Kelly Marie Tran on ‘Rise of the Skywalker’s “Puzzle Piece” Leia Scenes

     January 2, 2020

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In Star Wars: The Last JediKelly Marie Tran made her debut as Rose Tico, a Resistance fighter who fights against the trauma of losing her sister to become one of the new trilogy’s most startlingly original creations, defined by her iconic phrase: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.” In Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she… um… stays behind while everyone else goes off on an adventure. What the heck happened? Tran spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the scenes she did film, and what was left on the cutting room floor.

Tran revealed that she shot some high-octane footage for the Battle of Exegol that didn’t make the final cut: “It was insane to be running across this platform — which I know you only see for a second in the movie — but we shot it so many times. I remember having bruises on my knees the next day because we kept running, and then we would fall onto our knees and do some more shooting stuff. I don’t think that’s in the movie.” Dang! She suffered for her art, and the scene didn’t even make the movie!

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Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

As for what did make the movie, Tran got into the difficulties of shooting major scenes with a character played by an actor who’s no longer with us — Carrie Fisher, playing of course General Leia Organa, in charge of Rose’s battalion. Tran and the rest of the cast were made quite emotional during a pivotal scene where Leia transfers her energy to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and passes on.

There’s definitely a sort of reverence that comes with knowing you’re in a scene like that. I don’t know how else to convey the feeling that I had on set that day, which is a feeling of wanting to make sure we did justice to that moment and to Leia… I remember us still being normal humans and kind of joking around about little things. But we were always still remembering what we were doing. I think that day, for me, was very, very specific, and I won’t forget the feeling of being aware of what we were doing. I think we all knew how many people loved this character and what this moment meant to them. So, we just wanted to honor and respect Leia, but also Carrie.

From a technical standpoint, Tran referred to the process of centering any scene with Leia around pre-existing footage from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi as working with “puzzle pieces,” saying that “We were trying to use specific moments that they already had, so it definitely took more time. I think there were more reshoots on those scenes, specifically, to just try and make sure all of the performances matched up since she wasn’t physically there.”

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Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Tran also got into her film debut on The Last Jedi — specifically, the “controversial” Canto Bight sequence, in which Rose and Finn (John Boyega) travel to a casino planet for a rip-roaring-yet-complicated adventure. Tran shared her thoughts on the political subtext of that sequence, and on the talent of one Mr. Rian Johnson: “For me, that whole moment of really seeing the people who are profiting off of other people’s suffering and oppression is really relevant in the world today… It hadn’t really been addressed, and I think it’s a really beautiful moment. Rian Johnson is a genius.” Tran: You and I are in agreement.

Until Disney+ does the right thing and gives Rose Tico her own spinoff series, you can check out our review of Rise of Skywalker here. Plus, our take on what the future of Star Wars holds for us all.

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