TLJ Audio Commentary

The audio commentary for The Last Jedi has been released, and with it comes some interesting tidbits from Rian Johnson. While the majority of the commentary focuses on the making of the movie rather than the content of the film itself, I’ve compiled what I think are some of the most noteworthy parts, transcripted the quotes, and added timestamps. (Some quotes are edited for clarity.)

On the opening exchange between Poe and Hux:

“We kind of start the movie here with a joke, and this was—I held on to this. This was something where I felt like, first of all, I knew that with all the heaviness of it being the middle chapter, I knew people were going to come in with expectations of all the grand opera of it, and I really wanted this movie to be fun. I loved the tone that JJ and Michael and Larry set with The Force Awakens and the tone of the original films has a spirit of fun to it. I felt like we had to, at the very beginning, kind of break the ice and say ‘We’re gonna have fun here. We’re gonna try some fun stuff and it’s gonna be okay to laugh at this movie.” (3:55 – 4:40)

Luke’s reasoning for being on Ahch-To:

“So this moment of Mark tossing the saber, um, that was always something that just made a lot of sense to me in terms of, ‘Okay, he’s come out to this island’, and the first thing I had to do when I was writing the script is figure out why Luke is on this island […] He knows his friends are fighting this good fight, he knows there’s peril out there in the galaxy, and he’s exiled himself way out here and taken himself out of it, and so I had to figure out why. I knew, because it’s Luke Skywalker who I grew up with as a hero, I knew the answer couldn’t be cowardice. So I knew the answer had to be something active—he couldn’t just be hiding, and I knew it had to be something positive. He thinks he’s doing the right thing. And that kind of led to the notion that he’s come to the conclusion from all the given evidence that the Jedi are not helping, they’re just perpetuating this kind of cycle, and they need to go away so that the light can rise from a more worthy source, and so suddenly that turned his exile from something where he’s hiding and avoiding responsibility to him kind of taking the weight of the world on his shoulders and bearing the huge burden of knowing his friends are suffering because he thinks it’s a better, bigger thing for the galaxy. He’s choosing to not engage with it.” (14:30 – 16:30)

Why Kylo destroys his mask so early in the film:

“I am a huge Adam Driver fan. And so when I got this job I was just really excited to get to work with Adam, and especially when I saw his performance in The Force Awakens and realized, ah, this is a really interesting, complicated villain. One of the first things I thought was—I feel like for this film especially—when we’re trying to kind of, like, get deeper into his head, I thought, well, we’ve gotta figure out a way to get that mask out of the way.” (18:00 – 18:35)

On sound design:

“This was where Rey kind of stops and the tree calls to her. Ren Klyce, who is our genius sound designer for this film, played with a lot of things to kind of figure out what this would be, this voice calling. It’s just one of the many examples in the movie of Ren having to communicate some story points through abstract sound design.” (22:40 – 23:05)

Leia’s “Mary Poppins” moment:

“This was something that Kathy Kennedy would bring up, the notion that Leia is a Skywalker as well, she’s got that same heritage, and there’s that line in Jedi where Luke says ‘You’ve got these powers too”, and we never see them manifest, and the notion that in a moment like this, when it seems like all is lost, and she just realizes she’s not done yet, and almost through instinct, almost like you hear about parents when their kids are caught under cars being able to get Hulk strength and lift them up, that’s kind of what I wanted this moment to be, with her using the Force for the first time in these movies, to pull herself back and say, ‘We’re not done. This is not ending here.” (31:35 – 32:30)

The beacon:

“This was something in the writing that came kind of late, this idea of this beacon to connect up Rey and Finn. They’re always trying to figure out ways—I was very conscious of the fact that they were split up for this movie—and I knew that was necessary, but I was always looking for ways to connect them.” (32:40 – 33:05)

The gold dice:

“It’s funny, I wrote that whole bit with the dice and worked them into this movie, and when I did there was still, originally, in The Force Awakens, when Han comes into the Falcon for the first time, in the cockpit he pulls the dice out of his pocket and hangs them up, and it was in the script and they shot it and it didn’t end up making it into the movie, but I didn’t know that while I was writing—they were still shooting it! And so I put this whole dice thing in, but I figured that well, if Luke comes in, even though it’s a pretty obscure callback to these dice that you glimpse in one quick shot in A New Hope, I figured, well, he pulls the dice down, you’ll know they’re Han’s dice, you’ll know they mean something.” (34:00 – 34:40)

Mark & Daisy’s performances:

“Mark and Daisy played so well off of each other in this movie. Thank God, because they got quite a lot to do together.” (He later describes the first lesson as “intimate dialogue” and “intimate, beautiful acting”) (35:15 – 35:25)

On Amilyn Holdo:

