The Last Jedi Writer/Director Rian Johnson Talks About Rey’s Past and Explains the Film’s Ending
In a conversation with Anthony Breznican from Entertainment Weekly, The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson provided some insight into Rey’s past and why he decided to go the route he did with revelations surrounding her identity in the movie. He also talked briefly about the movie’s ending and the meaning behind it.
Warning: If you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet, stop now. Spoilers ahead…
Ever since fans saw The Force Awakens, many have developed theories about who exactly Rey could be. Throughout the first film of the sequel trilogy, Rey struggled with her abandonment and sought answers as to why her parents left her alone on Jakku as she patiently awaited their return. In the movie’s third act, it is revealed that she is very strong with the Force, leading many to assume that she must be connected in some way to the Skywalkers. Some assumed she was the long lost daughter of Han and Leia, while others held to the theory that she was Luke’s estranged daughter. Whatever the theory, there seemed to be no shortage of ideas out there, all connecting her lineage to that of a previously established Star Wars character, from Obi-Wan Kenobi to the late Emperor Palpatine.
But given what we now know from The Last Jedi, that Rey is really nobody special in that regard, it would seem the answer to the question of her lineage was there all along. As Maz tried to convince her, the answer was not behind her – it was ahead. Her parents are gone, and they’re not coming back. Where she comes from is inconsequential – it’s who she will become that will define her worth. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that she has to be related to Anakin Skywalker in some way to possess the talents that she does in the movies, and she does indeed share a lot of his characteristics. However, at one time Anakin himself was a nobody, a slave boy from Tatooine. That is, until he became a somebody.
Johnson spoke to this revelation in The Last Jedi (referring to the mirror scene in the cave on Ahch-To) and why he went the direction he did with the enigmatic revelation about her past:
“In this search for identity, which is her whole thing, she finds all these various versions of ‘Who am I’ going off into infinity, all the possibilities of her. She comes to the end, looking for identity from somebody, looking for an answer, and it’s just her.”
In the movie, Kylo Ren sees the vision that she saw in the mirror cave on Ahch-To and challenges her to accept the truth – that her parents were filthy junk traders on Jakku who sold her for drinking money. Johnson explains that, ultimately, to make her the daughter of someone special would have amounted to simple wish fulfillment for many, but it wouldn’t have challenged Rey as a character, instead handing her the future on a silver platter. He also said that he can’t speak for what Abrams will do in Episode IX, but for him, this is the gospel truth coming from Kylo Ren. At least, he believes it himself and is not just feeding her lines to sway her to his side.
Johnson continued to compare the reveal to the “I am your Father” moment from The Empire Strikes Back. When writing the movie, he concluded that the reason that moment is so powerful in Empire is not that it is an unexpected twist or a shock to the audience, but that this was the hardest thing that Luke (and the audience) could have heard in that moment. From that point, we and Luke have to accept that this evil dark presence is more than just a villain – he is a part of our hero. That was tough to swallow in 1980. I have to agree with Johnson on that one. For Rey, who was searching for her place in the world, this was the hardest thing for her to have to grasp, but accepting that truth will allow her to grow beyond the past that hinders her and find her own place in the galaxy.
Johnson also took a moment to share his insight into the film’s ending, which features a young stable boy in Canto Bight named Temiri Blagg, who, after being scolded for telling stories about Luke Skywalker to the other children when he should have been working, heads out the door to grab his broom. As he reaches out for the broom, the handle floats a few inches into his grasp, and he looks up into the stars with a hopeful gaze just before the credits roll.
The director revealed that the moment is about the legacy of Luke Skywalker and how his actions have a huge impact on the next generation of heroes:
“To me, it shows that the act Luke Skywalker did, of deciding to take on this mantle of ‘the legend,’ after he had decided the galaxy was better off with, had farther reaching consequences than saving 20 people in a cave.”
“Now the Legend of Luke Skywalker is spreading. Hope is reignited in the galaxy,” Johnson said.
“I couldn’t think of a more evocative image of hope than a kid who is playing with his Luke Skywalker action figure and being inspired by that to grow up and have an adventure and fight the good fight,” Johnson said.
Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.