How Star Wars: The Last Jedi Says Goodbye to Carrie Fisher


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.”

1. 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.”

2. 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.”

3. 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.”

4. 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.”

5. 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.”

6. 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.”

7. 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.”

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Full ScreenPhotos:24 Delightful Star Wars: The Force Awakens Cameos You Might Have Missed
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as First Order Petty Officer Thanisson

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as First Order Petty Officer Thanisson

Blink and you might have missed the Love Actually, Maze Runner, and Game of Thrones star. It’s Brodie-Sangster who, when Poe and Finn try to escape via TIE Fighter, announces that there’s an “unscheduled departure.” Don’t look for Brodie-Sangster to get any more than that one line in the franchise, though, because immediately after poor Petty Officer Thanisson gets blown to bits by Finn.

Photo: Left, courtesy of HBO

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi

If some of the voices during Rey’s flashback sequence sounded familiar to you, there’s good reasons. As Rey touches Luke’s lightsaber she’s bombarded with images of Luke and R2D2, Kylo and the Knights of Ren, and herself as a young child. In the background, J.J. Abrams reveals, you can also hear a snippet of Mark Hamill screaming “Noooo” from Empire, a little bit of Frank Oz’s Yoda and, chillingly, the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi saying, “Rey . . . these are your first steps.” It’s not Alec Guinness come back from the dead to record a new line of dialogue, that’s young Ben as voiced by Ewan McGregor. Abrams told Entertainment Weekly, “We asked Ewan McGregor to come in and do the line. And he was awesome and we were very grateful. He was incredibly sweet and handsome, and all that stuff. Then he rode off on his motorcycle. Literally the coolest voice over actor ever.” Kevin Smith and Abrams himself also lent their voices to The Force Awakens.

Photo: Right, courtesy of Disney Pictures

Billie Lourd as Lieutenant Connix

Billie Lourd as Lieutenant Connix

Many wondered if Lourd’s ever-present earmuffs in Scream Queens were an homage to her famous mother’s famous buns in Star Wars. But Abrams did Ryan Murphy one better and gave Lourd a diminutive version of her mother’s hairstyle for her brief appearance as a Resistance fighter. Abrams also cast his dad, Gerry Abrams, as Captain Cypress and his assistant, Morgan Dameron (no relation), as a Resistance officer named Commodore Meta. Dame Harriet Walter—niece of legendary actor and Count Dooku portrayer Christopher Lee—appears as Dr. Kalonia who patches Chewie up.

Jessica Henwick as Jess Testor

Jessica Henwick as Jess Testor

Even the most devoted Game of Thrones fan could have easily missed Henwick. Unlike many other Resistance pilots, she never appears outside the cockpit of her X-Wing fighter or without that bulky helmet. But she was there helping Poe Dameron on every maneuver.

Photo: Left, courtesy of HBO

Greg Grunberg as Snap Wexley

Greg Grunberg as Snap Wexley

Odds are you didn’t miss Grunberg; he was the most identifiable Resistance pilot outside Poe Dameron and Nien Nunb. (He even has his own action figure!) But you may not know the extent of his history with J.J. Abrams which stretches all the way back to childhood. Grunberg has had roles in most Abrams projects including Felicity, Alias, Lost, Heroes, and Mission: Impossible III. Speaking of Lost, Ken Leung who many will remember as series regular Miles Straume showed up as Resistance leader Admiral Statura.

Photo: Right, by Alberto E. Rodriguez/

So Many More *Game of Thrones* Cast Members

So Many More Game of Thrones Cast Members

It’s not just Max Von Sydow, Jessica Henwick, Gwendoline Christie, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster representing Westeros in The Force Awakens. Since Star Wars and Game of Thrones share the same casting director, Nina Gold, there’s plenty more cross-over. Mark Stanley who played Jon Snow’s doomed friend Grenn is credited as a “Clan Leader” in other words one of the rain-drenched Knights of Ren. Miltos Yerolemou who played Arya’s doomed fencing master, Syrio Forel, is a patron in Maz Kanata’s bar and Emun Elliott who played doomed (so much doom) singer Marillion is one of the Resistance fighters with just one line: “A laser cannon?”

Warwick Davis as Wollivan

Warwick Davis as Wollivan

Warwick Davis—who played Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi and had a few roles in The Phantom Menace—plays someone named Wollivan. According to Entertainment Weekly he appears in Maz Kanata’s tavern and has a “short, pink snout” and “puckered eyes.” In other words, you can see him front and slightly left of center in this Vanity Fair portrait. Judah Friedlander of 30 Rock fame also a has “Bar Patron” credit.

Photo: Right, by Chris Jackson/

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as First Order Petty Officer Thanisson

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as First Order Petty Officer Thanisson

Blink and you might have missed the Love Actually, Maze Runner, and Game of Thrones star. It’s Brodie-Sangster who, when Poe and Finn try to escape via TIE Fighter, announces that there’s an “unscheduled departure.” Don’t look for Brodie-Sangster to get any more than that one line in the franchise, though, because immediately after poor Petty Officer Thanisson gets blown to bits by Finn.

Left, courtesy of HBO

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi

If some of the voices during Rey’s flashback sequence sounded familiar to you, there’s good reasons. As Rey touches Luke’s lightsaber she’s bombarded with images of Luke and R2D2, Kylo and the Knights of Ren, and herself as a young child. In the background, J.J. Abrams reveals, you can also hear a snippet of Mark Hamill screaming “Noooo” from Empire, a little bit of Frank Oz’s Yoda and, chillingly, the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi saying, “Rey . . . these are your first steps.” It’s not Alec Guinness come back from the dead to record a new line of dialogue, that’s young Ben as voiced by Ewan McGregor. Abrams told Entertainment Weekly, “We asked Ewan McGregor to come in and do the line. And he was awesome and we were very grateful. He was incredibly sweet and handsome, and all that stuff. Then he rode off on his motorcycle. Literally the coolest voice over actor ever.” Kevin Smith and Abrams himself also lent their voices to The Force Awakens.

