Why Harrison Ford Agreed To Return As A Force Ghost For J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

After Rian Johnson took the reins and veered "Star Wars" towards a greater future with "The Last Jedi," the arrival of "The Rise of Skywalker" felt like such a step backward. It was less of a natural continuation of the story, and more like a course correction to appease the sect of fans who felt as if they had somehow been betrayed. Everything that once was is now presented in what appeared to be a brand-new package, including the revival of some familiar faces.

"Star Wars" has been reviving deceased force-sensitive characters ever since "The Empire Strikes Back," with force ghost Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). The purpose of their inclusion has usually been to impart some wisdom on the main characters during a moment of inner conflict, whether it's Yoda's fireside lesson ("The Last Jedi") or Obi-Wan confirming Luke's suspicions about Vader ("Return of the Jedi"). Even Luke (Mark Hamill) himself returned in the blue-hazed form. But the ghostly appearance of one character caught a lot of folks by surprise, myself included.

After Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has been momentarily defeated on the wreckage of the second Death Star, he's greeted by the spirit of his father, Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Given Ford's comments about wanting to let the character go, it came as a shock to see him return for one last appearance, especially since he's not considered a force-sensitive character. His death in "The Force Awakens" may have given Ford the out he needed, but J.J. Abrams made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

A favor to Abrams and Driver

According to a 2020 article from USA Today, even though the character had plunged into the heart of Starkiller Base, Ford had been approached by Abrams to come back for the brief scene:

"When JJ asked me to do it, I said, 'Are you kidding? I'm dead!'[...] He said, 'Sorta dead. You can do this.' He hadn't written anything at that time. But he said, 'This is going to be great.' So I said okay. If JJ asked you do something, you'd probably do it too. He's a very persuasive guy."

On top of that, he also saw this as a good opportunity to give a boost to the emotional journey of Kylo Ren. "It was a useful addition to the story and the continuing development of Adam Driver's character.[...] And the chance to do another scene with Adam was great," says Ford.

Back when Ford was making the press tour rounds for "The Force Awakens," his answer to coming back as Han jokingly involved the mention of money. When Jimmy Fallon asked him if the character's return made him emotional, he hilariously responded with "no, I got paid." The payday for "The Rise of Skywalker" was likely too big to turn down, but I can also see him having a great deal of respect for Abrams and Driver. In terms of why Han would return, his presence felt like the best alternative that didn't involve dredging up Carrie Fisher's likeness.

'I don't know what a Force ghost is'

At this point in the story, Kylo Ren had lost a lightsaber duel with Rey (Daisy Ridley), in addition to losing his mother, Leia (Carrie Fisher) from across the galaxy. It would have been more emotionally fulfilling for her to bring her son to his senses, given that she's in tune with the Force, but given Fisher's untimely passing between the making of "The Last Jedi" and "The Rise of Skywalker," bringing Ford in for a day or two was the next best step. Lucasfilm even went so far as to put out a statement saying that thankfully they weren't going to digitally recreate her likeness, so much as repurpose leftover footage from "The Force Awakens."

Having a Force ghost preside over the final transformation of Kylo Ren to Ben Solo would have made sense, but I can also buy Kylo Ren's weighted guilt coming back to haunt him in the form of his most personal kill. Even as a favor, Ford is still a wonderful actor who made the most of his brief screen time. The most hilarious thing about all of this is that, if you ask Ford about the logistics of his ghostly presence, he makes it very clear that it just doesn't interest him. As Ford bluntly told USA Today, "I have no (expletive) idea what a Force ghost is. And I don't care!"

"Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker" is currently streaming on Disney+.