It’s like rolling up for a lightsaber lesson with Obi-Wan Kenobi when Star Wars: Episode VIII writer/director Rian Johnson says the magic words: “Anything you want to know! What do you want to know?”
He’s playing with us a little, of course. The follow-up (due out in December) to all-time box-office champ The Force Awakens is still a top-secret project (now in post-production) but one that Johnson is tackling proudly while playing coy when it comes to reveals.
“The creative work has felt like play,“ says Johnson, whose previous work includes the high-school noir mystery Brick and time-travel drama Looper. ”It’s felt resonant and meaningful because it meant so much to me as a kid.”
In one of his first interviews about Episode VIII – conducted before the death of Star Wars star Carrie Fisher, who had finished her work on the movie – the filmmaker teases about what’s to come in the galaxy far, far away.
1. Tonally, Episode VIII will emphasise fun.
Johnson is aiming for an enjoyable experience rather than a darker middle chapter in the new trilogy. “I want it to be a blast and to be funny and to be a ride the way The Force Awakens and the original Star Wars movies were.“
2. Fans will find out more about their Force Awakens heroes.
Episode VIII continues where The Force Awakens left off with the journey of Jedi-in-training Rey (Daisy Ridley), former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and ace X-wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac).
“I wanted to know more about each of them, and that doesn’t just mean information or backstory,“ Johnson says. ”Figure out what’s the most difficult thing each of them could be challenged with now – let’s throw that at them and dig into what really makes them tick by seeing how they handle that.“
3. Rey develops a strong connection to Luke Skywalker.
The new film from the start will explore the relationship between Luke (Mark Hamill) and Rey, who shows up on his remote intergalactic island with his old lightsaber “both not knowing what’s going to happen and also having a lot of expectations in her head about how this is going to go,” Johnson says.
“It very much feels like what we all go through in adolescence, the dawning of this new chapter of our lives.“ The director adds that the deepening of familial themes in Episode VIII is ”a huge part of especially Rey’s character, something that was a really powerful part of her setup and something I really wanted to dig into with this.“
4. Luke Skywalker is the “emotional entry point” into Episode VIII.
A longtime fan of Hamill’s enigmatic Jedi, Johnson thinks “What’s going on with Luke Skywalker?” is the essential question at the heart of the new film. “I’m approaching it with a take that I hope feels honest and real and is going to be interesting to folks and make sense.”
5. Episode VIII already has a title.
The director knows it. In fact, he’s had it locked in his mind ever since he started working on Episode VIII a couple of years ago. “It was in the very first draft I wrote,” Johnson says. So how bad does he want to get that big secret off his chest? “I’ll just blurt it out right now!” he jokes. “All in good time, my friend.”