The Star Wars team was shaken by the death of actress Carrie Fisher, aka General Leia Organa, but the female cast members of the upcoming The Last Jedi are determined to honour her legacy.
The cast and director Rian Johnson met to discuss female roles in the latest chapter in the film franchise, which hits Hong Kong cinemas on December 14.
“You get to see women that are not big and strong just because they’re acting like men. They’re doing something else,” said Gwendoline Christie, who plays storm trooper commander Captain Phasma.
“And also you’re seeing a developed character, or a developing character, that is showing some complex character traits. I’m delighted that something as legendary as Star Wars has decided to reflect our society.”
The Last Jedi – filmed in Ireland and at film studios near London – sees the return of the characters introduced in 2015’s The Force Awakens.
Christie was joined by returning stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domnhall Gleeson, and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill.
60 things you may not know about Carrie Fisher - actress of Princess Leia, feminist, author, role model and more
There were new faces, too: Kelly Marie Tran as Resistance maintenance worker Rose Tico, and Laura Dern, who plays Vice-Admiral Amilyn Holdo.
Ridley described how overwhelmed she was by the popularity of her character, Rey – a rare female action star – in The Force Awakens.
“When I got involved, I knew it was a big deal, but the response was so beyond anything I could have imagined, that it was only afterward that I was like ‘Oh – oh yeah’,” she said.
Tran said it was both an “honour and responsibility” playing a prominent female character, and that she wanted to do the role justice.
“And the girls in this movie kick some butt. Every single one is so good,” she said.
Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original 1977-83 trilogy and later became in General Leia Organa in The Force Awakens, died in December last year, having finished filming for The Last Jedi.
“I watched TV and film obsessively from such a young age, but [she] stayed with me throughout my formative years,” said Christie, who plays warrior Brienne of Tarth on HBO’s Game of Thrones.
“She’s really interesting, she’s really smart, she’s really funny, she’s courageous, she’s bold, she doesn’t care what people think, and she isn’t prepared to be told what to do.”
Written by Johnson, The Last Jedi – the eighth instalment in the franchise – picks up where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey looking to Luke to teach her about The Force. Trailers for the new film hint at dark times ahead for the Resistance, the secret military group founded by Leia.
“It’s the second movie in the trilogy, and I think we’ve been kind of trained to expect it will be a little darker, and obviously it looks a little darker,” said Johnson.
But he added that he was still aiming for movie that “makes you come out of the theatre, run around your backyard, grab your spaceship toy and fly around.”
Hamill also appeared in the original trilogy, and will be reviving his character Luke Skywalker once again. He confirmed that his role was “twice as big” as his cameo in The Force Awakens – but gave almost nothing else away.
Like Fisher and Hamill, Harrison Ford is a Star Wars veteran as lovable rogue Han Solo. But the character is missing from the latest chapter, having been killed off in the previous film.
The cast was asked if they had missed Ford, but Boyega said central characters Finn, Rey and Poe weren’t given much time to mourn and that “everyone’s keeping it moving” in the new film.
“Rey’s off training, she’s got stuff to go. I got a back injury, I’ve got stuff to do,” he said.
“It’s a dire situation, the Resistance is on its last legs,” added Isaac, who plays Poe.
“The First Order is right on top of us. You have to keep moving to try to survive.”