“The character of Holdo was interesting. It developed quite a bit in the editing. We went back and did a couple pickup shots to kind of tweak the performance a little. Originally she was a much more, kind of like, hippie-dippie sort of character. I had this idea that she would be like the opposite of what you’d expect from a military leader stepping up there—and that’s still the case with her, she still has a very feminine energy and she doesn’t have the traditional kind of gruff male energy that you come to associate with military leadership, and so the fact that she’s leading in a different mode in that, you know, how people would react to that, that was something that was very interesting to me. But our initial take on it, that Laura [Dern] and I kind of did, it was too much, and it was a little too spacey, so we went back and got a slightly stronger take, but I think it still kind of has that initial energy.” (This earlier version was likely the basis for Holdo in Leia: Princess of Alderaan) (36:30 – 37:45)

The character of Finn:

“I loved the notion that [Finn] has left the First Order, but he hasn’t really joined the Resistance. Everything he does in The Force Awakens, even taking them to Starkiller Base, it’s not to help the Resistance, it’s to help Rey. He always acts out of personal and not ideological motivations.” (38:25 – 38:50)

On Rose Tico:

“[Kelly] has a beautiful, bright spirit, and it ended up informing the character [of Rose] in more ways than one. Originally Rose was more of a grumpy Eeyore type, and once we got Kelly in the part, her spirit just started to infect it, and even this thing where she’s like a fan of Finn, this was a fairly late rewrite. This is one of the few scenes I rewrote during production, and I rewrote it—originally she was much more suspicious of Finn—and I rewrote it to more reflect Kelly’s spirit and her personality […] A much more open-hearted character that is very much a reflection of Kelly.” (39:35 – 40:25)

On juggling the different plotlines:

“Originally there was more intercutting between all the storylines, between the island and Poe with the Resistance and Finn’s mission. Originally we hopped back and forth a lot more frequently between them. It was a really interesting thing for me as we started getting the cutting and putting the whole movie together and feeling it out, realizing that that was actually detracting from the experience of it. It was a good thing, I think, that once you were with these stories you wanted to kind of play them out for longer. It’s funny, because I thought that in the writing I thought that hopping between the stories would keep the energy up and keep us invested in each of them, but it’s never exactly quite what you expect when you get into the editing room.” (59:15 -1:00:05)

Luke & Rey deleted scene:

“You’ll see in your deleted scenes, they’re originally at the end of the big lesson inside the temple—there was a whole other scene where essentially Luke kind of does a teachable moment with Rey where he makes her think that the caretaker village is being attacked and she runs down there to help them, and it turns out they’re not actually in danger and he was just using it as a lesson, and she gets very angry and kind of yells at him. Originally it left them in kind of like a bad place, and we ended up lifting that out entirely and it was one of those interesting things in the edit room where you lift something huge that you thought was vital out, and connect the two pieces back up and realize that yeah, it works in a slightly different way, but it still works.” (1:10:35 – 1:11:30)

On Kylo’s shirtless scene:

“Adam Driver, ladies and gentlemen! Looking good.” (1:11:30)

Kylo’s version of the temple flashback:

“So here’s Kylo’s version of [the flashback] where he tells her that he woke up, saw Luke about to kill him, and defended himself—which I don’t think he’s lying, actually. In my mind, that was his experience, you know? It’s actually Luke who was really distorting the truth when he left out the stuff in his first telling of it, but I think that it’s probably twisted a little bit by Kylo’s own anger and his own prejudices against Luke, but I feel like he’s actually telling her the truth of his experience in this communication.” (1:12:35 – 1:13:20)

On the mirror cave sequence:

“This image in the mirror cave of Rey searching for identity and having this kind of vision where, you know, it’s all about finding herself and there’s all these versions of her going down the line, this infinite number, and which one am I, where is it going to end, how am I going to end up? This is going to define me, you know, there’s all these possibilities of what I could be, and I’m trying to find them, which is, for me, it’s adolescence and to some extent these movies—obviously, famously, Lucas kind of drew from the hero’s journey and that whole myth that Joseph Campbell wrote about when making the first Star Wars—well, a hero’s journey is not about becoming a hero, it’s not about becoming Superman. If you really look at it, I think it’s about the transition from childhood into adulthood. It’s about adolescence. It’s about finding your place in the world, finding who you are. You have these powers in you and who’s going to help you find the right way to use them, and that’s really Rey’s journey in this, and that’s something all of us can relate to.” (1:15:20 – 1:16:30)

On Kylo, pt 2:

“The transition of Kylo from someone who killed Han Solo and is kind of—you know, coming into it, I felt like I had to assume, even though I found the character very intriguing, you have to come in with—that’s why Rey is so angry at him, just saying ‘screw you’ for basically the first few Force connections is because my assumption is that’s how we’re going to feel about him coming into this movie, and how to transition him slowly from there to here in a way that was plausible through Rey’s eyes, the notion that Rey sees this opportunity in him, and maybe sees something more than that in him, and to earn this connection, I guess, that was something we spent a lot of time on, Adam and Daisy and I, kind of talking through how we were gonna get there.”  (1:16:40 – 1:17:45)

Rey & Kylo’s Force connection:

“For me, there is some kind of primal connection between Rey and Kylo that has to do with the fact that though they’re on opposite poles and he’s kind of a, you know, hateful character and she’s this incredibly good character, the fact that they’re both the only ones who have this power in the movie and they’re kind of on these two opposite islands, there’s some connection between them. Beyond that, though, I needed her to have an actual viable justification for why she would go and think that she can turn him, and lay out for Luke, ‘If I do that, this could actually win the day.” (1:20:10 – 1:20:55)

