Inside the Future Filmmaker Discussion at Celebration Europe

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This was the final major panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016, and I was rather sad. I didn’t want Celebration to be over, to leave my Star Wars friends, old and new, some of whom I got to meet in person for the first time. But, all good things come to an end at some point, and at least Celebration ended on a high note: with a discussion about some of the future Star Wars films coming out! The panel was moderated by Pablo Hidalgo of Lucasfilm Story Group fame, author, and all around genius/good guy (seriously, if you see Pablo at a convention, say ‘hi’, and follow him on Twitter). It began with Kiri Hart, Senior VP of Lucasfilm, and Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm (and queen of Star Wars). I was happy to see this panel with my brother Riley, and good friend William. Discussion, special guests (including major stars, both new and old guard), and more after the break!

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After introducing the panel and panelists, Pablo got started with questions, beginning with asking about Celebration.

Kathleen: I don’t use the word awesome often. But I want to say this has been beyond awesome. It’s amazing.

Pablo: I want to turn back the clock about a year. We did this back in Anaheim. There was so much internal discussion and debate… will they understand what a standalone movie is?

Kiri: It’s been really satisfying how people are really embracing it, about the stuff we share about “Rogue One”.

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Kathleen: When the first trailer was up in April, that’s when we knew it was you guys who were helping us do that. The conversation showed us we weren’t going to have to go through some lengthy explanation to go over it.

Pablo: Episode 7 was well in development before we turned towards what was happening next… who would be involved.

Kathleen: I’d met Rian before I was even a part of Lucasfilm. So when Kiri and I were talking, he was at the top of the list. I don’t say this about many people, but Rian moves the camera like Stephen Spielberg. *crowd cheers*

Pablo: Please welcome Mr. Rian Johnson!!!! *crowd stands and cheers*

Rian tweeted this funny reaction to seeing the crowd right before he walked in:

Pablo: I remember when Rian surprised us by bringing homemade ice-cream to the first Lucasfilm meeting he came to!

Kathleen: We were like ‘who is this man!?’ We love him!

Pablo: We basically had a sort of film school going.

Rian: Yeah we’d get together and watch “Twelve O’Clock High” and a bunch of other movies.

Pablo: When we announced episode 8 being in production, we had the video of you recreating the scene with Mark and Daisy. Please talk about that.

Rian: It was surreal. It didn’t dawn on me at first that we’d be breaking a long standing Star Wars tradition, with having the film start right back up where episode 7 left off. Months before we started principle photography, we were at the island. There’s something so mystical and magical about it. To be there, to be first shooting Mark and Daisy… it was just so appropriately surreal.

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Pablo: Yeah, it was before anyone knew how iconic that moment would be too! Rian, I want to understand what your level of Star Wars appreciation was before all this. What did it mean to have Mark, Carrie, and Anthony in front of you to direct?

Rian: You always want to lead with an apology… everyone has their own idea of what Star Wars is. My first memory is my dad putting me in the car to see Star Wars. I asked him: “what are we going to see?” and he replied: “the most amazing thing’. Back when movies came out it wasn’t like we had iPads. You had to put your name in the video store list, rent the film for twenty four hours to watch over and over with your friends, and then return it. So, you didn’t actually watch it that much. So, toys were our way to interact with the story. The Kenner falcon was very special to me. I had a very intense emotional reaction to finally seeing the falcon in person for the first time.

Pablo: What was it like to direct the big cast members?

Rian: You come into it with feelings of deep nostalgia, but you realize very quickly that you have a responsibility. You have to sit in front of Luke Skywalker, and it’s kinda weird. But then you get to know Mark, as an actor, and you work on creating a film, and you get to the point where… well, it’s surreal.

Pablo: How were Daisy and John now they’ve done a film before?

Rian: There was an explosion of episode 7, so we’re now more used to it, but now we can zoom in more on the characters. And the actors are excited about that.

Pablo: You’re the first director to have a public presence on social media before we hired you. What was that like? You must have had a lot of traffic asking you about it!

Rian: I love being on the internet. I love social media. Even with my film “Brick”, before Twitter, I created a message board on my website for that. I’ve always loved it. I was a little nervous about it.

Pablo: Like what this movie would do, scale wise to my social media, but it’s been the same, just engaging with people.

Rian: The number of sets we’ve built for this movie is enormous. We have tons of sets, and we’ve done shots from outside where we can move inside.

*shows picture of Dave Filoni on the set of Episode 8* *shows other set pics*

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Rian: You feel calm and at peace when the man with the hat stands behind you.

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Pablo: Next year you’ll have a big stage show at Orlando! It’ll be the 40th anniversary of Star Wars! *crowd cheers*

Rian: I was very nervous to come out here, but seeing you guys, the warmth…. I’m really looking forward to the next half, to showing you guys more of what we have. *crowd cheers and whistles*

Pablo: So production wise we’ve wrapped photography, and now let’s bring up the guys who are helping, Chris Miller and Phil Lord!

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Kiri: There’s no on the stage who doesn’t love and respect Larry (Lawrence Kazdan) so much. He had a lot of passion about Chris and Phil coming on board to direct this movie. (Han Solo film.)

