opening space battle.

Starting with a Joke

Rian Johnson explained the opening gag of faux miscommunication between Poe Dameron and General Hux:

“I held onto this. This was something where I felt like, first of all, I knew with all the heaviness of it being the middle chapter, I knew people were going to come in with all the expectations of the grand opera of it. I really wanted this movie to be fun. I love the tone that J.J. [Abrams], Michael [Arndt] and Larry [Kasdan] set with The Force Awakens, and the tone of the original films has a spirit of fun to it. I felt like, at the very beginning, we had to kinda break the ice and say we’re gonna have fun here. We’re gonna try some fun stuff, and it’s gonna be okay to laugh in this movie. So we started with a little Monty Python sketch.”

The Bombing Sequence Was Inspired by 12 O’Clock High

The World War II classic 12 O’Clock High was listed among Rian Johnson’s influences on The Last Jedi, but now we know exactly what he’s talking about: it inspired the scene of the bombers making their way towards the Dreadnought. Also of note, the shot of all the bombs being launched from the last surviving Resistance bomber was done practically with a mechanism that fired off all those bombs in rows like that.

Domhnall Gleeson’s Stuntman Broke His Nose

When Supreme Leader Snoke slams General Hux on the ground after letting the Dreadnought get destroyed, it’s a stunt double doing the fall. It’s a good thing it was, because the stuntman broke his nose performing the fall.

The Entire Throne Room Was a Practical Set

Snoke’s throne room is a practical set. Everything in it, from the red curtain, to the shiny floors and the high walls, was all real. Rian Johnson said this was his favorite set.

Johnson said the red and reflective black aesthetic of Snoke’s throne room was inspired by a production of the famous play Madam Butterfly that was directed by Anthony Minghella.

Why Rian Johnson Ditched Kylo’s Helmet (and Destroyed It Himself)

Rian Johnson loved Adam Driver’s performance in The Force Awakens, and in order to better tap into that and the complicated character he was playing, he immediately wanted to get him out from under Kylo Ren’s helmet. “I feel like for this film especially, when we’re trying to get deeper into his head, I thought, ‘Well, we gotta figure out a way to get that mask out of the way.'” Snoke mocks the helmet, seeing it as a sign of immaturity in Kylo Ren, so it allowed a natural way for us to see more of Adam Driver.

Fun fact: the helmet was originally less damaged when they were shooting the remnants of it on the floor, but Johnson wanted to try one where it was completely destroyed, so he started stomping on it himself to trash it more.

The Best Advice Rian Johnson Received

J.J. Abram’s editors Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon told Johnson to shoot a cutaway of BB-8 for every single scene he was in, and it worked out fantastically for them.

Rian Johnson’s Cameos

When Han Solo’s golden dice are pulled down from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, the hand that actually grabs them is not Mark Hamill, but director Rian Johnson. In addition, Johnson lent his voice to the snobby alien seen on the floating yacht just before it flies off a waterfall on Canto Bight.

Kelly Marie Tran’s Performance Changed Rose Tico

Originally, the character of Rose Tico was supposed to be a “grumpy sort of Eeyore type.” But Tran’s beautiful, bright spirit changed the character and even convinced Johnson to rewrite the scene when she catches Finn so that she’s less suspicious of Finn and more disappointed in someone she thought was a hero. That rewrite happened during production

maz kanata visual effects

Early Drafts Had More Maz Kanata

Rian Johnson revealed that earlier drafts of The Last Jedi had Maz Kanata on the Resistance cruiser with Poe Dameron and the rest of the crew, but he realized he could be more economical if he gave some of her character beats to the main characters. So her role was reduced when all was said and done.

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver Shot Force Connections Twice

In order to shoot the Force connection scenes between Kylo Ren and Rey, both Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley were on set but off camera for each other in order to better serve each of their performances.

A Makeshift Camera Rig for a Cool Shot

There’s a long shot when we first enter the casino of Canto Bight that zooms over gambling tables and through crowds of characters. Not only is it inspired by a similar shot in Wings, the first movie to ever win Best Picture, but it was created by a makeshift camera rig. Normally, a techno crane would be used for a shot like this, but instead cinematographer Steve Yedlin used a truss with a camera on it to connect two dollies, and they pulled it off that way instead.

Yoda Was Entirely a Puppet Again

The original molds for Yoda were used to create a new version of the puppet from The Empire Strikes Back, and they even brought back the same woman who painted Yoda’s original eyes to come back and do it again.

Star Wars The Last Jedi

Frank Oz Helped Rian Johnson in the Editing Room

For the scene featuring Yoda and Luke Skywalker, Rian Johnson brought in Frank Oz to the editing room for some help. Cutting together a scene featuring a puppet as one of the main characters can be trickier than you might think, but Frank Oz had plenty of experience before doing it on his own films, so he provided some invaluable insight in addition to bringing Yoda back to life.

A Coin That Doesn’t Belong

Amongst all the coins in the secret compartment on the ship that DJ steals from Canto Bight, director Rian Johnson hid a collectible Zorkmid coin that was tied to the Infocom video game Zork. He’s had it since he was a kid, and he placed it among the prop coins in the movie.

BB-8’s Practical Action

BB-8 shooting of the coins on Canto Bight and BB-8 tossing of the communicator to Finn in the Star Destroyer were done practically by little mechanisms created by the crew. The latter took about 20 takes to get right, specifically with the catch.

Laura Dern’s Laser Fun

Whenever Laura Dern was shooting her blaster, she couldn’t help but actually say “pew pew” like she was playing pretend. In the final cut of the movie, you can still see her saying it when she stuns the mutinous Resistance members in the docking bay.

A Crystal Monster on Crait

During the chase through the crystal caverns of Crait in the third act, there was almost a huge crystal monster that would have tried to eat the Millennium Falcon, but it ended up being just too much during an already packed sequence.

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That’s everything we picked up from the Star Wars The Last Jedi commentary track. Rian Johnson provides some more insight into character motivations and points out cameos (that we already knew about) and is generally a delight throughout the entire commentary, so it’s worth listening to even after you’ve read this article. That’s especially true just for the moments where Johnson is a total goofball and says things like, “Meanwhile, back in space!” Give it a listen.

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