On Saturday evening, the world premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi transported over 2,000 lucky guests to a galaxy far, far away—via the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles. The red carpet featured a larger-than-life AT-AT Walker transport vehicle that soared over fans dressed as Star Wars characters and a procession of droids, Stormtroopers and red-armored members of the Praetorian Guard.
Vanity Fair caught up with the upcoming blockbuster’s cast and filmmakers—including John Boyega—at the over-the-top screening to learn what fans most need to know in advance of its Dec. 15 release. Boyega, who plays Stormtrooper turned hero Finn, barely made it to the festivities; he was nearly stranded in Atlanta due to the snowstorm that blanketed the Southeast. Thankfully, he arrived just in time—minus his luggage. “I made it,” he exclaimed while walking down the red carpet. “There’s no way I was going to miss this.”
The Last Jedi is the darkest, most emotional installment of the Star Wars saga yet.
“It’s the middle chapter, so we got to challenge the characters, and it’s going to darker and intense places,” said Rian Johnson, the writer and director of the eighth Star Wars installment. “I wanted the story be emotional. That was an element that I really wanted to get in the movie. And because each one of these characters has such a brilliant setup in The Force Awakens, I wanted to take each one of them and push them.”
Although the story has more emotional depth this time around, Johnson promises that the movie also offers lots of light-hearted comedic moments. “I hope audiences will pleasantly be surprised by how fun and funny the movie is. I really tried to balance the more intense stuff with humor and fun, because it’s a Star Wars movie, after all. That’s what it’s all about.”
Luke Skywalker is back—as you’ve never seen him before.
After more than 30 years away, Mark Hamill returns to the franchise as the beloved Luke Skywalker—though this Luke is not the confidant hero that moviegoers last saw in Return of the Jedi. He’s now a weary recluse, who is seeking redemption and even hesitant to hold a lightsaber again. “Rian’s version of Luke Skywalker is an incarnation of the character I never expected,” said Hamill. “That was a huge surprise when I first read the script. I think fans will be surprised too.”
As for his second act as Luke Skywalker, Hamill was “completely stunned;” he “never imagined” he would play the iconic role again. “It’s a reward that just never stops giving. Fans come up to me all the time. They relay all these stories, tell me about how they met their wife in line for Empire and that they had a child by the time of Return of the Jedi and named him Luke. It’s really moving. I’m proud to be known as Luke Skywalker.”
The Last Jedi centers on the theme of identity.
“All these movies are about growing up, in a certain way, and finding your place in the world,” said Johnson. “In The Last Jedi, that’s what Rey is doing, what Finn is doing. It’s something that everyone can relate to.”
Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, hopes moviegoers will come away from the film knowing the importance of receiving assistance when they need it. “You should be open to letting other people help you. You can be still be brave and strong when someone helps you when needed,” she said. “It’s about being kind and understanding.”
Rey’s lightsaber skills will leave you cheering.
Just like Rey, who begins lightsaber training in The Last Jedi, Ridley underwent a demanding fighting regime with fight coordinator Lian Yang to learn how to wield a lightsaber. “It was the hardest thing I have done physically. I really had to push myself,” she said. “I was training around filming, but I was very, very happy with how strong I looked and felt. What you see in the movie is really me. No special effects.”
Supreme Leader Snoke is more dangerous than Darth Vader.
The evil Supreme Leader Snoke, played by Andy Serkis in a motion capture performance, is planning a massive attack against the Resistance. In Episode VIII, Serkis says Snoke is full of rage and anger because the first order has been under attack. He goes to great lengths to ensure his control, making him the most powerful villain in the Star Wars universe — more dangerous even than Darth Vader.
“I think Supreme Leader Snoke would say he’s more powerful than Darth Vader, but he’s an egotistical narcissist. So yes, I think he believes himself to be so, and thinks that this is his divine right to be the leader,” said Serkis. “He has limitless resources and has massive military capability, which isn’t working, and that’s deeply frustrating. There’s this sense of feminine force and energy that’s coming towards him that seeks to undue him, which is terrifying. He feels vulnerable and he will do anything to stop it, which makes him even more dangerous and despicable than Darth Vader.”
The Last Jedi pays tribute to Carrie Fisher.
Moments before the premiere screening began, Johnson paid tribute to Fisher, who unexpectedly died last December. “I want to dedicate tonight to Carrie,” Johnson said, addressing the crowd from the stage. “I know she’s up there right now flipping me the bird, saying, ‘Damn it Rian, how dare you bring the mood down and make this night a solemn tribute.’ So let’s all have a blast together for Carrie.”
The Last Jedi also ends with a dedication to the erstwhile General Leia: “In loving memory of our princess, Carrie Fisher.”
The newest character in the Star Wars universe is a strong, modern woman.
As the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order, General Leia Organa (better known as Princess Leia) finds herself no longer leading the Resistance and her power shifts to Vice Admiral Holdo, the new commanding leader played by Laura Dern. “What I love about Star Wars and one of the reason why I wanted to be in the movie is that it’s one of the most human and empowering stories. It’s about holding on to hope even in amidst of suffering and oppression,” said Dern, also a newly-minted Emmy winner. “And it’s incredibly relatable as a film of our time right now with the portrayal of women. To see a powerful female character in a movie that is also feminine moves away from a stereotype that’s often perceived—that strong female characters must be like the boys, which is far from the truth.”