Pablo: At Lucasfilm everyone has a George Lucas impression… and I noticed that the more we worked with Larry the more we developed Larry impressions. *everyone on stage starts doing impressions*

Pablo: Can’t get too much into what the movie is about, but obviously it’s about Han Solo… What does Han mean to you?

Phil: We had Han in our LEGO movie! Batman on the Millennium Falcon will be canon!!

Pablo: On the subject of cameos…. You guys were this close to being in “Rogue One”!

*shows photos of them in character*

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Phil: I was trying to look for a school for my son….

Chris: So, we couldn’t be in a Star Wars movie because your son had to go to school!?

Pablo: Gareth Edwards will be appearing in episode 8!

*shows picture of him*

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Pablo: I’m sure you guys will get your shots to be in a Star Wars movie.

Phil: I was interning at ILM 20 years ago, and they sent in an email for 5’11 people to play Storm-troopers and I happened to fit. They wouldn’t allow us take photos of ourselves without the helmets, but I snuck away and got a photo of myself on “The Empire Strikes Back” film set without my helmet! But going back to our film… We searched everywhere for a new Han.

Chris: We searched under every rock and stone. But it was a huge waste of money, because the person who got it was literally the first person who interviewed for the role! I apologize Kathy..

Kathleen: I’ll take it out of your paycheck.

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Phil: Wanna know who it is? Alden Ehrenreich!!!

P: He’s actually here today!

*Alden walks about, says wow repeatedly as he stares at the crowd that’s standing and cheering/whistling/clapping*

Pablo: So, you were the first to audition, and then you had to wait for the other 2 thousand people to be interviewed?

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Alden: I thought who knows, but lemme give it a shot. The coolest part of the audition was going on the Falcon! That’s kinda like what Rian was saying; it’s kinda unbelievable. As a kid this is a character you play make believe as! And when you get there it’s incredible!

Pablo: So you screen tested with the Falcon to see if you had chemistry with it? Anyone else you screen tested with?

Alden: Chewbacca, with the blaster and all.

Rian: It’s a real experience for anyone to be like ‘here’s the falcon, the lounge, the 7 foot giant talking bear man’…. For everyone who screen tested, the first twenty minutes were like *makes unintelligible noises of astonishment* Yeah we’d never even role film until they were used to it.

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Pablo: Who have you told?

Alden: The one person I did tell was my mom. But other people were congratulating me and I’d just: *nods, smiles, shakes his head, smiles, looks awkward*. My mom just found a box of my old Star Wars toys and sent me the picture!

Pablo: You have the good news that you’re in a Star Wars movie, and that your mom didn’t throw out your Star Wars stuff!

Alden: *laughs*

Chris: We’ve moved to London to begin this process. Lots of prep work, sets, droids, etc.

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Pablo: Is this your first time working with a British crew?

Chris: Yes! We’re working with a lot of Rian’s people too.

Pablo: Any advice to keep the British crew happy?

Rian: Tea, tea! Being at the end of this I wish we could just keep filming. I’m really envious of you guys! It’s like I’m coming out of a ride and you guys are about to go on it.

Pablo: Anyone interested in FN-2187?? *crowd roars as John Boyega walks on stage, standing ovations and whistles and screams*

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Pablo: What was it like to work with Rian as your director?

John: It was awesome! The characters were pushed in a really cool cool new way.

Pablo: How did this shoot compare with “The Force Awakens”?

John: Remember that Han Solo action figure I had? It has more signatures on it now! It just gets better and better as a Star Wars fan!

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Pablo: How has your life changed as a star in Star Wars?

John: Not much, it’s not really like this: *turns to Alden* man, man, you’re the new Han Solo… D*&#! You’re gonna have a great ride man! *Whispers to the directors* Take care of him!

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Pablo: Without further ado welcome Mark and Carrie!!!!

*Crowd goes nuts*

*Everyone on stage hugs* *Their dogs run onto stage*

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Pablo: How is Celebration going for you?

Mark: It’s so emotional, because you can tell you’re a part of people’s childhoods, and this palpable exuberance, powerful emotions.

Carrie: What he said. *laughs* He’s my brother; it’s like family. The great thing about the movie is that those of you who have children or have impregnated people can bring them to see the movie in those tiny Princess Leia costumes which I really appreciate. I’m assuming you guys swallow those costumes so they’re not born naked which would be so embarrassing!

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Mark: That’s so deep, and stupid, but I really like it. That’s what I love about you, you can be deep and stupid at the same time.

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Carrie: What is wrong with you!? *jokingly and fondly*

Mark: What do you mean? People ask us if we’re actually like siblings. We fight, we don’t talk for years, but I’d still defend her with my life. *crowd cheers*

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At this point, dear reader, I’ll admit to being so caught up in the experience that I didn’t transcribe the rest, though there was not much else said, just more about Celebration experiences, and a general love of Star Wars, and Pablo turning over the panel to David Collins and Amy Ratcliffe to host the closing ceremonies.

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Celebration was amazing, and I miss it.

Bethany Blanton

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