On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, Vanity Fair is serving up heaps of new details on Rian Johnson‘s The Force Awakens follow-up, The Last Jedi. As always, Lucasfilm has kept details on the next sequel locked down with impeccable precision, so today’s info-dump is quite the goldmine. We got a big ol’ set of new images, details on Johnson’s scriptwriting process, and new updates on how Carrie Fisher‘s tragic death altered plans for a Leia-centric Episode IX.
The piece also served up some details on the new characters we can expect to meet in The Last Jedi, as well as a fabulously glitzy side of the universe we’ll visit on Finn’s journey. Taking a cue from the OG Star Wars playbook, Episode VIII finds our heroes split up on their adventures.Of course, Rey is off with Luke on Ahch-To, which Johnson confirms is the home planet of the first Jedi temple where Luke has been in a village with an indigenous race of caretaker creatures. Johnson kept details of the creatures to himself, but they’re definitely not Ewoks.
Oscar Isaac, aka everyone’s space bae Poe Dameron, talked about what it was like to see Mark Hamill back in the zone as Luke Skywalker after all these decades. “So to be there, and to watch Mark revisit Luke, particularly in these scenes we were shooting towards the end of the film, was bizarre and jaw-dropping,” he told the outlet. “It’s like when you see an old band re-unite and go on the road, and they don’t quite hit those high notes anymore—though in this situation it’s completely the opposite. It’s the fulfillment of where your imagination would take you when you imagine where Luke would go, or what he’s become.”
As for the rebel X-wing fighter pilot, he’s back in action coaching a gunner named Paige, played by Vietnamese actress named Veronica Ngo. Paige is one of a number of new characters joining the franchise in The Last Jedi, including her sister Rose Tico (played by Kelly Marie Tran). Fans first met Rose at Star Wars Celebration, where Tran joined the stage to introduce the resistance maintenance worker who teams up with Finn on a mission to go behind enemy lines.
Rose is the largest new role in the film, and her journey with Finn will take the duo “among other places”, to a glitzy casino city called Canto Bight that gave Johnson the opportunity to play against the traditional Star Wars aesthetic of desert scrapyards and remote rural locales. Johnson describes Canto Bight as “a Star Wars Monte Carlo–type environment, a little James Bond–ish, a little To Catch a Thief.” Johnson explained he wanted portray what luxury and wealth look like in the Star Wars universe, “I was thinking, O.K., let’s go ultra-glamour. Let’s create a playground, basically, for rich assholes.”
Canto Bight also offers Johson the opportunity for The Last Jedi’s cantina moment, where we see all manner of alien species and creatures mingling in a light-hearted environment. The Last Jedi is a dark film, so the filmmaker relished those moments to bring levity. “I didn’t want this to be a dirge, a heavy-osity movie,” he said. “So one thing I’ve tried really hard to do is keep the humor in there, to maintain the feeling, amid all the heavy operatic moments, that you’re on a fun ride.”.
Finally, last but certainly not least, are the two new characters being portrayed by Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern, two significant new additions to the Star Wars universe. Johnson says Del Toro is playing a “shady character of unclear allegiances” who is never named in the film, though the filmmakers have dubbed him “DJ”. Johnson didn’t explain why he earns that nickname, offering only, “You’ll see—there’s a reason why we call him DJ.” We know even less about Dern’s character. She plays Vice Admiral Holdo, a prominent officer in the Resistance. Other than that, all we learned is that she looks utterly fabulous (see below).
Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives in theaters on December 15, 2017.