How The STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI Cast Initially Reacted To Rian Johnson's Script

We've read film critic's initial reaction to The Last Jedi - they gushed over it. Star Wars fans? Not so much. But what about the main cast of Episode VIII? Here's a refresher on THEIR initial reaction.

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Two years after J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi has arrived in theaters to the delight of fans around the world but their reaction has not been all that kind and really, can only be described as mixed at best. That's primarily because the fandom believes there are certain intrinsic attributes and elements that should be present in a Star Wars film and they're largely missing or subverted in Rian Johnson's executed vision. In a recent interview, Johnson stated, "[George] Lucas never made a "Star Wars" movie by sitting down and thinking, "What do the fans want to see?" And I knew if I wrote wondering what the fans would want, as tempting as that is, it wouldn't work, because people would still be shouting at me, "F--- you, you ruined 'Star Wars,'" and I would make a bad movie. And ultimately, that's the one thing nobody wants."  Nevertheless, fans are split on whether such a transmutation was needed in order to inject new life into the franchise or whether a Star Wars director should simply censor their unique sensibilities/ vision and service the traditions and conventions of the beloved 40-year-old franchise.

This debate will likely rage on for weeks, however, imagine being one of the film's cast members- learning what was to come in Episode VIII and having to wait over two years for the rest of the world to find out!  In the many months leading up to The Last Jedi's release, the cast has been dropping hints that the film would be unlike any previous installment before it.  However, it seems fans thought their words were just superficial fluff aimed at filling theater seats and reigniting a potentially fatigued fanbase.  But 40 years on, there's still no need to sell Star Wars and it turns out their statements weren't just spin. 

Just like Star Wars fans, there were definitely some disbelief and apprehension among the cast about what Rian Johnson was planning for the film.  Mark Hamill bluntly told Johnson that he didn't agree with anything he was doing with franchise poster boy Luke Skywalker and Daisy
Ridely's first reading of the script reduced her to tears.  However, the most interesting reaction to Johnson's ideas might have been from J.J. Abrams himself, who verbally expressed admiration for Johnson's script but also revealed that despite the Looper director's request, there were some seeds he just couldn't bring himself to plant for Johnson to later bring to harvest in The Last Jedi.

Click the list to see how the main cast responded to their first reading of the script for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. As always, you can opt to view the list in its entirety by clicking 'View List (One Page)'.

Daisy Ridley  

The actress behind Rey- the focal point of the new trilogy and new champion of the Light side of the Force actually cried the first time she read the script. 

In a recent New York Times interview, Ridley revealed, "When I read the script, I didn’t cry right away. I was like, “Wobble, wobble, wobble, [shaky voice] I’m probably going to cry and I need to see Rian.” Then I went into Rian’s office and I was crying my eyes out. I’m not great with new people. I think Mark can attest to that. [Silence, then laughter].

Her angst was moreso due to Rey having virtually no screentime with Finn in the movie as she and John Boyega had grown close during the auditor process.  But the lack of Rey and Finn scenes in The Last Jedi is also a point of contention with many Star Wars fans who wanted to see if the two characters are really just friends or if there were sparks of romance developing between the two.  With Rose Tico's franchise debut as a potential love interest for Finn, it will be interesting to see if a love triangle becomes a plot element for Episode IX.  

Mark Hamill  

Like most hardcore, loyal Star Wars fans, Mark Hamill had plenty of issue with Luke Skywalker's storyline in The Last Jedi.  He was quite blunt in a Vanity Fair article, revealing that he directly told Johnson to his face that he disagreed with the reasoning behind Luke's self -imposed exile.

Hamill recalled, "I at one point had to say to Rian, ‘I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realize your vision."

Harsh.  So much so that Hamill would later amend this statement, citing a poor choice of words.  Speaking to Variety, he stated,  "Rian Johnson is an amazing filmmaker, and if you look at Brick or Brothers Bloom or Looper, each film is different from the last one and they’re so inventive. I think people will be pleased and surprised, I know I was. I got in trouble, because I was quoted as saying to Rian that I fundamentally disagree with everything you decided about Luke, and it was inartfully phrased. What I was, was surprised at how he saw Luke. And it took me a while to get around to his way of thinking, but once I was there it was a thrilling experience. I hope it will be for the audience too.”

Not so much a complete backtrack but definitely a softer delivery.  Still, it seems more recent days have revealed that Hamill has truly made peace with Luke's story.   

Oscar Isaac  

"Rian is definitely going to places and investigating things that haven’t really been done in the ‘Star Wars’ universe," said Isaac to the LA Times. He continued, "For me, it’s so fun getting to explore different things that I wouldn’t have expected in this universe. In some ways, it feels like we’re making an independent film. Certain things we get to play with – this kind of intimacy that we get to find – it’s special. It’s been really fun.