On Kylo killing Snoke:

“My take was, [Kylo] comes into this moment knowing that Snoke can read his intentions, if not his mind, and so he can’t be thinking actively about an opportunity, he’s gotta be in the moment here, but at the same time he’s kind of looking for one. He’s looking for the opportunity to do something like this. And that’s his intent from the moment he walks in the scene is to betray Snoke, but he doesn’t quite know how to do it, and then he sees this opportunity and takes it.” (1:44:40 – 1:45:05)

The destruction of the Skywalker lightsaber:

“The notion here that they’re equally matched. The idea that they’re true equals, and so, when they both are going to reach for this thing, it is suspended exactly between them, even to the point where it’s going to split perfectly in half. That was another thing that was an early idea that I liked just the idea of communicating that just with that visual image.” (1:50:30 – 1:50:50)

On Kylo, pt 3:

“My goal with this movie in regards to Kylo was two-fold. It was, first of all, to get more inside his head in one way and bring us more to, if not sympathy, at least some kind of reveal of his vulnerabilities in a way through Rey’s eyes so that we had to go along with her on that journey without just stonewalling him and saying ‘Screw that guy who killed Han Solo’ to have to bring us closer to him to understand him a little better. At the same time, I knew that by the end of it I wanted to bring him closer to being the villain that he wanted to be in The Force Awakens. With Kylo […] by the end of this film he’s not a Vader, but he has come into his own as a sort-of villain, but hopefully one that you now have—more importantly, that Rey now has—a level of understanding of, that he has that strength and power of ‘The Supreme Leader is dead’, and in a way he’s earned it a little bit more. That was always kind of the goal.” (1:55:30 – 1:56:50)

Finn’s almost-sacrifice:

“Here’s the moment where Poe kind of learns a lesson from Leia that he should have learned in the opening sequence, about thinking of the bigger picture of not being able to blow all of their best pilots on a heroic suicide mission. And at the same time he’s crossing with Finn, who’s now come around to ‘I’m fighting the good fight, I’m in this to the end, I’m not going to let them win’, who is crossing with Rose, who has been on that track the whole time but is now going to come around and say ‘Well, yes, but we gotta protect the things that we love in the world.” (2:04:05 – 2:04:45) (See the post titled for more speculation on Luke’s third lesson and how it relates to Finn)

Luke brushing his shoulder:

“This little moment of Luke brushing the dirt off his shoulder is a little cheeky and I like moments like this, that kind of shake the gravity of it, and I like the idea that that’s an unreferenced callback to something in their training that they had together or something like that.” (2:11:10 -2:11:40)

Rey & Finn’s reunion:

“The notion that our heroes have been split up the whole thing, and Finn and Rey have been, to a certain extent, defined by their distance from each other, I always knew in my head the movie had to end with them finally coming together again, these two friends. But they’ve been through their own journeys.” (2:16:30 – 2:17:00)

On Luke’s death:

“This final little scene with Luke, I think Mark just gave an amazing performance and we ended up just going back over it, we probably worked this scene and tweaked it the most in the edit room just because it was so delicate in terms of the emotion of it, and again, I wanted this to be the antithesis of Han’s death in The Force Awakens, and that was such a powerful scene, such an incredible moment, I wanted Luke to go out on his terms and a feeling of, like Rey says at the end, peace and purpose […] Cutting back to Rey here was something we came up with fairly late in the game. Again, it’s just the reaction of her and seeing in her eyes, her kind of standing in for us, taking this in as she always has throughout the course of this movie, it’s a really necessary thing.” (2:18:50 – 2:20:00)

On Rey & Kylo’s final scene:

“This final beat between [Rey and Kylo], I felt it was really important to put a little cap on this going into 9, and kind of setting up an ‘I want to see what happens next between the two of them’. And they’re enemies now, but complicated enemies, and that was always the intent, and I feel like Daisy’s strength right there [closing the Falcon door] is just so powerful.” (2:20:40 – 2:21:05)

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One comment

  1. […] He explains Kylo’s character in his commentary of The Last Jedi, “My goal with this movie in regards to Kylo was two-fold. It was, first of all, to get more inside his head in one way and bring us more to, if not sympathy, at least some kind of reveal of his vulnerabilities in a way through Rey’s eyes so that we had to go along with her on that journey without just stonewalling him and saying ‘Screw that guy who killed Han Solo’ to have to bring us closer to him to understand him a little better. At the same time, I knew that by the end of it I wanted to bring him closer to being the villain that he wanted to be in The Force Awakens. With Kylo […] by the end of this film he’s not a Vader, but he has come into his own as a sort-of villain, but hopefully one that you now have—more importantly, that Rey now has—a level of understanding of, that he has that strength and power of ‘The Supreme Leader is dead’, and in a way he’s earned it a little bit more. That was always kind of the goal”.  You can read more about his thoughts here.   […]


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