The Rey And Kylo Ren Kiss In Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Almost Didn't Happen

A great deal has happened in the "Star Wars" galaxy over the last few years. The TV side of things have taken a major foothold over on Disney+, and particularly, "The Mandalorian" has paved the way for a whole new generation of storytelling within the franchise. But the movies still remain the cornerstone of a galaxy far, far away. The last time a "Star Wars" movie graced the silver screen was with 2019's "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." And much like "The Last Jedi" before it, the film was met with a divisive response, albeit for very different reasons.

One such moment that remains a topic of debate amongst fans is the kiss between Daisy Ridley's Rey and Adam Driver's Kylo Ren towards the end of the film. Many people were on board with the two Force users getting together as the sequel trilogy rolled along, while others were strongly opposed. It turns out that this was not something that director J.J. Abrams or the brass at Lucasfilm were firm on including in Episode IX, and it sounds like the decision kind of came down to the wire. It didn't have to be this way, and it almost wasn't.

The kiss wasn't a sure thing

J.J. Abrams, who also directed "The Force Awakens" before passing the torch to Rian Johnson for "The Last Jedi," was spinning a lot of plates in crafting the story for "The Rise of Skywalker." It seemed much of the decision-making came down to the wire, and that meant having options. Author Sariah Wilson revealed in a thread on Twitter that in a Zoom interview with Daisy Ridley, the actress confirmed that the film's finale had two versions: one with the kiss and one without it.

"Back to when I asked Daisy Ridley if there was an alternate ending to TROS, and she was telling me that it was kiss or no kiss. She was doing ADR in LA and JJ asked her if she wanted to see what they put together for the ending and she said yes. 'They initially used the no kiss bit. And it was still moving, I guess. But when he [JJ] said he'd put it in, I was really glad.' She felt like when they were filming that 'both of us [Rey and Ben] knew it was goodbye, so it was awful, and just at the moment where everything might be okay and then it isn't.'"

So it seems that, per Ridley's account, the movie was cut together without the kiss well into the editing process. If Abrams was showing this to the star of the film with the notion that this was the direction they were going with it, that means they were very seriously considering releasing that version of Episode IX.

Editor Maryann Brandon backs this up

An interview that is relayed a romance novelist on Twitter isn't the most rock-solid corroboration of events. That said, the idea that there were two different endings — one with the kiss and one without it — was also backed up by the movie's editor Maryann Brandon. Speaking with the Huffington Post shortly after the film's release, she had the following to say about the kiss:

"I always said, 'The movie will tell us whether they should kiss or not. We will know by the time we get to the end of our process, if it should happen.' And I felt it should, and [director J.J. Abrams] agreed with me, and other people who saw the film agreed."

Brandon also spoke a bit in that same interview, acknowledging that the Reylo kiss was divisive, but it seemed to be something they were well aware of in tackling the conclusion of the Skywalker saga.

"I know it's not for everybody. I know there will be people who wish they hadn't, but this is a film that was never going to please everyone, and I think that the reviews are kind of reflective of that. The things that certain people love, other people hated. And that's the phenomenon of 'Star Wars.'"

The novelization also has something to say about this

There is another wrinkle in the saga of Rey and Kylo's kiss. Novelizations of the films are a tradition in the "Star Wars" franchise, and the novels themselves often offer interesting insight or reshape moments from the movies in a big way. Many consider the "Revenge of the Sith" novelization to be one of the best books in the franchise, for example. It turns out that this moment is given a little bit of a twist in the book.

In the official "Rise of Skywalker" novelization, the Reylo kiss is addressed, but some context for what unfolds on screen is provided. Author Rae Carson explains that the kiss wasn't as romantic as the moment itself may have implied. The passage in the book reads as follows:

"His heart was full as Rey reached for his face, let her fingers linger against his cheek. And then, wonder of wonders, she leaned forward and kissed him. A kiss of gratitude, acknowledgement of their connection, celebration that they'd found each other at last. But then she drew back, concern on her face. She could feel him growing cold. Ben smiled at her. He had given Rey back to the galaxy. It wouldn't atone for the darkness he'd wrought, but it was what he could do."

A kiss of "gratitude" and "acknowledgment" is not exactly the romantically-charged kiss of passion that fans of this relationship may have had in mind. But within the official "Star Wars" canon, that is an interpretation of the kiss as it exists, seemingly leaving us in some sort of frustrating middle ground between Rey and Kylo being an item, or merely being bonded by the Force in a non-romantic context.