The promotional push for Star Wars: The Last Jedi has officially begun.
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. To celebrate, Vanity Fair has rolled out a cover story, complete with lush Annie Leibovitz portraits, giving us our first in-depth look at the latest film in the saga. The story takes a deep dive into everything from which films director Rian Johnson binged to prepare for Last Jedi (lots of war and samurai flicks) to the cast’s relationship with the late, great Carrie Fisher. Because the story is primarily about a film we still have few details about, though, what stands out most is what’s new. Thanks to Johnson’s reveals and Leibovitz’s photographs, we now have two new characters to talk about, as well as a new location from the film.
Laura Dern’s involvement is one of the most intriguing new additions The Last Jedi has to offer. She’s never seemed like the kind of actress to latch on to franchises for the sake of profit and she’s not the kind of actress you stick in the background. So there’s a feeling that her role in the film has to really count. Dern has, the story reveals, joined the leadership of the Resistance as Vice Admiral Holdo, which could put her side-by-side with Fisher’s General Leia Organa. Leibovitz’s very regal portrait of her adds a weight to what would otherwise be just a name, elevating Dern to Star Wars icon status before the movie’s even out.
Benicio Del Toro’s character apparently has no official name but Johnson refers to him as “DJ” for reasons that will apparently become obvious when we see the film. Star Wars has always welcomed handsome rogues to the table and this image of Del Toro’s “shady character” certainly fits tht bill. With Han Solo gone, there’s room for another lovable scoundrel in the galaxy.
It also wouldn’t be Star Wars without new galactic locales to explore. While we don’t know how many The Last Jedi will give us yet, we do now know one of them is a space casino. Dubbe Canto Bight, the location stands out as a lavish hot spot amid the dirty space aesthetic that dominates so much of the franchise.
“It was an interesting challenge, portraying luxury and wealth in this universe,“ Johnson said. “I was thinking, O.K., let’s go ultra-glamour. Let’s create a playground, basically, for rich assholes.”
We don’t know what role Canto Bight has to play in the plot of The Last Jedi but it was certainly a chance for creature designer Neal Scanlon and costume designer Michael Kaplan to bring their A game.
Speaking of the plot, we still don’t know much even with this story out in the world. We know the battle between the Resistance and The First Order continues and that Luke and Rey will begin some kind of training together, but that’s about it. The story did offer this quote from Johnson, though, explaining how he began to develop the story through tearing down the characters.
“I started by writing the names of each of the characters,” he said, “and thinking, What’s the hardest thing they could be faced with?”
The middle installment of a trilogy is almost always the darkest. Johnson, as a lifelong film devotee, knows this. He won’t let the opportunity to make his mark on that tradition slip away.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives December 15.