Last Jedi Kylo Ren

A lot has been written about how Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a major shift from the previous films in the series. But long before the fans felt that whiplash, someone else did – the crew. We sat down with costume designer Michael Kaplan and he explained how going from J.J. Abrams and Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi shook things up in a huge way…and it’s all summed up in the fate of Kylo Ren’s mask.

Spoilers ahead.

Early in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, an enraged Kylo Ren (humiliated by Supreme Leader Snoke following the destruction of Starkiller Base and his defeat at the hands of Rey) smashes his helmet into pieces. It’s a big moment, the first major shift for a villain who then spends the next 150 minutes transforming into one of the most fascinating movie villains in a long time. It’s clear what Johnson intended: Kylo Ren loses his mask and is now truly seen by the world. The man who was Ben Solo is laid bare for all to see.

But for Michael Kaplan, saying goodbye to the mask he had agonized over with J.J. Abrams was a tough moment. Our own Ben Pearson sat down with Kaplan and got the whole story.

star wars the last jedi kylo

What did you think about the idea of Kylo Ren destroying his mask this time around and spending the majority of the movie unmasked?

I was a bit surprised, because we worked for so long with J.J. coming up with the right mask, and it was the first thing that was to be taken away and destroyed. It was a bit like going from Obama to Trump. [laughs] I don’t know if you should say that.

[laughs] No, it’s fine. I was wondering about that – it’s obviously a super collaborative environment and you guys are all adults and working well together, but I wondered if if there were anything along the lines of hurt feelings because I know you put some serious work into creating that, and for Rian to come in from a story perspective and blow that up in the beginning of this movie, it signals a shift. I was wondering what you thought about that.

I realized there was a new director with a totally different point of view, and you can see that in the way we dressed Princess Leia. She was much more regal. She was much more rough and ready and practical in Episode 7. Rian wanted her to look more regal, and I always serve my director. It’s a different viewpoint. It’s not really something where we judge from director to director. I’ve actually not been in this situation before, having not been on a franchise like this where I stay and the director changes. It’s more likening it to a mini-series or a television series where the core group stays and the directors come and go. But it was a totally different viewpoint. I was also surprised when I read that there was a big casino. Initially when I read it, I thought, ‘Will this work? It seems more like a James Bond movie,’ you know? But then I realized it’s my job to make it work. It’s my job to translate it into the world of Star Wars, so I hope I was successful in doing that. But it certainly was a challenge and a joy to be doing that many fancy dress costumes in black and white to fill up that casino. There were about 200 extras there, all wearing hats and jewelry and gloves and tuxedos. That was a majority of the work on the film to get that done in time and to have all of those details. It was like MGM in the 1930s with all of our different departments on the lot: milliners and jewelry makers and seamstresses and glove makers and tailors. It was pretty exciting.

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