The development of the Star Wars sequel trilogy was a bit unconventional, to say the least, with writer/director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi confirming that he was entirely unaware that Ben Solo would die at the end of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. It's unclear, however, if this means that the decision of Kylo Ren to be redeemed as Ben Solo before making a fatal sacrifice came late in the development process or if director J.J. Abrams kept his intentions for the character a secret, with these remarks just emphasizing how much disconnect -- and freedom -- came with each installment of the trilogy.
Author Sariah Wilson recently had a private conversation with Johnson over Zoom, though she took to Twitter to relay details of topics that were discussed.
And laughingly asked me what that was for. I told him I had a lot of feelings about that ending and then showed him my Ben Solo Deserved Better T-shirt, which made him laugh more.
He explained that it was very much a full hand-off between 7 and 8, just as it was from 8 to 9— Sariah Wilson (@sariahwilson) March 3, 2021
"Me: 'Did you know that Ben was going to die when you were making [The Last Jedi? Did you know that from the beginning?'" Wilson recalled. "Rian: 'No, I did not. No.' Me, irritated because I realize that killing Ben Solo was not always the plan. Rian notices my expression and sigh of disgust."
She continued, "And laughingly asked me what that was for. I told him I had a lot of feelings about that ending and then showed him my 'Ben Solo Deserved Better' T-shirt, which made him laugh more. He explained that it was very much a full hand-off between [Star Wars: The Force Awakens] and [The Last Jedi], just as it was from [The Last Jedi] to [The Rise of Skywalker]."
Both as a whole and for each individual installment, reactions to the sequel trilogy were quite varied, while both the original and prequel trilogies have more of a correlation in responses. Johnson's comments about his obliviousness to Kylo Ren's trajectory just add more evidence to how Lucasfilm was seemingly more interested in allowing each filmmaker the freedom to take the journey in whatever direction they wanted as opposed to outlining an overall trajectory featuring collaboration across the board.
Wilson did, however, note that Johnson specified that his reaction was in response to Ben Solo, as opposed to reacting to the idea of "Kylo Ren" dying.
"Rian did his best to tee up a bunch of things and tried to bring [The Last Jedi] to a point where there were lots of places the story could go. He didn't want to be unfair to the next director and leave a lot of possibilities. He wasn't trying for a specific outcome for the end of the series," Wilson detailed. "But to have lots of dramatic potential' for [Episode IX]. He answered my question again by saying he didn't know whether Kylo would live or die, then quickly corrected himself to say he didn't know whether *Ben* would live or die, and how the series would resolve."
Johnson is currently slated to develop a trilogy of Star Wars movies for Lucasfilm.