Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrived on Digital and Movies Anywhere last week and is coming to 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and On-Demand on March 27, and one of the many features packed onto this release is a director’s commentary from Rian Johnson. In the commentary, he reveals quite a bit about what went into the making of the film. Here are seven things we learned — though you’re really going to watch the whole thing, because you’ll find more gold than Snoke’s robe in there.
1. Grumpy Eeyore Rose. (Almost.)
Rian Johnson originally wrote Rose to be “a grumpy Eeyore” type, but when Kelly Marie Tran was cast into the role, it transformed the character. In fact, her being a fan of Finn’s came late in the process. “I rewrote it during production,” Johnson says. “Originally, she was much more suspicious of Finn and I rewrote it to more reflect Kelly’s spirit and personality. She’d be excited and a fan, and this genuine disappointment when she realizes that this hero of hers is not who she thought. A much more open-hearted character that was a reflection of Kelly.”
This is something that happened on the original Star Wars film, too. George Lucas wrote See-Threepio to be a used car salesman sort, but when Anthony Daniels took the part, he brought, according to George Lucas, “an enormous package of reality” that changed the character forever.
2. Kathleen Kennedy saved the Falcon‘s porgs.
The iconic shot of the mother porg and her porglets nestling into the wiring of the Millennium Falcon almost didn’t make the final cut of the film. Johnson explained that it almost came out of the film repeatedly, but every time they screened The Last Jedi for Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, she would giggle. Her giggle saved them from a fate worse than death, as this reaction convinced Johnson to keep them in the film. “It’s doing something [for the audience], so we left it in.”
3. Chase art.
One of the most fascinating and innovative bits of filmmaking came about during the fathier chase. Before anything was shot with John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran, Industrial Light & Magic worked out everything they could with the fathiers. They designed their anatomy, animated what their running gait would be like, and then crafted the entire sequence. Then, they took those motions and programmed them into a motion-control base for John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran to sit on, so the running gait of the fathiers would match the moves they captured on film exactly. “They programmed the moves and the camera moves into the motion-controlled camera exactly, and then for each one of these we just shot their elements for it,” Johnson says. “Basically the last two weeks of the shoot were Kelly and John stuck on the back of this big contraption just shooting reaction shot after reaction shot.”
4. Frank Oz, filmmaker extraordinaire.
The first shot in of Yoda in The Last Jedi, that beautiful dolly shot across the back of his head while Luke races up the steps to the Jedi library, was actually Frank Oz’s suggestion to Rian Johnson. “Originally, I had some more boring way of introducing Yoda,” Johnson says, “but he came up with the notion of dollying back behind Yoda’s head and seeing the shape of it to reveal him, knowing instantly that everyone’s heart would jump.”
But that wasn’t Oz’s only contribution to the filmmaking. Johnson explains that the original Yoda puppeteer gave him a lot of advice for the editing room about how to cut around a puppet and when to hold on wide shots for maximum dramatic effect and the like. “The other lesson Frank taught me was that Mark’s reaction is a massive part of what brings the puppet to life. The actor who is with him believing and interacting with this living creature is important. Mark’s eyes are as important as Yoda’s eyes in this scene. It was a pretty special experience to get to do this and become friends with Frank during the course of it.”
5. Pew pew pew.
If you look carefully in the film, you can see Admiral Holdo say “pew” when she fires her stun blast at C’ai Threnalli. According to Rian Johnson, that was something she couldn’t not do, every time they shot it. It’s the same sort of problem George Lucas had during the filming of the prequels when Ewan McGregor and the rest of the Jedi in the films had a hard time not making humming sounds for their lightsabers during production. Can you blame them?
6. That fight.
By the time the throne room fight was shot, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley were so well prepared that it freed Rian Johnson in the camera department. Since they were so dialed in, he could use longer lenses and have them perform the fights verbatim, rather than go in and use shaky closeups to cover up a lack of skill. “The fact that Adam and Daisy and all of our amazing stunt performers were able to keep up the intensity and sell these amazing moments take after take with all the technical requirements is just extraordinary,” Johnson says.
7. Comets? COMETS!
One of the most visceral moments in Star Wars fandom for fans of a certain age is the experience of Star Tours, and watching your Starspeeder crash right through a comet. No stranger to this experience, Rian Johnson designed the chase beneath Crait with the Falcon as an homage to that wonderful experience. “This whole sequence is a little bit of an homage to the original Star Tours ride, when they go through the comet. I always loved that.”
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available now on Digital and via Movies Anywhere, and comes to 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and On-Demand on March 27.