Rian Johnson Reveals The Biggest Surprise About Directing ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

Gregory Wakeman

Star Wars news has been coming in thick and fast over the last few days. Not only was it revealed earlier this week that the eighth installment to the franchise will be called The Last Jedi, but we also got a brand new poster for the film to commemorate this revelation.

Then just a day after The Last Jedi’s title was announced, Rian Johnson took to Instagram to post an image of himself in the editing bay for the film, which teased that he was now hard at work on the opening crawl for The Last Jedi. But we’ve now been privy to even more news regarding Star Wars: The Last Jedi, because director Rian Johnson has sat down to chat with Empire Magazine about what it’s been like working on the blockbuster.

Having previously directed Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and Looper, each of which had relatively low budgets that ranged between $450,000 and $30 million, it must have been a shock to the system for Rian Johnson to be working on the $200-million-budgeted Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But while the director admitted that the film’s scale and the size of its production was immediately noticeable, Johnson told the British film magazine that in the end, shooting The Last Jedi still felt small and intimate.

Rian Johnson was surprised how intimate it was shooting Star Wars 8
[Image by Lucasfilm]

Rian Johnson explained,

“I guess the biggest surprise was the intimacy of the process. It’s huge, sure, and it’s filled with pressures great and small. But at the end of the day, it boils down to the same things as the smaller films we’ve made: telling a story we care about with a camera and some actors. And a Wookiee.”

During his discussion, Rian Johnson also discussed his first day of filming on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, admitting that he had quite a slow opening few days in a remote location just off the coast of Ireland that allowed him to get into the groove of production ahead of the really huge action set-pieces. Rian Johnson continued,

“Our first day of shooting was actually several months before principal photography began: we had three days on Skellig Michael island. So not only was it day one of Star Wars on this incredible natural location, but because the island was so inaccessible it was a very stripped-down, run-and-gun crew. Pretty much the perfect start to the whole adventure.”

Rian Johnson also opened up about some of the major cinematic influences that he has repeatedly turned to throughout his work on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The first of which was Twelve O’Clock High, which was released in 1948 and revolves around the United States Army’s Eight Air Force that dropped bombs on Nazi Germany and occupied France during World War II. Johnson turned to this for its depiction of “aerial combat as well as the dynamic between the pilots.”

Rian Johnson talks The Last Jedi
[Image by Lucasfilm]

Then Rian Johnson admitted that he watched Hideo Gosha’s 1964 Japanese chambara film Three Outlaw Samurai several times for its “sword-fighting” and to get a “general sense of pulpy fun,” as well as To Catch A Thief for its “romantic scale and grandeur.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time that someone intimately involved in Star Wars: The Last Jedi has spoken about its production, its influences, and what sets it apart. Back in the fall, Adam Driver, who will reprise his character of Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi, told Collider,

“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.”

[Featured Image by Lucasfilm]