Star Wars veteran Mark Hamill, who returns as Luke Skywalker in The Rise of Skywalker, wanted any and all surviving Star Wars actors to return for the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. Following the deaths of original trilogy co-stars Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew and Carrie Fisher — the latter posthumously appearing in Rise of Skywalker through the use of re-purposed deleted scenes originally shot by returning director J.J. Abrams during The Force Awakens — Hamill is especially glad The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi star Billy Dee Williams returns as the suave Lando Calrissian for the first time in the sequel trilogy.
"I'm so glad Billy Dee is in the final installment, because he deserves it. I thought, 'Anybody that's still around — no matter how prominent or obscure — should come back. I would love that,'" Hamill says in an EPK interview. "But especially Billy Dee. We were unknowns when we were cast, and when they cast Billy Dee in Empire, he was like a big movie star! He's just the smoothest [person]. He's almost like an old school, 1930's matinee idol. He's just a really wonderful guy and fun to be around. And he saved my life in Empire, so I owe him that."
The 82-year-old Williams previously admitted he "never expected" to step back into the role he last reprised in Return of the Jedi in 1983.
"It was fun. I really enjoyed it," he previously told Variety. "I'm older now, so for me, it's more a source of amusement than anything else. I never expected to really be back in that costume or in the movie, so I still kind of chuckle about the whole thing. I knew people were clamoring for Lando to come back, but I didn't feel like that would happen. It's a nice feeling to be welcomed back."
And Abrams — who also admits he was never supposed to return for Episode IX, but saw it as an opportunity to bring to screen unused ideas he envisioned for The Force Awakens — gleefully brought back Williams as Lando.
"Having Lando back in Star Wars is something that [Force Awakens co-writer] Larry Kasdan and I wanted to do in The Force Awakens, just as much as I wanted to have Luke training Rey. I was so excited about things that we just realized we could never, ever get to," Abrams told Vanity Fair, adding Williams is "just wonderful and funny and fascinating and curious, and he cares so much… Having his spirit and his personality, and his swagger, and that f—ing smile, which is the greatest thing that, maybe, God ever made… He's just, you just can't deny the guy. Getting to see him in a scene with our characters, it just feels so right."
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens Dec. 20. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.