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Leading up to the 40th anniversary of the @starwars franchise, Vanity Fair introduces the next chapter in its saga with four covers devoted to The Last Jedi

Photographs by Annie Leibovitz.

…Though that chrome-plated trooper suit is, by now, firmly a part of the Star Wars iconography, this portfolio is the first time Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma has shown her face. “I think a big part of the allure of her character was just wondering what might be underneath,” Hidalgo explains of keeping the Game of Thrones star helmeted in the first film of the current trilogy. “It was only relatively recently that we wanted to commit to the idea that there was a human under there. The Force Awakens left that question, but as we got further into Last Jedi, as well as some other stories we’re thinking about with Phasma, we had to ask ourselves, ‘All right, do we agree there’s a human under there?’ ”

The definitely human Phasma is also sporting a slick new weapon which, Hidalgo says, “doesn’t have a fancy name yet.” (But it will—these things always do.) Unlike the weapons we’re used to seeing in Star Wars—lightsabers and blasters—Phasma’s accessory is a retractable pole arm that collapses into a smaller, easy to carry form should she ever find herself shoved down a trash compactor again. This weapon, Hidalgo says, has a strong connection to Phasma’s history, which will be explored in a comic-book series out in September. “Her background,” Hidalgo hints, “is more low-tech than many would assume.” [x]

What did we learn from Vanity Fair?

This week’s issue of Vanity Fair is one of the first times the press was actually allowed to go in depth into The Last Jedi. The hype train has officially started rolling, so let’s see what David Kamp and Annie Leibovitz have to say about Episode VIII, and how this measures up to what we know so far!

Ahch-To

The ‘beehive huts’ on Dingle Peninsula are meant to be a “little Jedi village.” “Luke…has been living in this village among an indigenous race of caretaker creatures.” Of course, we know that these creatures are the birdlike beasts that I thought were Convorees. However, it turns out they’re actually called Porgs, and they’re a new creature in the Star Wars universe.

Poe and Paige

”Poe Dameron…[is] back in action, coaching a gunner named Paige, a new character played by a Vietnamese actress named Veronica Ngo.” Paige is, presumably, Paige Tico, since the article says she’s the sister of Kelly Marie Tran’s character Rose Tico.

(Also look at how mischievous Kelly Marie Tran looks in this photo. She’s ready to go Star Wars-in’ around the MF galaxy.)

First Order ship

As you can see, Phasma’s spear rumor came true. And it really does look killer.

There is a scene somewhere in the film where  Hux, “played with spittle-flecked relish by Domhnall Gleeson” (I guess he spits a lot), looks out the window of a First Order starcraft.

DJ

Benicio Del Toro’s character is called DJ, but not in the film. Actually, he’s not called anything in the film. I wonder how that plays out. Rian Johnson said “you’ll see–there’s a reason why we call him DJ.” He is “a ‘shady character’ of unclear allegiances.”

Rose

Rose has a sister named Paige, who is a gunner in the Resistance. But she must leave Paige behind to go behind enemy lines on a mission with Finn. It looks like the rumors may be true, and Rose and Finn could sneak into the ‘Mega Destroyer’ yet.

Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo

Look! At! That! Costume! Holdo was the one character that I had a lot of trouble visualizing in my head. I was so confused when I heard ‘pink hair’ in relation to her character but it looks awesome. Plus we have a full name and title for Laura Dern’s character: Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo. It seems she is not at the top of the ranks, but if the rest of the rumors about her character are true, she will become the interim leader of the Resistance during the film. But that won’t be a good thing.

Canto Bight

Rose and Finn also journey to Canto Bight. Here’s what Rian Johnson had to say: “A Star Wars Monte Carlo-type environment, a little James Bond-ish, a little To Catch a Thief. It was an interesting challenge, portraying luxury and wealth in this universe.” So much of Star Wars has been junkyards and deserts, so Johnson wanted to go the opposite direction. “I was thinking, O.K., let’s go ultra-glamour. Let’s create a playground, basically, for rich assholes.”

The Slap

This wonderful mom ^^^ slapped the shit out of Oscar Isaac. “We did this scene where Carrie has to slap me. I think we did 27 takes in all, and Carrie leaned into it every time, man. She loved hitting me. Rian found such a wonderful way of working with her, and I think she really relished it.”

Process

Some quotes from writer/director Rian Johnson on working on The Last Jedi.

To start working on VIII, Johnson wrote a list of the main characters’ names, then brainstormed ways in which each of their characters would be tested the most. “J.J. and Larry and Michael set everybody up in a really evocative way in VII and started them on a trajectory. I guess I saw it as the job of this middle chapter to challenge all of those characters—let’s see what happens if we knock the stool out from under them.”

Rian Johnson ”didn’t want this to be a dirge, a heavy-osity movie. So one thing I’ve tried really hard to do is keep the humor in there, to maintain the feeling, amid all the heavy operatic moments, that you’re on a fun ride.”

Johnson, “in preparation for Episode VIII, steeped himself in World War II movies like Henry King’s Twelve O’Clock High and ‘funky 60s samurai stuff’ like Kihachi Okamoto’s Kill! and Hideo Gosha’s Three Outlaw Samurai.”

But, as filmmaking is a collaborative effort, it wasn’t all Rian. He worked with Lucasfilm’s 11 person story group. Kiri Hart, a development executive, explains, “The whole team reads each draft of the screenplay as it evolves, and we try, as much as we can, to smooth out anything that isn’t connecting.”

Rian Johnson never felt suffocated by this group’s presence. In fact, he was surprised by how much leeway he was given. He even moved up to San Francisco for six weeks as he wrote so he could collaborate with them more. He met with the group twice a week during this time. But he also had another writing partner: the incomparable Carrie Fisher.

“After I had a draft, I would sit down with her [Fisher] when I was working on re-writing. Sitting with her on her bed, in her insane bedroom with all this crazy modern art around us, TCM on the TV, a constant stream of Coca-Cola, and Gary the dog slobbering at her feet.”

I absolutely loved Johnson’s past films like Looper and Brick, and I’m 100% on board with the approach that he’s taking with the next Star Wars film. Honestly, from a sheer filmmaking standpoint, Episode VIII is the Star Wars movie I’m most excited about (sorry Christopher Miller, Phil Lord, and Colin Trevorrow). If you haven’t yet, give the Vanity Fair article a peek to really get hyped for more Star Wars!