Ever since The Last Jedi had its grand preview unveiling at Star Wars Celebration earlier this year, Mark Hamill has made it clear—very clear—that director Rian Johnson established a very different journey for Luke Skywalker than one Hamill had imagined, or even agreed with at first. But now, days before it hits theaters, Johnson has added his own insight.
Speaking to StarWars.com in a wide-ranging interview, Johnson briefly touched on the immense weight of having to properly re-introduce Luke Skywalker to the galaxy far, far away after he made his return at the end of The Force Awakens. He took into account his own relationship to Luke as a character, but also the expectations of 30 years worth of fandom weighing on him, as well. That, and the fact that as an audience our view of Luke in The Last Jedi is filtered very specifically through someone else’s journey: Rey’s path to learning the ways of the Force.
Well, I can’t say too much because discovering that is part of the adventure of the movie and part of the journey in the movie. But, you know, so much of what his character was in this movie and what defined it was a combination of, like I said before, feeling like it was led down a certain path by the big choice he had made to be in exile. And then beyond that, Luke’s story in this movie, to a certain degree, serves Rey’s story. So that was the other element of this. Wherever he was going to be at and whatever he was going to go through, I couldn’t just think of it in a vacuum. This trilogy is not just Luke’s story. At the end of the day, it’s Rey who’s carrying us through this whole thing. Obviously, Rey and Finn, those are like the two big characters, but in this section of the story, meaning the island stuff, it’s Rey. So I had to think about him in tandem with Rey. And that was great, also, because that kind of meant thinking about him in tandem with myself, and as fans, our relationship to Luke as a legend and as this hero that we grew up with, who we now haven’t seen for some number of years and we’re approaching with expectations of what he’s going to be.
But it wasn’t just audience expectations that Johnson had to deal with. He also had to deal with Hamill, who had spent the decades between the original and sequel trilogies with his own expectations for Luke’s character. At first, upon learning what Johnson had planned, Hamill was... concerned, although he went on to clarify that it did not take long for the director to bring him around to his ideas. According to Johnson, that disagreement, and Hamill going on to put his faith in the director’s plan, was all part of the early stages of bringing The Last Jedi to life:
I mean, [working with Mark] was phenomenal. It was a really intense working experience, just because during prep and during rehearsals we had a lot of conversations like this. A lot of conversations about the character. And we collaborated and we argued and we did everything you can imagine. Through that, first of all, we formed a really good connection, and second, we both, by necessity, had to really understand where he was and where he was coming from.
Mark was so wonderful to work with on set. He was so trusting. Especially with this character meaning what it does to Mark, and his life, the fact that he could step back into that character’s shoes and trust some young schnook [Laughs] with the direction of that character, and put himself into my hands. I still can’t believe he had the graciousness and the trust to do that. But it was a wonderful experience.
Even if Hamill caused a few alarm bells to go off among Star Wars fans earlier this year with his comments, it’s nice to see it didn’t negatively impact on his relationship with Johnson. Now we’ve got just a few more days until we see for ourselves what caused Hamill’s initial consternation in the first place, when The Last Jedi finally hits theaters December 15.