Domhnall Gleeson is back as the evil but toadying General Hux in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The First Order’s relentlessly cruel yet petty military commander once again finds himself part of an intensely competitive power triangle with Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) at the top and Hux jockeying for influence with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). What makes these three characters so fascinating — and perhaps a bit more multi-layered than earlier Star Wars villains — is that they’re barely a united front and there’s certainly no love lost between the three of them.
The Last Jedi also gives us a different view of Hux along with a few twists and turns, but of course we’ll leave that for you to discover as the movie opens in a million theaters this weekend. We did speak with the busy Gleeson — for whom The Last Jedi is the fifth movie he’s appeared in this year — about his response to writer/director Rian Johnson’s script, how Hux plays off his allies and whether there could have been a role for Gleeson’s dad — the great actor Brendan Gleeson — in the Star Wars universe.
Den of Geek: How would you best describe Hux’s path in this movie?
Domhnall Gleeson: I can’t really talk about his path in the movie. I can just say that when I read a script, I was really surprised. I had in my head a certain thing, which was the obvious thing of what you would expect to happen to Hux in this film. It was not that at all. That was simultaneous quite scary and quite exhilarating because Rian just wrote something very, very surprising in all the right ways.
He starts in a much more desperate place in this, so the stakes are even higher at the beginning then they were at the start of the first one. He was pretty nervy in the first one. Yeah, we start in an even more intense place with Hux, which is good, but then it doesn’t go in the direction you’d expect.
You were quoted as saying that when you read the script you wanted to talk to Rian right away about it.
I wanted to see how I fit in exactly. There’s only so much you can get off the page. It was a brilliant script but you’re like … He plays so much with light and dark in this, which obviously is appropriate given the subject matter, but he can ram the two up against each other and really make them work. He’s very skilled that way. That is not a common thing that people are able to do.
I just wanted to see how I fit into things, and make sure that the path that I went down with the performance was going to fit into the film as a whole for him. I had ideas about ways to do it, but I wanted to make sure that was going to be okay. You’ve got lots of time to rehearse on set and do all the rest of it, but there’s a lot of other things to worry about when you’re making a Star Wars movie. You want to have the big conversations early.
One of the things that was fascinating in The Force Awakens was the fact that the First Order, represented by you and Snoke and Kylo Ren, were not a unified front. There was a lot of tension and a lot of back-biting. How would you describe the relationship between the three in this film?
People show their true colors when they’re under great pressure. The First Order is under a lot of pressure in this film. Yeah, it certainly intensifies. When one of your main goals is power, it’s hard to work well with others. When what they all want is power, but there’s a hierarchy, there’s just so much room there for them to hate each other and tear each other apart because the greater good is not the aim. It’s personal domination, that’s the aim. You can only have one person in a room like that. If you have four of them, then things are going to go badly.
I think it’s really interesting. It’s a great setup. They all kind of have a common goal. At the same time, individually, they each want to tear everything down. I like that.
There’s actually some background about Hux in a couple of books that have been out. Were you aware of that at all?
No. A reporter told me about six months ago, or something like that, on an unrelated press junket that his name was Armitage. Hux’s first name was Armitage. I didn’t know that, and no one had thought to tell me that. No one tells me when there are Star Wars books released or when anything like that happens. In a way I was like, “Well, if it’s part of the canon, if it enters into the bible of what everybody is in Star Wars, I’m going to have to ask somebody at Disney to let me know about the updates,” because I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t have a clue.
Apparently, his father’s name is Brendol. This was in a book called Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt. That’s obviously somebody’s idea of a little joke.
That’s kind of nice. That’s kind of cool. Does he look like my dad?
I don’t know. I didn’t read the book. But apparently his father trained him and then they went into hiding when the Empire fell. They re-emerged as part of the First Order.
This would be good stuff to know because I’ve got a different kind of history built up in my head. I wish I’d known that.
So if they had wanted to cast Brendol Hux, they could have called your dad.
That would be hilarious.
What is it like actually continuing the story a couple years later? I think The Force Awakens proved that everyone could come back and pick up the mythology and go forward with new characters. Now the focus is really on advancing that story. Was there a different comfort level this time?
Definitely a different comfort level. Not in terms of taking things for granted or trying any less hard, but just certain decisions had already been made. Things like the accent. Things like the look. Things like how you fit into the universe. Those decisions were not decisions you can make again, because they’ve already been set in stone. That made that bit a little bit easier.
But it was such an unexpected, as I said before, script and there were so…the way Rian tell the story was just different. The challenges were just the same in a lot of ways, but just making sure it’s good, giving him stuff to work with. That was kind of almost the same.
There were so many different things which make working on Star Wars amazing. Getting to work with those actors, getting to work with that director, getting to work in the world of Star Wars, all of those things were amazing. That’s all just good stuff.
I’ve just been given the signal to wrap it up, but a friend wanted me to ask you if you think your character Caleb is still trapped in the house in Ex Machina after the android Ava leaves him there?
I like to think that he is not. I don’t think he is, actually. My belief is that he and Ava fell in love. I believe she fell in love with him too.
Do you think she came back to get him?
No, but I think after a certain amount of time those doors (in the house) are going to open. I just believe it too much. Maybe I’m a sucker. Maybe I’m still half in the guy’s head, but I just don’t know how they could have talked to each other like that and it not been real. I think she saw how weak he was in that moment before she left. She thought, “I can’t leave with him because we will be found.” I do think they fell in love. But I think it’s very possible Alex (Garland, writer/director) disagrees with me, and Alicia (Vikander, who plays Ava) as well.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out in theaters tomorrow (Friday, December 15), as if you didn’t know that.