Daily Podcast: Listen/Read Our Rian Johnson 'Last Jedi' Spoiler-Filled Interview

Last week, after seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I had the pleasure of sitting down with writer/director Rian Johnson to talk about spoilers. After the jump, you can read that entire conversation or listen to it yourself on today's episode of the /Film Daily podcast.

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Naturally, spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi follow. Continue reading at your own risk.

On the December 18, 2017 episode of /Film Daily, in our Feature Presentation, Peter Sciretta will play the audio from his interview with Star Wars: The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson. After that segment, in the Spoiler Room, Peter will be joined by /Film managing editor Jacob Hall and writer Brad Oman to discuss Star Wars: The Last Jedi spoilers.

In Our Feature Presentation: Peter plays the audio from his spoiler-filled interview with Star Wars: The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson.

In the Spoiler Room: Now that everyone has seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we have a discussion about some of the biggest moments of the film:

  • Killing off Snoke
  • Rey's Parents
  • Frank Oz reprises his role as Yoda
  • Luke Skywalker's death
  • What do we want to see in Episode 9?

Rian Johnson Last Jedi Spoiler-Filled Interview

Can you talk about subverting fan expectations in this film, and in particular, the decision to kill Snoke?

Yeah, I guess the first thing to say is coming into writing this or any story the object is not to subvert expectation, the object is not surprise.  I think that would lead to some contrived places.  The object is drama.  And in this case, the object was figuring out a path for each one of these characters, where we challenge them and thus learn more about each of them by the end of the movie.

So that having been said, Kylo's arc in this movie, besides his relationship with Rey, I saw as the big arc for Kylo breaking down this kind of unstable foundation that he's on and then building him to where by the end of the film he's no longer just a Vader wannabe. But he's stepped into his own as kind of a quote-unquote villain, but a complicated villain that you understand, right?  So with that in mind, the idea that Kylo would get to that place by the end of it led me to think, well, then what is Snoke's place at the end?  And does that work with him just kneeling before Snoke at the end?  No.  If Kylo's gotta get to a place of actual power the ultimate expression of that would be him ascending beyond his master.

And that also then gives the opportunity to have a great, dramatic moment that you don't expect of getting Snoke kind of out of the way.  So that really is where it all stemmed from.  It was thinking about Kylo's path, thinking about where I wanted him to be at the end of the movie to set him up for the next film.  And thinking okay, that means we're gonna clear away this slightly more familiar dynamic of the Emperor and the pupil.  Clear the boards from that, and then that's much more exciting going into [Episode IX], the notion of now we just have Kylo as the one that they have to deal with.  You can no longer take a rational guess at how the Snoke-Kylo thing is gonna play out in the next movie.

Yeah, I have no idea.

I know...it's exciting, isn't it?

starwars-lastjedi-kyloren-nohelmet

In the film, Kylo advises Rey to "kill the past."  It seems like your movie is kind of also kind of representative of that.  Like for Star Wars, to move on to the future of the franchise, you kind of have to let go of...

Well, it's an interesting aspect of it.  It's an interesting theme.  And it's for me the balance was...Kylo is saying that, and interestingly to me, Luke is kind of saying his own version of that as well.  And it's really Rey who is the balance and Rey is where my heart lies in terms of that theme and where we end up at the end of the movie. Because I do believe that I understand the kind of that fiery instinct of burn down the past, cut off from tradition, forge forward in your life.  Don't look back.  Every one of us has had the example in our life where we've felt that or acted that out in some way.

I also think if you think you're leaving the past behind or cutting it off, you're fooling yourself.  The real way to move forward is by building on the... is by realizing what you take and what you leave from the past, not holding onto it too closely.  Like the lesson of Luke and the tree with Yoda.  But building off of what it's worth and moving forward from there, which is what Rey lands on.  And that ultimately is where my heart's at. [...] Hopefully, it still feels like a Star Wars movie and pays some things off, but also does some things that are unexpected and takes us some new places.

luke-skywalker-master-yoda

Can you talk about getting Frank Oz back as Yoda?

Yeah.  Oh my God, man, when I realized that Yoda was going to have a place in this story and also I realized it's Luke and Yoda and the Yoda that Luke has the emotional connection with is one from the original trilogy...  I thought oh, holy shit, we can do the puppet.  And so Neal Scanlan, our creature supervisor, his team found the original molds.  They meticulously recreated the puppet.  Frank came and spent like three weeks, not even rehearsing, but just working with the puppet engineers on getting the balance of it and getting it all perfectly right.

They tracked down the woman who painted Yoda's original eyes and had her paint new eyes for him.  I mean,  just every single thing. And then Frank... We had a magical night where Frank came and puppeteered the Yoda.  He's done there underneath the boards with the headset on watching the monitor down there and doing his magic.  And we shot the scene the way they would have back when they did Empire.  It's pretty cool.

That scene was awesome.

Pretty fucking cool.

Star Wars The Force Awakens ending

In Last Jedi, we get the revelation that Rey is the child of no one of significant value.  Can you talk about how you came to that conclusion?

That was like everything else in the movie, something that I came to through a process of breaking the story and figuring it out.  The nice thing was I didn't... I was very thankful there was no slip of paper that was handed to me that said Rey's parents are so and so.  The fact that I had the freedom to figure it out meant that for this story I could figure out the most dramatically potent answer to that question.

But you talked to J.J. [Abrams] about it.

I did yeah, oh yeah.  Yeah.  He didn't, no, he didn't dictate anything to me.

He didn't have any idea?

