For four decades Now, Star Wars has been drawing to its epic conclusion. This time, Lev Grossman goes behind the scenes with his partner, director J.J. Abrams and the cast for the inside scoop on The Rise of Skywalker.
More recently, J. J. Abrams went to the desert valley in southern Jordan called Wadi Rum, or sometimes “the Valley of the Moon to film parts of the latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, because it’s largely uninhabited and starkly beautiful and looks alien, and one of other things that has always made the Star Wars movies feel so real is the way they’re shot on location, with as few digital effects as possible.
Abrams and his crew had to build miles of road into the desert. They basically had to set up a small town out there, populated by the cast and extras and crew, the creature-effects department alone had 70 people. The Jordanian military and royal families are also involved. There were sandstorms in the location and what everyone could do is take cover and huddle in their tent.
Disney executives talk about how important it is to “franchising” Star Wars movies; i.e., to make them feel not just like movies but like seriously momentous occasions. They won’t have much trouble with this one: The Rise of Skywalker isn’t just the last movie in the Star Wars trilogy that began in 2015 with The Force Awakens; it’s the last movie in a literal, actual trilogy of trilogies that started with the very first Star Wars movie back in 1977, which began the saga of the Skywalker family. The Rise of Skywalker will finally, after 42 years, bring that saga to an end.
We all thought the story was over in 1983 with Return of the Jedi, and then we really thought it was over in 2005 with Revenge of the Sith. But Star Wars has always been an unruly beast, too big and powerful to be contained in one movie, or even in a trilogy, or even in two trilogies, let alone numberless novels, TV shows, comics, video games, Happy Meals, and so on. Now Abrams has to gather all those threads and bring closure to a story that was started by somebody else, in an America that feels a very long time ago indeed. “That’s the challenge of this movie,” Abrams says. “It wasn’t just to make one film that as a stand-alone experience would be thrilling, and scary, and emotional, and funny, but one that if you were to watch all nine of the films, you’d feel like, Well, of course—that’s great.
Star Wars is also an incredibly enduring vision of what it’s like to live in a world of super-advanced technology and Science fiction. More than any filmmaker before him, Lucas successfully imagined what a science-fictional world would feel like to somebody who was actually inside it—which is to say, it would look as ordinary and workaday as the present. He even shot it like it was real, working close-in and mostly eschewing wide establishing shots, more like a documentary or a newsreel than a space opera. “It feels much grounded,” says Naomi Ackie, who’s making her Star Wars debut in Sky walker playing a character named Jannah, about whom she is allowed to say literally nothing. “There’s the kind of respectableness, and the supernatural move-things-with-your-mind magic stuff, but then there’s also this really grounded, rugged nature where everything is distressed and old and kind of worn out and lived-in. And I think playing with those two ideas means that you get this feeling that it could almost be real. The only other member of the old guard on the set this time is Billy Dee Williams, who plays the charismatic Lando Calrissian.
Reference: Vanity Fair