Everything we learned about 'Episode VIII' from the Star Wars Celebration
From a Pokémon Go connection to new plot points, we break down all that director Rian Johnson was allowed to share in London.
For fans of the "Star Wars" franchise, this past weekend's annual celebration was one gift after another. In addition to updates on future games taking place in the "Star Wars" universe, those in attendance and/or watching the live stream on laptops and smartphones were treated to Q&As and behind-the-scenes footage and photos for "Rogue One" and the highly anticipated "Star Wars: Episode VIII."
Fans were particularly enthusiastic for anything related to the latter, with American director Rian Johnson dropping some sizable bread crumbs about the film's story and inspiration. Together with his longtime friend Ram Bergman, a prolific Israeli producer, Johnson says work on the script began well before "The Force Awakens" had even completed filming.
“One of the first things I did was go up to San Francisco, and spent about six weeks figuring out the story [for Episode VIII]," he told the audience. "I think it was a good thing.”
Read on below to learn more about what was revealed concerning "Episode VIII" and the future direction of the Star Wars franchise.
'Episode VIII' picks up immediately after 'The Force Awakens'
“For the first time, this movie is going to start where the last one left off,” director Rian Johnson revealed. That's big news for fans left waiting with bated breath over how Luke Skywalker would react to Rey's gift of his lost lightsaber. It should also make for an interesting opening title crawl, with fans already having some fun with what new information it could possibly relate.
@Mattmanver2 the new opening crawl. "Star Wars - Episode VIII. No time has passed since the last movie. Just go watch it then come back."
— Tony Miller (@OkieTony34) July 18, 2016
If #EpisodeVIII starts where the last film left off, what's the point of an opening crawl? "Remember the last movie? OK, let's get going..."— Deep Drew Sea (@DrewDietsch) July 17, 2016
Pokémon Go could have delayed the whole thing
Even "Episode VIII" director Rian Johnson is not immune to the worldwide phenomenon that is Pokémon Go. In an amusing tweet during the last week of production, Johnson hinted at the distraction the little augmented reality creatures could have caused if released a few months earlier.
There may be a funeral
The always unpredictable and hilarious Carrie Fisher dropped something of a spoiler during her time on stage at the Star Wars Celebration Europe. According to the 59-year-old American actress, who plays General Leia in the film, "Episode VIII" will feature Han Solo's funeral.
While this isn't really much of a surprise, the inclusion of a memorial scene to one of the series' greatest characters is likely going to make many a fan reach for the tissues. If true, it's also a fitting send-off for those who thought "The Force Awakens" moved on too quickly from Solo's tragic exit.
The look and story are inspired by classic Hollywood cinema
When crafting the story for "Episode VIII," Johnson revealed that he looked for inspiration from a number of old-fashioned war movies. Among the films he referenced were "Twelve O’Clock High," "The Bridge on the River Kwai," "Gunga Din" and "Sahara."
According to Johnson, he sold his ideas for "Episode VIII" by first screening these films for studio heads and then showing how "Episode VIII" contained shared elements. “We’re just at the end of production right now,” he said at this weekend's celebration. “And particularly 'Twelve O’Clock High,' a lot of that made it in there. It ended up being a really personal part of it.”
Ireland is ready for its closeup
Already booming from its starring role in HBO hit series "Game of Thrones," Ireland will receive yet another moment in the spotlight in "Episode VIII." In addition to spending some quality time on Skellig Michael Island, a setting Johnson described as "a very mystical, magical place… It was appropriately surreal," we'll also experience Ireland's gorgeous western coastline.
“It was amazing getting out there some way into the shoot and suddenly having this whole other texture to the film,” he said. “The natural beauty of the coastline just opened up to us, and it was a thrill to put those actors out there and film them there for real.”
Keep your eyes peeled for cameos
Like "The Force Awakens," which included British "James Bond" star Daniel Craig as a stormtrooper, "Episode VIII" will likely be brimming with cameos. At the celebration, Johnson revealed that "Rogue One" director Gareth Edwards appears in "Episode VIII." Returning the favor, Gareth shared that both Johnson and his long-time business partner, Israeli producer Ram Bergman, will appear as Death Star operators in "Rogue One."
“We chose wisely – we chose the two dudes who we knew would be in the movie. They can’t cut us out,” Johnson said of their decision to appear in "Rogue One.". “Because we’re the two dudes in the firing chamber of the Death Star who pull the levers.”
A very character-driven story
While we previously heard that "Episode VIII" will take its story in a darker direction, it appears that it will also spend some welcome time on developing the characters introduced in "The Force Awakens."
"The first film was this incredible explosion of adventure and excitement that sets up these characters," Johnson said. "Then, just out of necessity, it's very natural that the second film is where we start zooming in on the characters. We're getting to the heart of them, challenging them, and pushing them deeper. The actors were all very excited about that."
'Episode VIII' will once again rely heavily on practical effects
A behind-the-scenes photo of a set from 'Episode VIII' as shared by Rian Johnson. (Photo: Erik Davis/Twitter)
For those thrilled to see director JJ Abrams embrace the practical effects of old for much of "The Force Awakens," Rian Johnson says that, in addition to shooting on film, "Episode VIII" will contain much of the same.
"There are a tremendous amount of practical sets," he said. "It's outrageous."
Thanks to spies around Ireland, we've already seen some of those ambitious real-life sets at play, including what appears to be a recreation of the ancient monastery on Skellig Michael Island and a nearly full-scale build of the Millennium Falcon.
The next Star Wars Celebration will be all about 'Episode VIII'
Next year's Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, Florida, will not only focus heavily on "Episode VIII," but also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of "Star Wars: A New Hope." It's likely that we'll not only learn the true title of "Episode VIII," but also witness the first trailer ahead of its December 2017 release.
“I’m really looking forward to the next year and a half ... I think we’re going to have a really good time together,” Johnson said.
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