Director J.J. Abrams has been quite chatty of late about his upcoming movie, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. No, Abrams is still not revealing any major details about the final installment in the epic Star Wars Skywalker saga. What he is opening up about, though, is the return of actor Ian McDiarmid and his very important Star Wars character Senator Palpatine, a.k.a. the Sith Lord Darth Sidious.
Palpatine’s return has been known to fans since we first heard his menacing laugh in the first teaser, which debuted at the Star Wars Celebration event earlier this year. Since then, each trailer has added more and more Palpatine into the mix, with voiceovers playing heavily into the final trailer as well as recent TV spots. Now, Abrams is opening up in an interview with Uproxx about when it was decided Palpatine would be back. When asked if his return was decided all the way back at the beginning of the new trilogy — Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens — Abrams began, “Well, when you look at this as nine chapters of a story, perhaps the weirder thing would be if Palpatine didn’t return.”
He elaborated, giving some insights with,
“You just look at what he talks about, who he is, how important he is, what the story is — strangely, his absence entirely from the third trilogy would be conspicuous. It would be very weird. That’s not to say there was a bible and we knew what happens at every step. But when Larry Kasdan and I worked on The Force Awakens, we didn’t do it in a vacuum. We very purposely looked at what came before. We chose to tell a story that touches upon specific things and themes and ideas that we’ve seen before, to begin a new story. But we examined all that came before to ask where does this feel like it’s going?”
Abrams continued, shedding even more light:
“So there were discussions about that at the time. Yet, like any beginning, you want to put the threads in, but you don’t want to necessarily be literal about everything. And then when Rian was brought on to do The Last Jedi, we met and we talked about things and he wrote his story. And when I read it the script, I realized this didn’t get in the way of anything Larry and I talked about that I thought I’d get to. There were some very specific things we did get to do in this movie that we were laughing and going, “Oh my god, we’re finally doing that thing we talked about five years ago.”
The question remains: How exactly does Palpatine figure into Rise of Skywalker? Despite Abrams explaining how the decision to include Palpatine came about, there’s still no clues as to what form Palpatine will take in the movie or what influence he will have over the film’s events. Since the Sith Lord was the big bad in both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy (he was Darth Vader’s mentor, remember?), it is understandable he’ll return for the final go-round. But since he was killed at the hands of Darth Vader, Palpatine is, at best, a Force ghost. Right? Maybe? It seems like we’ll just have to wait and see how it all shakes out.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters on December 20. In addition to his Palpatine comments, Abrams recently confirmed the Rise of Skywalker runtime and revealed how a genuine script almost leaked to the world.