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What We Learned from the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Press Conference

Vital Thrills recently attended the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker press conference. Attending were moderator Ava DuVernay, director J.J. Abrams, screenwriter Chris Terrio, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, as well as Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Keri Russell, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Joonas Suotamo, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams and Richard E. Grant. Well, the late, great Carrie Fisher might have been there as well.

At one point during the press conference, as Abrams was speaking about lighting, one set of lights went out on the other side of the stage. Abrams said, “Amazing,” then joked about trying to turn another set off. He said, “That was creepy. Hi Carrie… that’s so Carrie, by the way, to do that. Really weird.”

What We Learned from the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Press Conference

Abrams also spoke about putting Fisher in the film. “We knew that we had an opportunity to use the footage to create scenes that Leia would be in. And of course, had Carrie been around — and it’s still impossible for me to believe that she isn’t, because we’ve been editing with her for about a year, and she’s been very much alive with us in every scene — if we had Carrie around, would we have done some different things here and there? Of course, we would have.

But we had an opportunity to have Carrie in the movie. And working with all the actors, including Billie Lourd, her daughter who’s in scenes with her, we were able to do something, I think, that Carrie would be happy with. She’s great in the movie, of course. And it’s still emotional and moving to think of her, and how sad we all are that she’s not sitting with us here today.”

Kelly Marie Tran, aka Rose Tico, was asked about Fisher as well. She said, “J.J. was talking about ending nine films, and Carrie was such a big part of all that. So I think for me, personally, there was a lot of wanting to honor this thing and do right by this thing. And I think that she’s pretty effing incredible in this movie.”

Oscar Isaac spoke about how Poe is different this time around. He said, “I’ve been taken away from my little box in space, and I get to join my friends this time. You really get to see the interaction with the three and the hope that I think he, in particular, brings in this one. It’s kind of a relentless, almost aggressive optimism that he has, and how that is tested and how he tries to be there for his friends, tries to push them along even when it seems quite hopeless.”

Jon Boyega was asked what he learned from playing the role of Stormtrooper-turned-Rebel Finn. He said, “Proactive love is something Finn does on a day-to-day basis. Throughout the film, a lot of the time, Rey goes off on this really hard journey as a character blessed with so much power, and Finn tries to support her in that journey. And sometimes it’s hard. In my real life, if I’ve tried to get in contact with you three or four times and you’re going off, I’m going to leave you alone. Finn’s going to come for you and try to make it work regardless. That’s some Jesus sh*t. [laughs] I’m not built like that.”

We have some new characters this time around. Keri Russell plays Zori Bliss, who we’ve seen in photos for months now. She didn’t reveal much about her character, but she did say that she loved wearing the mask. She spoke about how it made her feel powerful. “He told me about the idea of the mask, and personally, I love the mask. I mean, that’s my fantasy dream sequence that I can see everyone in this super-tough version of myself, my costume, and no one can see me… that’s my dream! It’s a real power play because no one can see what you’re thinking, but you can see everyone else.”

Abrams joked about how Russell didn’t take the mask off for the first few days of filming. “the entire two days, I never saw her face,” he said.

Naomi Ackie plays a new character, Jannah, and spoke about seeing the film, which the entire cast had just done. “We watched it yesterday, I’m not being funny. I left it like my heart was beating so hard. It’s the most visually beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It makes you feel like a child. And there was an element of feeling like a child on the set.”

Richard E. Grant, who plays General Pryde, was almost giddy on stage, and joked about how he probably wasn’t supposed to tweet right after the screening but that he couldn’t help himself. You can check out his video tweet right here.

Grant said, “I thought that Disney would sue me because I think that you’re not supposed to say anything about it. But I didn’t tweet any spoilers about it at all. Having seen the first one when I was a theater student when I was 20 years old, before any of the younger cast were even born, it’s an extraordinarily emotional thing to see – just the passing of time that goes through all of these movies. It felt really like a combination of everything I read in the Bible, Greek mythology, The Wizard of Oz, all rolled into one, in this extraordinary summation of the whole story that delivers an emotional wallop at the end that I was totally unprepared for. I was wiped out, and I barely slept.”

Terrio told the crowd that he screamed when he got the call from Abrams and joked that he didn’t recognize the number, so he didn’t answer right away. He also said that Abrams never mentioned the words “Star Wars” but just called it Episode IX. He said they had a lot of responsibility here. “We have to land the biggest Star Destroyer in the world on the end of a needle.” Terrio and Abrams talked about how there was a meeting where they discussed how they just couldn’t make something work and said that another person there said they couldn’t do it because they didn’t want the series to end. Once they knew that, Terrio said, they could go and finish the story.

Daisy Ridley didn’t say much during the conference, but she was asked about whether it was more difficult to do the physical or emotional work in this film. She said, “With the physical stuff, you train and train and train, and the adrenaline helps you on the day to do the thing… but I would say I was more tired, emotionally.” She said that you could tell by Abrams’ face whether something was working or not.

What do you think of the news out of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker press conference? Let us know in the comments. The film hits theaters on December 20, and you can check out all our previous updates by clicking here.