Star Wars Celebration Europe Future Filmmakers Panel Live

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(Photo: Lucasfilm)

The final panel of Star Wars Celebration Europe featured the directors of the next couple of movies, with Rian Johnson, writer/director of Star Wars: Episode VIII and the Han Solo standalone film directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord joining Star Wars Story Group's Pablo Hidalgo, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and possibly some special guests on stage.

The panel was not livestreamed by Lucasfilm and the convention, but we were on site to cover it live with a liveblog for all the new information and announcements.

Pablo Hidalgo was first out on stage, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd. He thanked fans for hanging out for three days and enjoying some Star Wars. "We did a version of this panel at the last Celebration. We're talking about movies that are quite far away, so that's going to limit things we can really show you, but this is the first time we can have any public conversations about these movies."

We're covering Episode VIII and Han Solo today. Kathleen Kennedy and head of Story Group and VP of Story Development Kiri Hart took the stage next.

"It's been really satisfying seeing people embracing what we've been sharing about Rogue One," Hart said of the stand-alone film concept. "It was you guys that helped us," Kennedy said, of big fans helping explain how these films will fit in the overall Star Wars galaxy.

Rian Johnson was pulled in for Episode VIII because Kennedy was "a big fan of Rian for a long time. He was way at the top of the list right away. Rian has those sensibilities that combine a dramatic sense of structure balanced with humor. I don't say this about a lot of people, but he can move the camera as well as Steven Spielberg, so you're in for a treat."

With that, Johnson took the stage to a standing ovation.

"[The Force Awakens] was still shooting when we got started on pre-production," Johnson said. He went to Lucasfilm HQ in San Francisco for six weeks before ever really starting on the script. "We would watch dailies from Episode VII while we were talking about how the story would take shape."

They had a "film camp" to see his sensibilities, like Bridge on the River Kwai and 12 O'Clock High. "Now that we're wrapping, and seeing it coming together, a lot of that stuff did make it into the film," Johnson said.

They started production by having Johnson recreate the scene between Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley from the end of VII.

"For the first time, we're breaking Star Wars tradition and starting our movie right where the last one left off," the director confirmed. "Skellig Michael is an incredibly mystical place. To be there and have that be the first thing we were shooting was an appropriately surreal way to start everything off."

Talking about what Star Wars means to him, his dad put him in the car to see Star Wars. "I asked him where we were going, and he said, to see the most amazing thing you've ever seen. And he was right," Johnson said. He remembers having the toys and telling the stories again on his own with those toys. "I choked up when I got on the Falcon set for the first time, remembering being a kid playing with those toys."

"The whole process - you come into it with feelings of deep nostalgia, but your duty is to get beyond that really quickly, and tell a story that's about right now. That's the ultimate responsibility to sit in front of Mark, in front of Luke Skywalker, acknowledge that, then get to know Mark and get to the job of telling the story," Johnson said. The newer cast members "were wonderful. They had that feeling of the big explosion of the first one, and it ended up serving what this film is. Out of necessity, the second film is where we start zooming in on the characters."

Johnson "loves being on social media." He created a message board on his website for people to talk about Brick, which came out before twitter existed. "It's been wonderful, the engagement with people. They showed some pictures from his instagram account that he took from the set. Johnson praised the background actors in the film, saying they were essential.

"The amount of sets that we've built for this movie has been absolutely outrageous," Johnson said, wanting to reassure fans that there'd be plenty of practical sets.

In addition to Skellig, they shot on the southwest coast of Ireland, which Johnson said "opened up a new level to the film."

A shot of Dave Filoni visiting the set drew applause from the crowd. "You feel calm and at peace when Dave Filoni is standing behind you," Johnson said. "It was nice, even when I was in San Francisco, Gareth Edwards was there, and they were working on Rogue One at the same time, and Dave was doing Rebels work, and we'd all come into each others' rooms and help work things out."

Johnson revealed he put his assistant Leo in a TIE pilot costume and had him do one of the flight scenes. "You put them in there, frame them up, and look at the monitor, and you're just like 'Oh my God.'"

Next year's Celebration will be around the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, and will be the "Episode VIII Celebration," Hidalgo said.

"I was very nervous to come out here, but seeing you guys, and the warmth, I'm really looking forward to the next year and a half. I'm really looking forward to what we'll be showing you. And I think we're going to have a lot of fun together," Johnson said.

