On Wednesday morning, the cast and director of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker gathered in California for a press conference, previewing the upcoming Episode IX. The final entry to the massive franchise's Skywalker Saga brought out an impressive cast on stage: writer/director, J.J. Abrams, writer Chris Terrio, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Keri Russell, Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Joonas Suotamo, Billy Dee Williams, and Richard E. Grant. The press conference is moderated by Ava Duvernay.
The conference was scheduled to being at 10:00am ET. As the conference beings and continues, this story will be updated live with quotes and information about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker!
At 10:20am PT, Ava Duvernay took the stage and introduced the panel.
The first question is for Abrams. Having directed two movies, what were the differences in starting each movie?
"The difference is that the pressure's shifted," he said. "We didn't know at the beginning of Force Awakens what it would look like to have [the new cast]...First day of Rise of Skywalker, we knew those things were working. What we didn't know was everything else." He points out that this is not only ending a trilogy but ending nine films. "The responsibility was significant," he said. "The scale of the movie, this picture is enormous, we knew none of that would matter if you didn't care about the people."
There is no comic book to base this on, Duvernay notes, so what was his process for ideas?
"We had talked about quite a few things back in the day. It was a bit of picking up where we left off," he said. "What Rian Johnson had done in Last Jedi had set up some things that were wonderful for this story, one of those things being that the cast wa separated...this is the first time the group got to be together. Chris and I, we got together, and we knew we wanted to tell a story of adventure...My job, s the director, was to make sure that all the pressures of all the obvious things, fan expectations, studios, prractical logistical issues, weren't a problem on the set...It was never quite an indie on the set of this movie, we needed to keep the thing feeling as human as possible and not like some masked machine."
Kennedy, who is pointed out as having started as a camera op for Monday Night Football, how did she use from those days in Star Wars?
"I think I learned that there's never a job too small because when you're doing that kind of work you get involved in every single thing that's needed," she said. "That's why, even when I'm standing on the set today if I see a cable that's kind of crimped, and I think somebody might trip, it's very instinctive to me to start dressing the cables...It's a part of me! I think that's something that was instilled in doing that job." She also operated a parabolic microphone which was a massive dish at the time. "You were the only person, along with the photographer that can be right on the sideline," she says. "Your job is to pick up the noise on the bench but also you need to be watching the play on the field...I saw this pass play starting to materialize, so, when you' do this job if it's gonna be aa pass play you need to start running...I'm running down the sideline and I'm watching the pass. What I don't see is a Minnesota Viking linebacker who is running full speed toward me and takes me out at the ankles. Im flying through the air, by a miracle I didn't get killed! I ended up on television."
When asked about why Abrams is the guy to direct this movies, she explains that she met him and Matt Reeves when they were 15 and elected to give them a start in the business. She adds a story about taking over Lucasfilm right before it was sold and needing to make a movie in a hurry, which she only trusted JJ with when it came down to making a big film.
How did Terrio react to the opportunity?
"I didn't have JJ's cell phone number in my cell phone it was sort of a random 310 number," he said. "I listened to the message and I hyperventilated a little bit." Abrams offered to co-write Episode IX with him. "We got to work. I live in New York but I came out to LA. JJ and I just started, at Bad Robot, there's a room of these white boards. We just started writing on these white boards." Those white boards become a word document and that document became the script.
Who is Russell and what is she doing here as Zorii Bliss? Duvernay calls her "hot" and "bad-ass." Was the mask new for her?
"JJ called me or e-mailed me and said 'Do you want to be in Star Wars?'" She said. "He told me the idea about the mask and personally, I love them asl. That's my fantasy dram sequence that I can see everyone in this super tough version of myself costume and no one can see me. It's a real power play, in a way, so no one can really see what you're thinking but you can see everyone else. The other thing, I've known JJ for so long, I feel like we have a shorthand, we just speak the same language. I feel like JJ got to finish a piece of history in a way."
Abrams adds that she never took her mask off on set for the first two days. She walked onto set with the mask on and did not want to take it off. "I got to work with Keri for a few days and never saw her," he said. "It's just weird! Like, you don't know!"
How did Ackie prepare for Jannah?
"I felt like it was really through the physicality," she said. "I felt like Jannah's strength was in her body. She's a very grounded character." She did pull-ups, horse riding, and more to prepare. "Working with JJ and figuring out what the balance was between strength of a character but also a vulnerability of the character," she said, "I feel like we found it by the end. We watched it yesterday, I'm not being funny... I left it like my heart was beating so heart. It's the most visually beautiful thing I've ever seen."
What was the comradery like on set for Tran getting back together with everyone?
"It was really wonderful," She said. ". I think from the last film there seems to be such a bond between everyone and then also the new guys...It truly feels like everyone's a family."
Duvernay notes there is a sense of community. What was the feeling like on set if Carrie Fisher's absence?
"Carrie was such a big part of [the entire Star Wars story] and for me, personally, there was a sense of wanting to honor that," she said. "I think she's pretty effing incredible in this movie."
How has Chewbacca endured this entire saga?
