Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker writer-director J.J. Abrams says the "biggest surprise" in the Rian Johnson-directed middle chapter of the sequel trilogy, The Last Jedi, was the death of chromium-plated Stormtrooper leader Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). The high-ranking First Order officer was defeated in a scuffle with ex-Stormtrooper turned Resistance hero Finn (John Boyega), and after Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) piloted a Resistance ship into the First Order's Supremacy, Phasma fell to a fiery death. In a new interview, Abrams says he was surprised by Phasma's death because he felt there was more to mine with the character:
"Obviously, I had read the script. It wasn't like I just went to go see Last Jedi, but I saw what Rian was doing," Abrams told FOX 5 DC. "What I loved about his approach was that he was just subverting expectations, everywhere you looked. And I think that maybe the biggest surprise … you think Luke dying maybe was the biggest surprise or — I guess spoiler alert — [Kylo] Ren killing Snoke, there were certain things that felt like they were… weirdly, for me, the thing that was the most surprising was Phasma dying."
The death caught Abrams off-guard because Phasma, introduced in The Force Awakens as a foil for Finn, was "one of those characters that I felt there was something else [for her to do]."
For Abrams, who had the corrupted Ben Solo (Adam Driver) murder father Han (Harrison Ford), the key was having Han's death serve a purpose for both his son and budding Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley).
"No one wants a character to die, and yet, I know that when we had Kylo Ren kill Han Solo, that was done because Harrison always knew that there needed to be utility for the character, and he had famously always wanted Han to die and serve that purpose," Abrams said. "But it felt like this was a way to begin to define Kylo Ren, not just a way to kill a character. So I can see why Rian chose to do that with some of these characters. But I guess for me the biggest surprise, weirdly, was Phasma dying the way she did."
Lucasfilm and director J.J. Abrams join forces once again to take viewers on an epic journey to a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the riveting conclusion of the seminal Skywalker saga, where new legends will be born and the final battle for freedom is yet to come.
Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Keri Russell, Richard E. Grant, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Joonas Suotamo, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20.