Right, courtesy of Disney Pictures

Billie Lourd as Lieutenant Connix

Billie Lourd as Lieutenant Connix

Many wondered if Lourd’s ever-present earmuffs in Scream Queens were an homage to her famous mother’s famous buns in Star Wars. But Abrams did Ryan Murphy one better and gave Lourd a diminutive version of her mother’s hairstyle for her brief appearance as a Resistance fighter. Abrams also cast his dad, Gerry Abrams, as Captain Cypress and his assistant, Morgan Dameron (no relation), as a Resistance officer named Commodore Meta. Dame Harriet Walter—niece of legendary actor and Count Dooku portrayer Christopher Lee—appears as Dr. Kalonia who patches Chewie up.
Jessica Henwick as Jess Testor

Jessica Henwick as Jess Testor

Even the most devoted Game of Thrones fan could have easily missed Henwick. Unlike many other Resistance pilots, she never appears outside the cockpit of her X-Wing fighter or without that bulky helmet. But she was there helping Poe Dameron on every maneuver.

Left, courtesy of HBO

Bill Hader as BB-8

Bill Hader as BB-8

Everyone’s favorite droid (sorry, R2!) was voiced by Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz of House of Lies and Parks and Recreation fame. Initially, Hader says, he tried giving the little ball an actual human voice, but it sounded too strange. This may not be the last we hear of the versatile Hader in Star Wars. The SNL alum has demonstrated a wicked imitation of both Jabba the Hutt and a dying Tauntaun so we’re pretty sure he could handle anything Lucasfilm might throw his way.
The Cast of <em>The Raid</em> as Kanjiklub

The Cast of The Raid as Kanjiklub

Indonesian actors and stunt fighters Yayan Ruhian, Iko Uwais, and Cecep Arif Rahman appear as Tasu Leech, Razoo Qin-Fee and Crokind Shand, members of Kanjiklub Gang. Many had hoped that the expert martial artists would be able to show off their fighting prowess but the Kanjiklub gets dispatched pretty quickly by one of the Rathtars on Han Solo’s ship. However, given that Tasu Leech has his own Lego figurine, it’s possible we haven’t seen the last of Kanjiklub. Or did you forget that there were several prequel films on the way?
Simon Pegg as Unkar Plutt

Simon Pegg as Unkar Plutt

Pegg’s role is much bigger than a cameo but hidden under all that padding, latex, and CG you might have missed him as Jakku junkyard dealer, temporary Millennium Falcon owner, and Rey antagonizer Unkar Plutt. It seems like Pegg’s voice was also modulated down to a low, John Rhys-Davies-esque timbre to further obscure his identity.

Daniel Craig as a Stormtrooper

Daniel Craig as a Stormtrooper

News broke Friday that, as Simon Pegg revealed earlier this year, Daniel Craig did indeed play a Stormtrooper in The Force Awakens. And not just any Stormtrooper! Craig’s character is the one who Rey convinces to remove her restraints and leave the door open. That’s right, James Bond got Jedi mind tricked by “scavenger scum.” Craig wasn’t the only high-profile face under one of those glossy white helmets. JJ Abrams gave two of his friends roles as Stormtroopers: Alias and Lost composer Michael Giacchino, and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich play Stormtroopers FN-3181 and FN-9330, respectively.

Left, © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Greg Grunberg as Snap Wexley

Greg Grunberg as Snap Wexley

Odds are you didn’t miss Grunberg; he was the most identifiable Resistance pilot outside Poe Dameron and Nien Nunb. (He even has his own action figure!) But you may not know the extent of his history with J.J. Abrams which stretches all the way back to childhood. Grunberg has had roles in most Abrams projects including Felicity, Alias, Lost, Heroes, and Mission: Impossible III. Speaking of Lost, Ken Leung who many will remember as series regular Miles Straume showed up as Resistance leader Admiral Statura.

Right, by Alberto E. Rodriguez/

So Many More <em>Game of Thrones</em> Cast Members

So Many More Game of Thrones Cast Members

It’s not just Max Von Sydow, Jessica Henwick, Gwendoline Christie, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster representing Westeros in The Force Awakens. Since Star Wars and Game of Thrones share the same casting director, Nina Gold, there’s plenty more cross-over. Mark Stanley who played Jon Snow’s doomed friend Grenn is credited as a “Clan Leader” in other words one of the rain-drenched Knights of Ren. Miltos Yerolemou who played Arya’s doomed fencing master, Syrio Forel, is a patron in Maz Kanata’s bar and Emun Elliott who played doomed (so much doom) singer Marillion is one of the Resistance fighters with just one line: “A laser cannon?”

Warwick Davis as Wollivan

Warwick Davis as Wollivan

Warwick Davis—who played Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi and had a few roles in The Phantom Menace—plays someone named Wollivan. According to Entertainment Weekly he appears in Maz Kanata’s tavern and has a “short, pink snout” and “puckered eyes.” In other words, you can see him front and slightly left of center in this Vanity Fair portrait. Judah Friedlander of 30 Rock fame also a has “Bar Patron” credit.

Right, by Chris Jackson/



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