When Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters this December, certain story beats and character arc conclusions will have been a long time coming—dating back to the making of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Indeed, when J.J. Abrams took on the task of laying the foundation for a new Star Wars trilogy, he and co-writers Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan explored a number of story possibilities, even changing course midway through (when Arndt was fired and Abrams and Kasdan took over script duties). But as the story took shape and characters like Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) were created, Abrams couldn’t help but think about where those stories end up.
Speaking with Vanity Fair as part of the magazine’s big Star Wars 9 cover story, Driver confirms that an “overall arc” for Kylo Ren was hashed out back when he was meeting with Abrams about The Force Awakens:
“I knew little bits from my first meeting with J.J.,” Adam Driver says of where Kylo Ren finishes this story. “An overall arc was very, not vague, the opposite, it was very clear—[there was] an end in sight even from the very beginning. The details obviously hadn’t been worked out, but we had talked about the very thing that we’d been working towards with this last one.”
At the same time, Abrams handed the baton to Rian Johnson for the second film in this trilogy, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which built upon certain story points from The Force Awakens and jettisoned others. And while that film has become divisive among some fans (despite being critically acclaimed), Abrams says he was “emboldened” by The Last Jedi and it had a direct effect on how he approached The Rise of Skywalker:
The Last Jedi was famously divisive among fans, but Abrams says he was emboldened by the ambitious swings Johnson took with his films: “Having seen what Rian did made me approach this from a place of instinct and gut. I was making choices I knew I would not have made on VII, some story-wise, but more in terms of directing. I found myself feeling less like I’m going to try and do something that feels like it’s [only] true to the specifics of this franchise or the story.”
As Abrams was charting the course for this conclusion, which he co-wrote with Oscar-winning Argo screenwriter Chris Terrio, he sought input from George Lucas, Kasdan, and yes, even Johnson:
Citing meetings he’s had with The Force Awakens and original trilogy writer Lawrence Kasdan as well as Rian Johnson and George Lucas, Abrams says the ending they settled on was specifically designed to close a satisfying arc that spans not just these final three films, but the complete Skywalker trilogy. “If a kid is watching all nine movies,” Abrams says, “he or she sees this one path, this inevitability and that’s the challenge of this movie.”
As for Johnson, he says he won’t mind a bit if Abrams shifts or changes story points he made in The Last Jedi:
“I want to let go of all my expectations,” Johnson said in a recent interview when asked if he was troubled by the idea of Abrams tinkering with his origin story for Rey. “I want to sit back. I want to be entertained. I want to be surprised. I want to be thrilled. I want him to do stuff I wasn’t expecting him to do and just go along for the ride.”
Honestly, same. I think The Last Jedi is a better, more thematically sound movie than The Force Awakens, but I’m also pretty excited to see what Abrams has put together for The Rise of Skywalker. Oddly enough, the whole baton-passing nature of the story of this new trilogy has made it more exciting than something that was plotted out beat-by-beat from the very beginning. As we’ve seen from certain other conclusions, sometimes tying yourself down to a story idea early on can eventually lead to something that’s, well, not so great. On the flipside, merely going where the story organically wants to go can lead to something more satisfying. And while it sounds like aspects of Kylo’s conclusion were floated as possibilities early on, it’ll be interesting to see how they’re handled in actuality.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in theaters on December 20, 2019. For more on the film, click on links to our recent articles below:
- ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’: 14 New Images Go Behind the Scenes of the Saga’s Conclusion
- J.J. Abrams on Rey’s Parents in ‘Star Wars 9’: “There’s More to the Story”
- The ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Ending Was Changed During Production
- ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Always Intended to Bring Back Palpatine