With filming for Star Wars IX well underway, we’ve recently been looking back at the last intra-film period, to see what members of Star Wars production were saying about the sequel trilogy during that time. Though the creative team seems to be keeping mum as we wait for Episode IX, some of them actually had a good deal to say between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
There’s a lot of really interesting insight, so…revisit some old quotations, we will!
SWInfoground has a great record of quotes from production members during this period, that is well worth checking out. It’s indexed by speaker and includes links to the original context of the quote, when possible. It’s been over two years in some cases, and some of the sources have been edited or removed as time passed, making it all the more fortunate that they were preserved and captured.
In the context of many of the questions and discussions still circulating through fan conversations, looking at what was said in the past is really fruitful. Who is Rey? Does LucasFilm have a plan? Was something changed?
Some of the most intriguing quotes in SWInfoground’s collection, that address these very questions, come from Oscar®-Nominated Editor, MaryAnn Brandon, co-editor of The Force Awakens. In May of 2016, she participated in a Question and Answer session at a public event called Script to Screen.
Let’s take a look (emphasis added):
Maryann Brandon: (1:43) “I’m still not sure what I’m suppose to – allowed to talk about. ” “Uh… I have to be really honest with everyone. I actually don’t know [who Rey’s parents are]. I’m not even sure they know. I don’t know – if J. J. does know, he wasn’t talking. Larry Kasdan wasn’t talking about it. You know – it shifted back and forth. We just didn’t talk about it really. Although I have a friend who, you know, said it’s absolutely Luke – Luke is absolutely her parent because when you know Maz is under the castle and she tells [Rey] you know [the Lightsaber] was Luke’s and his grandfather before him that means she’s the next one. I was like, ‘Well, I never thought…’ So, your guess is really as good as mine. And I’ve been over E-Note doing some films that are serialized enough that we change it all the time. We sometimes start with one intention and suddenly go, ‘You know what? Scrap that idea,let’s change who everyone is.’” “I mean, sometimes things just work out differently and better ideas come along as you’re working and that certainly is the case for most of the films I’ve worked on.” (May 15, 2016 – this video has edited out certain parts since its original posting)
While Brandon obviously and clearly points out that she is not able to explicitly talk about certain aspects of The Force Awakens, she then immediately continues by discussing some of the visual symbolism about Rey’s identity that was present in the film-as well as her friend’s reasonable conclusion.
Maryann Brandon: “The advantage of doing a sequel – this being number seven, although I’d more say it’s the fourth one of that you know, five, six, and… four five six. You have the advantage of people understand[ing] this world already. So you can shortcut some things without missing too much. Like you see a guy in a big black robe with a mask and you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s the bad guy.’ And he’s gonna be related to someone because everyone knows Star Wars is a family saga.” (48:30) “I know… It’s a weird thing that [hug between Rey and Leia], isn’t it? It’s like sometimes you’re working on a movie and there’s this thing that’s really powerful and you can’t really explain it. Like the hug between them is really powerful and you’re like, ‘Well, I didn’t see that coming.’ The lack of Chewie at the end was a big discussion and I think you know we did the best we could because that’s what was shot and you’re absolutely 100% right like… your emotion is with Chewie because he’s like this great character who always saves the day. Ummm… You know it’s one of those… I mean we tried to cover it up. But I guess the thing is what we tried to do is have Chewie go with Finn to try and make sure Finn’s OK and Leia went for Rey. The whole idea there I think is that they have a special connection that they don’t even know about. There was an earlier idea at one point that Leia knows who [Rey] is. And we sort of took that out because it didn’t make any sense. Um… because we don’t know who she is! So that’s what I’m talking about – you just kind of keep – things just evolve and you go, ‘that’s not a good idea, that is a good idea.’ ‘Keep that,’ or ‘Lose that’.” (May 15, 2016 – this video has edited out certain parts since its original posting)
One moment often discussed about the end of The Force Awakens is that, rather than share comfort with Chewie in both their clear devastation over the loss of Han, Leia approached and embraced Rey. Brandon makes it clear that this was a moment that the production carefully considered and that at some point during production, they considered that Leia knew Rey’s identity.
But of course, Brandon is quick to amend, the creators did not know who she is…
Maryann Brandon: “Oh my god, [editing the Forceback] was [tricky]…” “Yeah it was really hard to figure out what – all J. J. [Abrams] kept saying to me was like, ‘That scene has to be like…it’s like Rey’s acid trip.’ I was like, I…I know you don’t know what that means! So wait a second…but, you know, we just kept trying to apply logic. Some people would compare it to like Empire in the scene where Luke goes into the cave. I kept arguing it’s nothing like Luke going into the cave because that’s…in theory, that’s him facing his fears and having a lesson. This is her entering a world that she doesn’t want any part of. So is the Force – if you were logical about it wouldn’t the Force being saying nice things to her? Like, ‘Hey, you could be really special. You could be really important. You’re really great.’ And instead it’s showing her these horrible things and she runs out. It was like, it was a big challenge trying to figure out. I don’t even know if it works for everyone or doesn’t. It has a logic to it now that I think…that the Lightsaber does call to her – whoever her parents are – because she is in fact attracted to it and in a funny way my logic was that she’s actually looking for a Lightsaber as opposed to the Lightsaber looking for her because she is eventually I believe gonna become a Jedi. So she needs a Lightsaber and then when she feels the power of it when it shows her how powerful it is it freaks her out and that’s when she doesn’t want any part of it anymore and so that was sort of my thinking when I tried to design whatever those shots are. I mean, originally, again, there were shots of – she goes into this – she touched the Lightsaber she went into this room – and then it became the room in Cloud City. Which you can still kind of see because we still kept that idea, but then she used to walk down the hall and she saw Darth Vader and Luke fighting and she saw Darth Vader cut Luke’s hand off. Then she turned around and she saw Snoke – some version of Snoke – vague version of him and a little boy. And then she…so, all those images we had didn’t…they just didn’t have a logic that satisfied anyone enough. So it was just one of those things ongoing figuring it out. In the original original script, the original idea Larry [Kasdan] and J. J. and I guess Michael Arndt had was it was kind of like a ride through the history of Star Wars and, you know, like almost instantly we were all like, ‘No’.” (May 15, 2016)
What Rey sees specifically in her vision is as important as the fact that she has a vision, and that it is brought on by contact with the Skywalker lightsaber. As Brandon has already discussed, the world of Star Wars is a universe filled with identifiable lore and it’s no accident or random sequence of scenes that Rey sees on her ‘trip’. They have a purpose and were the subject of a lot of work on the part of production.
Daisy Ridley: “[Rey’s] past is not flexible. I know what the past is, and that’s not changed. It’s always been the same.” “But the future? Now I’m doing VIII, I’m also thinking about IX. So I’ve been asking Rian, thinking that he’ll know some stuff, and he refuses to tell me. So I think it’s good to just concentrate on one thing at a time.” (Total Film magazine July 2016)
Looking at this final quote (admittedly not from MaryAnn Brandon, but from the same time period, and also review-able in SWinfoground’s repository of quotes), it’s clear that Daisy was told Rey’s past and that she has a very firm understanding of what that is and has been all along.
Of course as professionals and storytellers, members of cast, crew, and production can only say so much about the plot of the Sequel Trilogy publicly. No one wants them to spoil all the surprises. Also, individuals with different roles on the project are also likely privy to different aspects of the story at different times.
However, the quotes and their framing here is certainly intriguing and puts the subsequent films, both Episodes 8 and 9, in different contexts.
There is a plan and Rey’s identity has definitely always been a part of that.