Johnson said in numerous interviews that he didn't approach the film as "making a Star Wars film" but that he strived to create a story that he personally thought was compelling - an idea that Lucasfilm supported and actively pushed for Johnson to accomplish.  It seems Oscar Isaac immediately recognized and supported that idea as well.

John Boyega  

It seems Boyega needed to let the script and the ideas proposed by Johnson marinate for a bit as his initial reaction was pretty adverse to what he was reading. "It was horrible when I read the script for the first time and I wasn’t with [Rey]. We auditioned together. We went through this whole experience together. To be split apart was scary for me. But then I understood that is something that we could draw from — something that Finn really feels, and Rey really feels. And then I was like, “Oh! Rian does know what he’s doing."

Perhaps he does? Perhaps the entire Star Wars fandom will develop a different take on the film after it's had time to come to terms with the fact that the franchise as a whole, is heading in a new direction?

Adam Driver  

Adam Driver had nothing but support for what Rian Johnson was trying to accomplish in The Last Jedi as revealed in an early interview with Collider. Of all the characters, Kylo Ren's arc was one of the most widely-acclaimed developments in the installment. Whereas fans and critics chided Kylo Ren for being an emo, Darth Vader wannabe in The Force Awakens, the character was nuanced and menacing in The Last Jedi in a way that most would have thought impossible.

"Rian is coming into something that we kind of set up and he just took it to the next level in a really great way. He wrote it, too, and Rian’s writing is so clear. I learned a lot of things about my character through his writing. Some things we talked about before and some things we didn’t. He was working on [the script] while we were still working on the first one. To understand what J.J. was doing and take ownership from there is kind of a remarkable thing. And he’s the most polite, unassuming guy and he was appropriately territorial about some things but would still be the first to admit when something’s not working. A lot of times you need to rise to understand what the script is, and perhaps I’m beginning to be unclear, but he’s a great person to work with. It’s similar to how The Empire Strikes Back has a different tone. For that people always go “oooh, it’s dark” but I don’t know that it necessarily is. It’s just different in tone in a way that I think is great and necessary but also very clear. He trusts [that] his audience is ready for nuance and ambiguity. He’s not dumbing anything down for someone and that’s really fun to play."

Domhnall Gleeson  

Domhnall Gleeson was so stunned by what he read that he immediately felt the need to get in touch with Rian Johnson and discuss what he'd just read. It's clear that Gleeson is definitely a longtime Star Wars fan and recognized that some of the ideas might not be well-received.

"When I read it I needed to talk to him, and I think that’s always a good sign. I was like, ‘Wow there’s some stuff there which is kind of—not scary but different to what I expected,’ and that’s a really, really nice thing. I think that’s a really positive thing, I think that’s important for those films that we don’t repeat ourselves. So I just wanted to talk to him, and when I talked to him he was so clear and so confident, not in a brash way but he knew the film he wanted to make, and it was a really lovely thing.

Just [to] sit down with a filmmaker you really enjoy… but to see him, just the confidence of it and his excitement about what it could be and everything, it was really pleasing to see. Very calming. And I got really excited about being in it, and it was a really very, very cool experience working with him. I would love to work with him again, I really enjoyed it. I’m just really interested to see the film now, as well. You never know what something’s gonna be like. Even when you read the script, you don’t know what the tone of something is gonna be. You can guess at it, but I can’t wait to see it. I just wanna sit in a room full of people and watch that movie and see what it does to us.

J.J. Abrams  

One of the earliest words on how J.J. Abrams reacted to Rian Johnson's script actually came from Abrams' childhood friend, actor Greg Grunberg (who also had a small role in Episode VII as an X-Wing pilot). He told The Washington Post, "He read [Johnson's script] and said something he never, ever says.  He said, ‘It’s so good, I wish I were making it.’ He may have said something one time on ‘Lost’ with Damon [Lindelof], but I never hear him express regret like that.

A subsequent interview with /Film would see Abrams himself directly praise the script but also reveal something that's rather interesting given what everyone now knows about The Last Jedi.  "[W]e met and talked with him about all the things we were working on and playing with, and he as a spectacular writer and director has taken those things and has written an AMAZING script that I think will be an incredible next chapter, some of which incorporating things we were thinking of and other things are things we could never of dreamed of.  There were a handful of things we talked about that were going to be helpful to him. Some were very easy to do, and some things were things that I didn’t want to do for other reasons, but I tried to be as accommodating as I could.

What were the ideas Rian Johnson wanted introduced in Episode VII that Abrams declined to acquiesce?  If The Force Awakens is any indication, Abrams definitely holds the original trilogy in high regard and some of Rian's ideas may have simply been too radical for Abrams to go along with.  Some fans are stubbornly convinced that Johnson went out of his way to undo elements he found disagreeable in Abrams' film and actively changed course on several plot threads teased in The Force Awakens.  It will be interesting to see whether these same fans find that Abrams returns the favor with Episode IX.

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