‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’: 57 Things We Learned from Rian Johnson’s Audio Commentary

     March 16, 2018

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To say Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a movie that sparked a lot of conversation is a bit of an understatement. Reactions to writer/director Rian Johnson’s The Force Awakens sequel were strong—there were those that unabashedly loved the intimate story Johnson chose to tell, and those that hated the film’s ambitious pushes away from the Original Trilogy and into a New Era for Star Wars. The good news for both factions is that the Star Wars: The Last Jedi Blu-ray contains a ton of bonus features that dive into every nook and cranny of this movie, answering plenty of questions along the way—for better or worse.

Aside from the must-watch feature-length documentary The Director and the Jedi (look for a full review of that on Collider soon), the crown jewel of the Blu-ray release is Johnson’s audio commentary. Fans of Johnson’s work know that he puts a lot into his audio commentaries, even recording a track for Looper that one could listen to while the film was still in theaters. Johnson delivers once again for The Last Jedi, imbuing the track with fascinating bits of trivia, insights into his thought process, and revelations of how the film changed in the script phase, during production, and in the editing room. Cinephiles will eat this one up, as will those who are dying to know everything there is about The Last Jedi.

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Image via Disney/Lucasfilm

While the film is currently available on Digital HD, it doesn’t come out on 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD until March 27th. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a review copy, and I went through the audio commentary and pulled out some fascinating The Last Jedi trivia nuggets that Johnson dropped during the 152 minute track.

Now, I will say the best way to experience this is to listen to the track cold and just enjoy the conversation, but if you absolutely can’t wait I’ve hopefully provided a nice overview of the major revelations gleaned from the audio commentary. There’s also no way I could include everything, so if you read this and go listen to the commentary track, there will still be plenty of new information to be found.

So behold, a bounty of Star Wars: The Last Jedi trivia as revealed on the film’s audio commentary track by Rian Johnson.

  • The opening crawl was the first thing Rian Johnson started writing, and it was the very last thing he finished on the movie as a whole. He was sitting in the editing room at the very last minute tweaking some things, and on the track he gives a shout out to writer Craig Mazin (Identity Thief) who gave him some grammar advice on the crawl.
  • The opening fanfare is recorded all over again for each movie, and Johnson says in the mix each version gets tweaked. The Force Awakens one has a “sharper attack” to it while Johnson says for Last Jedi, they went for a warmer feel.
  • The original opening for the movie was on Finn in the dome healing suit, which would initially look like a planet before it’s revealed that it’s actually Finn. This scene is included in the deleted scenes and still appears in the movie as Finn’s introduction.
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    Image via Lucasfilm

    Actress Kate Dickey from The Witch appears in the opening scene, but Johnson reveals her The Witch co-star Ralph Ineson also appeared in The Last Jedi but his scene was cut.

  • Johnson says he “held on” to the joke with Hux at the beginning of the movie, feeling like he needed to break the ice and tell the audience upfront that it’s going to be okay to laugh with this movie. He likens the tone of the scene to a Monty Python sketch.
  • Johnson felt they didn’t need another “heavy” villain with Kylo and Snoke in the film already, so he thought it would be more useful for Hux to have a slightly different flavor in terms of villainy.
  • One of the first things Johnson came up with was having BB-8 in the guts of an X-Wing trying to fix it.
  • Further revealing his nerdiness, Johnson describes one moment in the opening sequence as Star Wars: Tokyo Drift.
  • The actor in the opening sequence that everyone thinks is James Corden is actually the film’s First Assistant Director, Jamie Christopher.
  • In preparing to make The Last Jedi, Johnson came up with a list of movies he thought would be good to draw inspiration from including Twelve O’Clock High, which would have a heavy impact on the opening bombing run.
  • They shot in Skellig Michael for three days before principal photography began, back in September 2015, where they shot Luke’s first scene and a couple of other small bits, including Rey cutting the rock in half.
  • Johnson says Luke tossing the saber is something that always made a lot of sense to him. He says the first thing he had to do was figure out why Luke was secluded on this island, when he knows there’s peril out in the galaxy and he’s exiled himself. “I knew, because it’s Luke Skywalker who I grew up with as a hero, the answer couldn’t be cowardice. So I knew the answer had to be something active, he’s not just hiding, and the answer had to be something positive, he thinks he’s doing the right thing. And that kind of led to the notion he’s come to the conclusion that the Jedi are not helping. They’re just perpetuating this cycle, so they need to go away so that the light can rise from a more worthy source.”
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    Image via Disney, Lucasfilm

    The Throne Room was Johnson’s favorite set. He says it’s all practical. They strung up a big red curtain in the background, so everything in the shot except Snoke is real.

  • Johnson says when he got the job he was really excited to work with Adam Driver, and only became more excited once he saw The Force Awakens.
  • Since this film is about getting deeper into Kylo’s head, Johnson says he wanted to find a way to get rid of the mask. So he came up with Snoke ridiculing Kylo’s mask as a symbol of his immaturity.
  • Johnson smashed the Kylo Ren helmet himself. The initial take just had it split in half, but he wanted to do another take with it smashed to bits so Johnson took his foot to it.
  • A lot of the scenes between Luke and Rey were shot in Ireland, where they constructed the Jedi Village set.
  • Johnson says he doesn’t usually like using stedicam, he prefers dolly moves, but inside the tree set they didn’t have a choice. Johnson put the stedicam on and says he will never underestimate stedicam operators again, saying he only lasted a couple minutes.
  • The original written line was not as concise as “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” He says when they cut the trailer, the trailer guys cut it down to this line and so Johnson went back and readjusted it after he saw how much better that worked.
  • The best advice Johnson got from anyone was from J.J. Abrams’ editors, who told him for every scene shoot a cutaway from BB-8 and he’ll never regret it, and he says they were right.

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