Rian Johnson has certainly been on quite the public journey with his 2017 Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. From initial enthusiasm that the Looper director would be helming a movie in the rebooted Lucasfilm franchise, to a mixed reaction from fans when it finally emerged, to a continuing backlash from the kind of dedicated cadre of very online angry folk who could probably find the energy to tell Elsa from Frozen where she could stick her advice to “let it go”, to his triumphant cinematic return last year with the acclaimed Knives Out just as the Star Wars fandom was redirecting its anger back to JJ Abrams. The man must have spent at least some days following The Last Jedi‘s release grinding his teeth down to a fine paste, and others growing skin four inches thick.
Johnson is still responding to questions about his experience developing The Last Jedi, and was in a reflective mood recently on Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Creative Processing podcast (via Comicbook) while discussing ways that he approached the film with the building blocks of A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in mind.
“I think the instant you start thinking in terms of how do you not step outside of the bounds of what the original movies did, you’re not thinking the way the people who made the original movies did,” he said. “They were with every movie, they were pushing it forward, with every movie they were stepping outside those bounds and pushing the characters into new, emotionally honest, but surprising places. That’s why those movies are great. That’s why they’re alive. If they had been looking at something that came before it and saying, ‘Oh, we better not do this because that is outside of this or that,’ it would’ve been different.”
But on the Knives Out commentary track, Johnson does seem to wish he’d had at least a little feedback from audiences during the final stages of making The Last Jedi, so that he could have gleaned a little base knowledge about whether the film was working or not.
“[Knives Out] was like a party in the theater, it was really fun,” he explained. “It was like the first time I was like ‘Oh wow, this actually plays. This is good.’ Which is really nice and that’s something on Star Wars, you can’t test Star Wars movies for a lot of different reasons. I’ve always hated test screening, and when we were making Star Wars, at a certain point in the process you’re like ‘God, I would give my left arm to put this in front of 300 people in Burbank and just see how it plays.’”
Indeed, Disney and Lucasfilm have kept a tight lid on things over the duration of production on the latest Star Wars trilogy hoping that key story information wouldn’t leak, but at the expense of a more typical post-production process.
Johnson is now hard at work writing the sequel to Knives Out. His star, Daniel Craig, is confirmed to return for another round of deep detective work as the heavily-accented Benoit Blanc in the second film, which will see him encountering some brand-new characters in an entirely different Christie-esque mystery setting.