As the writer and director of the next film in the Star Wars saga, Rian Johnson had the unenviable task of bringing Luke Skywalker back into the franchise, burdened with all the expectations that came with it.
But Johnson was up for the challenge in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and on the eve of the film's release he spoke about how important it was to get the character, his history, and his motivations absolutely perfect.
"I had an instinct as to where it made sense for it to go, but I was very much just trying to really, genuinely, get into the heads of the characters in VII," said Johnson while speaking with StarWars.com. "I just made a list of all the things I knew about all the characters, including Luke. Because, obviously, you don’t learn much about Luke in VII, but you learn a lot about the circumstances under which he’s made this decision to take himself out of the fight."
Instead of making his own ideas fit into the established narrative like a puzzle, Johnson built on top of the foundations established in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
"So my goal was really just to make something that felt like a straight line going forward from VII that made sense to me," Johnson said. "Rather than come up with some crazy take on what it would be and then figure out how I get there, I was really just trying to continue the line forward in a way that made sense. Because it was me who was figuring it out, there’s going to be specific choices involved in that that wouldn’t necessarily be what someone else would do. But I was just trying to make the choices logical and make emotional sense, more than anything else."
Johnson said that he had to crack Luke's story first, but it had to be done in a way that continued Rey's journey because she is the focal point of the new trilogy.
"So much of what his character was in this movie and what defined it was a combination of, like I said before, feeling like it was led down a certain path by the big choice he had made to be in exile," Johnson said. "And then beyond that, Luke’s story in this movie, to a certain degree, serves Rey’s story. So that was the other element of this. Wherever he was going to be at and whatever he was going to go through, I couldn’t just think of it in a vacuum. This trilogy is not just Luke’s story. At the end of the day, it’s Rey who’s carrying us through this whole thing.
"Obviously, Rey and Finn, those are like the two big characters, but in this section of the story, meaning the island stuff, it’s Rey. So I had to think about him in tandem with Rey. And that was great, also, because that kind of meant thinking about him in tandem with myself, and as fans, our relationship to Luke as a legend and as this hero that we grew up with, who we now haven’t seen for some number of years and we’re approaching with expectations of what he’s going to be."
Fans will get to see where Rey and Luke's journey takes them when Star Wars: The Last Jedi premieres in theaters this Friday, December 15.