Well, I don't know.  He might have had thoughts in his head who it was going to be, but he didn't dictate them to me.  He left it open, you know.  First of all, I think I enjoy the notion of disconnecting the idea of tapping into this power in yourself and having it. I like the idea of disconnecting that from lineage.  I think that feels "anyone can be President."  I think that's kind of nice.

But the bigger thing was, if you look at for example, the Vader "I am your Father" moment from Empire [Strikes Back], I think that moment's so powerful because it's the hardest possible thing that Luke and the audience could hear at that moment.  It takes away the easy answers basically.  We thought he was just a bad guy that we could hate and want to kill, but that one sentence and suddenly it's more complicated than that.  It's harder than that.

If Rey in this movie, if someone had told her yes, here's the answer.  You are so and so's daughter.  Here's your place in this world.  Here you go.  That would be the easiest thing she and the audience could hear.  It would hand her on a silver platter her place in all this.  The hardest thing for all of us to hear and the thing that she doesn't wanna hear and maybe we don't either is that no, this is not going to be something where it's going define you.  And the fact that you don't have this is gonna be used against you by Kylo to try and pull him into your orbit.  This is going to be hard.  And you're gonna have to stand on your own two feet and define yourself in this story.

Star Wars The Last Jedi

When did you decide that Luke Skywalker had to die in The Last Jedi?

It was something very early on that started to feel right to me.  It was a process.  It was very early when I thought, when I kind of landed on where Luke's head was at and what his arc was going to be in terms of moving from someone who's decided the galaxy is better off without Luke and the Jedi to fully embracing the galaxy needs a legend to believe in.  I'm going to put this on my shoulders and be the legend of Luke Skywalker for everybody.

When I knew that was his arc, I had the instant tinge of that means that's the place for him to [die] because what else can he accomplish in the physical realm beyond that?  That would be the place emotionally that would have the most impact for him to let himself go.  [...] I don't know what's gonna happen in Episode 9 at all, but there's actually more potential for more interesting things in terms of his role in the final chapter if he moves into another realm.

He could be a Force ghost haunting Kylo Ren.

It's fascinating, isn't it?  A lot more fascinating than him just tagging along with our heroes with a lightsaber.  So to me, it opened up more potential and it seemed like having a full film that is Luke's journey...it seemed like if there's any place in the trilogy where it's gonna have the most potent place, it would be here.  But believe me, I wasn't looking forward to doing it.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Canto Bight aliens

I have a couple of questions that were submitted by readers who have seen the film, small ones, quickies.

Yeah.

The hacker that Maz Kanata sent Finn and Rose to find was the guy with the flower in the casino on Canto Bight?

Yeah.

So [Benicio Del Toro's character] DJ was not the person that they were seeking.

No, the master code breaker, that's the guy.  And then they didn't find the guy, but they found a guy.

Rey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

What is the black hole cave thing that Rey goes into?

Well, the idea that this natural place reflected [...] The idea that if there's a Jedi Temple up top, the light, it has to be balanced by a place of great darkness.  We're drawing a very obvious connection to Luke's training and to Dagobah here, obviously.  And so the idea was if the up top is the light, down underneath is the darkness.  And she descends down into there and has to see, just like Luke did in the cave, her greatest fear.  And her greatest fear is [that], in the search for identity, she has nobody but herself to rely on. 

star wars the last jedi trailer 6 leia

I like how you played with time in that sequence. Why didn't anybody respond when Leia called for help?

Oh, you mean out in the galaxy?

Yeah.

Well, we don't get their perspective in this movie, so we just get the perspective of the [Resistance]... but my assumption and the assumption of the folks in the Resistance in that cave and Leia's assumption is that they assume that hope is lost and that they can't win this battle and that the spark of hope is out.  And that's the whole thing that Luke restores when he comes back.  And that's what starts spreading back out into the galaxy after he does his big act at the end, I think.

Last Jedi Phasma

Is there any chance Phasma survived this film?

Phasma is the Kenny of these movies.  So there's always a chance.  But I don't know.  J.J.'s writing the next one and I have no idea what he's doing.  So all bets are off.

yoda

Did Yoda know that Rey took the books?

Oh, of course, yeah.

So that's why he didn't care...

Well, and also he has a line in there, if you watch it again, listen, he makes explicit reference to her taking the books.

"She has everything she needs." When I saw it the second time I was like oh...

Ah ha, you sneaky, little Muppet.

star-wars-the-last-jedi-rian-johnson-carrie-fisher

The passing of Carrie Fisher...obviously it impacted everyone and everybody 's probably asking you about that. And the film's dedicated to her.  I want to ask, just purely, creatively, was there ever a thought of changing the film after her passing? .

Sure.  I could have.  I had the discussion with Kathy [Kennedy] when we came back from New Year's after she had passed and looked through the scenes. We decided and I feel very strongly that even though it was going to be tricky in terms of how you handle it in the next chapter, we have this last performance from her.  I couldn't see of any way of engineering something like what you're talking about without losing the scene with her and Luke, or the scene with her and Rey at the end, or the scene with her and Holdo.  And then we'd be manufacturing something which would be manufactured and not great.  And I just felt like those scenes are such potent goodbyes to her.  I felt like we all deserve to have them up on screen.  And it's such a beautiful ending, the fact that she kind of gets the last word in the movie and that last word is one of hope.  We have everything we need.  I want Princess Leia to tell me that right now, you know.  So we decided to stick with what was there.

I think you were successful. 

Oh thanks, man, I appreciate it.

Thank you very much.

Yeah, thanks, Peter.