Click to watch embedded media It feels like we’ve been waiting forever for a first look at Star Wars: Episode IX. Lucasfilm has been unusually quiet with its flagship franchise following the disappointing box office haul for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Like many Star Wars films these days, Episode IX’s development was rocked by Lucasfilm parting ways with writer and director Colin Trevorrow in the scripting stages, and ended up going back to J.J. Abrams to complete this episode, which just happens to be the conclusion of the Skywalker saga. Abrams brought in Oscar-winning writer Chris Terrio (Argo, Batman v Superman) to help piece this story together. Abrams worked with Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) on The Force Awakens.
At this year’s Star Wars Celebration, and in front of a roaring crowd in Chicago’s McCormick Place, Abrams finally pulled the curtain back to show what he and his team at Lucasfilm have been working on. The panel began with a surprise: Stephen Colbert ran out as the host and opened with a barrage of Star Wars jokes, saying he just flew in from Dagobah, or did he, he may just be a Force projection.
Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy took the stage next, and hyped up the movie in a big way. Kennedy saying that Abrams cares about Star Wars “more than anybody.”
Both Abrams and Kennedy repeatedly said in different ways that they know how special Star Wars is to the fans and want to do 40 years of films justice with this final act.
Colbert asked how Abrams approached the void left by the great Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia. “We talked about how to move on. She was the best, glorious, amazing,” Abrams said. “It was impossible. What do you do? Recast that part? We had a number of scenes from The Force Awakens that went unused, we realized there was a way to use that footage. What if we could right scenes around her? Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that is kind of mind-blowing to me.”
The conversation then moved to what Episode IX’s story is. Abrams said it doesn’t pick up right where the last film left off. It’s an adventure that the group goes on together – the group being Rey, Finn, and Poe.
The cast then came out, starting with Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and his robotic companion, R2-D2. Daniels said that for nine movies, 3PO was the voice of reason, telling his companions they were running into danger, but they never listened. In this film, he says the Golden One fights back.
Billy Dee Williams was the next to join the panel, shooting love to everyone in the packed auditorium. Colbert asked Williams if it was easy to find Lando again, and Williams said “he never left me.” A comment met by huge applause by the audience.
The next generation of Star Wars heroes then took the stage. Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose), and Joonus Suotamo (Chewbacca) were joined by newcomer Naomi Ackie. Ackie revealed her character’s name is Jannah.
Ridley revealed Rey brings back Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, and Boyega joked that Finn is the most eligible bachelor in the galaxy. Colbert asked about the bond between Rey and Kylo Ren, and Ridley deflected.
Tran received the biggest round of applause, and Abrams said that her casting was the greatest gift Rian Johnson handed to him for Episode IX.
BB-8 then introduced his new friend, Dio, a tiny one-wheel droid that whistles.
The cast then left the stage, and the trailer played, revealing the name, The Rise of Skywalker and the cackle of the Emperor. As surprising as that is, the voice of Luke teases in the trailer, “No one ever is really gone.”