"For that we have to go back to 1977 when George found Peter Mayhew," Joonas Suotamo says. "I think Chewbacca's endurance has to do with the fact that Peter's unique physicality that I inherited and I try to birng on screen, he created this character that moves not quite like a human, it's very unique, the way Chewbacca appears on screen."
"When Peter passed, I was heartbroken," he says. "I tried to do him justice in this film., I'm really proud, with this incredible cast, that we're a part of something so much bigger than ourselves."
Anthony Daniels is asked to sum up his journey as an actor.
"I've only just realized that because I've been in all [of the movies], I am so close to it, it's like having your nose up against the planet. You can't see how big the planet is," he said. "It's meant something completely different to me. It's a job. It's kind of fun. It's kind of awkward sometimes. As we all know, it's not a smooth ride. Almost, I'm getting to see it from a different perspective."
What was Grant's reaction to the movie?
"Having seen the first one, I was a theater student when I was 20 years old before the younger cast were even born, it's an extraordinarily emotional thing to see the passing of time that goes through this movies," he said. "This extraodrinary summation of the whole story that delivers an emotional whollop at the end of the movie that I was totally unprepared for and I wept. I got no sleep."
Duvernay asks WIlliams to talk about coming back to the part of Lando Calrissian?
He didn't watch the old movies. He remembered the character. "The whole idea for me, I have a lot of admiration for these young man called Mr. JJ Abrams," he said. "When I worked with George, that was an opportunity to work with somebody who was pretty extraordinary and here again I had the opportunity to work with somebody pretty extraordinary." He recalls playing himself playing a killer when Abrams was doing LOST. "This has been fabulous," he said. "I didn't think that it would happen. I just wrote it off." When he got the call from Abrams, he laughed. "I thought it was just a wonderful gift, so I'm a very, very happy human being right now. Thank you."
10:51am PT... developing...
Duvernay says tat Poe is different this time around. Did he feel it was different?
Isaac points out that they are :dirtying up" the "squeaky" image of Poe. "Just revealing a bit more of his personality," Isaac said. "I've been taken away from my little box in space and I get to join my friends this time and you get to see the hope, in particular, that he brings in this one. There's a relentles\s optimism he has and how that is tested, how he tries to bring that for his friends, and how he tries to push them along. He says there is a "looseness" to how they shot the film. "You'll follow one character walking through this maze of an amazing planet and you realize it's one continuous amazing take of us talking over each other. It was that kind of trust that allowed this spark of vitality."
Boyega is asked about his chemistry with Isaac.
What has he learned from Finn?
"Finn tries to support [Rey] in that journey," he says. Finn relentlessly tries to help his friends and shows great loyalty. "Over the years, I've learned more and more. In general, I'm a nice guy, but I'm not always nice. I guess that consistency of niceness from Finn gives me questions in my head."
Ridley is asked about the most challenging part of making the movie.
Abrams is asked about honoring George Lucas' hope that these movies mean something. What does this movie mean and what does he want to say?
"I like to think that when you're working on something, especially [something like this], the truth is that there's the movie that you know you're presenting to the world and then there's' the thing that you're doing not necessarily secretively but figuratively..." Abrams said. "We live in a crazy time... Star Wars for me, was about hope, and it was about community, it was about the dd ball...To tell a story that is, of course, a giant spectacle and a blockbuster wrapping, the thing that mattered to me most...is the people who are sitting here and what you're watching and the eyes of the characters and the heart of the characters. For me, rather than give away themes...I would say that it really is about hope and it's about coming back to a sense of possibility and unity...If Star Wars can't do that for us, I don't know what can."
Terrio points out that he and Abrams got a bit emotional when they wrote characters' names in the screenplay for the first time. Abrams adds compliments of Terrio's work on Argo and he wanted somebody who would remind him how much it meant from someone who has not been a part of it before.
How did Abrams integrsate Fisher into the film and find footage to use?
"Like everyone here who knew her, I loved her," he said. "I knew her for a long time, not very well, but I knew her for a while....as we've discussed, the idea of continuing the story without Leia was not a possibility." More in the video below.
Ridley is asked about Rey's legacy. She is proud to promote diversity and to be able to portray strength in today's ""crazy world."
Last question, for Boyega, how does it feel to have come so far?0comments
"I think I'm not the only one in it, so it's cool to be able to share the load," he said. "I've been on this journey with Daisy more than anyone else." They have an understanding and background. He jokes about how she had 17 pounds in her bank account. "Having this connection, more than anything, if I feel any type of way...I'll always just message Daisy because I just know that that's somebody who will 100% relate. This way, has been my way of experiencing the whole thing. It's definitely been a huge life change, for all of us." He points out that he "genuinely" respects Abrams because he's "not on the bulls---." Abrams made promises and kept them. When he first saw him, he thought he was Tom Cruise. Abrams complimented Attack the Block and said he was going to get him in something. "I appreciate [Abrams] not being like the ret of this industry, talking s--- the whole time. I respect you for that."
That concludes the press conference. Stay tuned to Comicbook.com for exclusive updates. Share your thoughts and questions with me on Instagram and Twitter throughout the event and be sure to follow for photos and updates.