Last weekend, my childhood dreams came true when I attended the Global Press Junket of Star Wars: The Last Jediwith the stars of the film: Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Daisy Ridley, Kelly Marie Tan, Laura Dern, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie and director Ryan Johnson. Here are some excerpts from the badass women of The Last Jedi shared the impact of being in a Star Wars film for the first time, having their characters influence its young female viewers and of course, the iconic characterization of Carrie Fisher as the legendary Princes Leia.
In addition, I had a little one-on-one time with BB8 and fought the bad guys via a VR game called the Star Wars Jedi Challenge available at Best Buy right now for $199.
ANTHONY BREZNICAN: Well, Kelly and Laura, Is there any part of you that geeks out a little bit when you start working on a Star Wars film?
LAURA DERN: Every part.
KELLY MARIE TAN: Every part. I’m trying not to cry right now ‘cause this is so weird and different… it definitely feels like you have to find a way to just do the work and kind of block everything out, but then C-3PO comes up and you’re like oh, [SOUNDS LIKE]… but also this is awesome. So it’s kind of a balance, right?
LAURA DERN: And just to add to that, what Rian spoke to, that he does so beautifully was describing the intimacy of discovering each character’s conflict, which is just extraordinary, given the enormity of the cast. …He gave us that in the experience of the workplace, that we were in such a massive environment and did feel like we were making an indie movie…you were always encouraging us to try things and explore character, and explore this duality of the light and the dark within characters, the movie speaks to so beautifully, not just that there are alternative universes but that lies within, which seems to be the place that George Lucas first started the mythology of that, and it’s just so brilliant. And a group of us sitting together watching it for the first time was amazing ‘cause it was like we were with 3,000 people. We were screaming, standing up [OVERLAPPING], crying.
PRESS: So there are way more female characters in this movie, certainly in the first three movies. That’s going to mean a lot to little girls. I want to know what it means to you guys.
KELLY MARIE TRAN: I think that it feels like both an honor and a responsibility at the same time. When I initially found out I got this role, I felt like I wanted to do the whole thing justice, and I’m so excited that the girls in this movie kick some butt. Every single one is so good and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
LAURA DERN: In the case of the look of my character, I was moved by the fact that he (Rian) really wanted her strength to first lead with a very deep femininity. To see a powerful female character also be feminine is something that moves away from a stereotype that’s sometimes perceived in strong female characters must be like the boys. I thought that was a really interesting choice to get to witness.
DAISY: Gwen, Gwen, Gwen!
ANTHONY BREZNICAN: Oh sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t want to get on Captain Phasma’s bad side. Please.
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: I was so delighted…utterly delighted to see that there was a more representative selection of actors that were going to be in these incredible Star Wars films, and that has continued. And you know, everything that my amazing colleagues say is absolutely right. You get to see women that are not being strong just because they’re acting like men. They’re doing something else. You’re seeing a developed character that’s showing some complex character traits. I’m delighted that something as legendary as Star Wars has decided to be modern and to reflect our society more as it is.
ANTHONY BREZNICAN: Thank you. Very well said.
ANTHONY BREZNICAN: When I was growing up there was really only one character, and that was Princess Leia and now General Leia. Carrie Fisher isn’t here with us today, but I wanted to ask the women in this film about the impact that Princess Leia had on generations of young girls who were watching these movies, even though there wasn’t a whole lot of variety for them. I think this is a character that spoke to them and Gwendoline speaking as one of the idols of the bad girls, as Captain Phasma, what role did Leia play in your life as a young Star Wars fan?
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: Well, she was very significant. I remember thinking, wow, that character’s really different. It stayed with me throughout my formative years. She’s really interesting, she’s really smart, she’s really funny, she’s courageous, she’s bold, she doesn’t care what people think, and she isn’t prepared to be told what to do. And…she doesn’t look the same as a sort of homogenized presentation of a woman that we had been used to seeing.
That was really instrumental to me as someone who didn’t feel like they fitted that homogenized view of what a woman was supposed to be, that there was inspiration there, that you could be an individual and celebrate yourself and be successful without giving yourself over, without necessarily making some sort of terrible, huge compromise. I was very excited when I was shown just the basic element of the costume…we were seeing character whereby a woman wasn’t – her femininity was not delineated in terms of the shape of her body, in terms of her physical attractiveness. Those elements, that weird random group of elements which we’re born with in some kind of odd lottery and then we’re judged on in society. And I was just delighted to be able to have that opportunity.
ANTHONY BREZNICAN: Laura, how about you? Do you have any thoughts on the impact of Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia in pop culture in general?
LAURA DERN: Well, endless thoughts about the made on me as a girl and spoken so beautifully by Gwen. So I’ll just speak to this present experience, to say that as we always had with Carrie, not just Leia, her wisdom. People speak about people who are brave or fearless. I’ve known, luckily, a few people who would hold those descriptions, but not that they would be without shame, and that’s what moved me the most about the icon she gave us. But, Carrie was so direct without shame to share her story, and to expected nothing less from any of us. The privilege of watching how Rian has so beautifully captured all of that and her grace in this amazing, beautiful, pure performance, but also I think she found an equal irreverent subservice and they had this dance that gives us this performance that I was just so moved by.
ANTHONY BREZNICAN: Well, how about Daisy and Kelly, any thoughts on the legacy of Leia and Carrie?
DAISY RIDLEY: I don’t think I can really follow that, except to just say Carrie’s daughter Billie is I think all of those qualities. She’s smart and funny and shameless and I think Carrie bringing up a daughter who is all of those qualities and then some, in this world…speaks volumes to what she did as her in the spotlight and also her as Leia.
KELLY MARIE TRAN: Yeah, I mean, I agree with everything that was said. I think that something about Carrie that I really look up to is, and something I didn’t realize until recently, was just how much courage it takes to truly be yourself when you’re on a public platform or when possibly a lot of people will be looking at you. She was so unapologetic, so openly herself and that is something that I am really trying to do, and it’s hard. And just like Daisy said, like Laura said, like Gwendoline said, I think that she will always be an icon as Leia but also as Carrie. What an example, you know? And I am so fortunate to have met her and I think that she will really live on forever.
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STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI opens in U.S. theaters on December 15.