Chris Miller and Phil Lord came out next to talk about Han Solo (not final title), and said they just moved out here two days ago. They're working with Lawrence and his son John Kasdan on the script still. Kasdan actually pitched to Kiri Hart that Miller and Lord should be the directors.

"It's a real honor that Larry Kasdan would give us praise like that," Miller said.

"What does Han Solo mean to you?" Hidalgo asked.

"I kind of relate to him. He doesn't want to do what he's told. He's kind of sarcastic. He's kind of grouchy, but has the biggest heart in the galaxy," Lord said. "He's the guy that everyone on the playground fought over who would play Han Solo," Miller added. "He is a scoundrel. He's one of the most iconic characters of all time."

Miller joked that Batman being on the Millennium Falcon is canon, because all Star Wars on film is canon, and they showed the clip from The LEGO Movie with the Star Wars cameo by Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and Lando.

The pair of directors were almost in Rogue One in a cameo, and even got put in costume, but had to leave so Miller could look for a school for his son while they live here.

Rian Johnson is in the movie, though, as one of the "guys in the firing chamber of the Death Star, pulling the lever." Gareth Edwards, likewise, got to cameo in Episode VIII.

Chris Miller was actually an intern at ILM, and was "Stormtrooper #2" in the Empire Strikes Back special edition re-release in 1997.

Moving onto Han Solo in a proper way again, Miller said it was the "hardest casting of all time. We did an exhaustive search, saw 3,000 people for the part all across the world." They "turned over every rock to find someone with the charisma and maverick swagger."

"It turns out that it was a total waste of money," Lord said, "Because the person that got the part was literally the first person to audition. The first person to walk in the door. Kathy, we're sorry." Lord confirmed Alden Ehrenreich in the role saying it was the "best kept secret in casting," and brought him out on stage.

"I auditioned for about six months. The coolest part of that process was that I went on the Falcon. It's pretty unbelievable! You get there, and you have... as a kid, you play make believe and imagine what it would be like, but you get there and it's pretty incredible. I'm very excited," Ehrenreich said. He also screentested with Chewbacca.

Ehrenreich only told his mom officially until right now. "She's pretty thrilled. She was like, 'what?!' She's moving out of the house I grew up in right now, and found my box of Star Wars toys and all the Han Solo toys and such." They showed a picture of his Han Solo and Bossk toys from the batch.

"There are a lot of sets and droids and crazy characters for Neal Scanlan to build," Miller said. "We're using a lot of the same crew from Rian's movie and Rogue One. They're the best in the business, and it's going to be a dream." Johnson praised that crew, too, saying he was "envious" that they get to work with them soon.

John Boyega came out on stage and the crowd went insane for him. After greeting the crowd, he talked about Johnson.

"Rian is awesome. He's doing an indie movie within a franchise. We're having fun," Boyega said. He did confirm that he comes out of his coma in Episode VIII. Johnson said they joked it'd be fun to keep him in a coma the whole film, and just keep cutting back to him.

"The story is very interesting, and it's interesting to keep it secret right now," Boyega said. "Rian has a great, new take on the story. It feels like Star Wars and new."

Boyega said he's "still taking it in" that he's now a Star Wars star. He looked at Alden and said, "You're playing HAN SOLO man, damn! You've got the charm stuff down, that Han Solo smile, you'll have fun."

Kelly Marie Tran is someone that Johnson is "so excited for you to meet... in good time. She's really something special," and will make her big movie debut in Episode VIII.

Then it was time to represent the Original Trilogy, Pablo said, and brought out Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. Both their dogs, Millie and Gary respectively, came out too.

Hamill said that the love and emotion he gets from fans at Celebration is "so palpable, sometimes I feel like I could just drop dead from the emotion. It gives me a charge I can't explain, and I'm so grateful for it."

Fisher said that she loves seeing Hamill, who "is my brother." She loves seeing children in Leia costumes. "She drives me crazy, but I'd defend her with my life," Hamill said.

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"The new sequel is about a lot of stuff with Hello Dolly," Fisher said. "I'm here to make sure Gary gets a role in the next one. There aren't enough pets in space! That's my contribution."

With that, Hidalgo thanked all the panelists and they got a standing ovation to end the panel.