Most of us will have a War On Drugs moment at some point in our lives. Over five zeitgeist-altering albums—epic in their emotional scope and sonic depth—the Philly-born band has earned a reputation for encapsulating the near-univeral sense of uneasiness and exuberance of coming of age. Formed in 2005, the band has become a cornerstone of contemporary Americana, and has collaborated with the likes of Kurt Vile, Sharon Van Etten, and The National. For Adam Granduciel, the band’s lead guitarist and front man, shepherding The War On Drugs in its various configurations has been the singular focus of the past 15 years. “There was a beautiful aimlessness to that time,” he recalls on a recent Zoom call, “But I wouldn’t want to go back to being 23.” This shift is evident in I Don’t Live Here Anymore, the latest of the band’s five albums, out last week, which embraces a certain rock n’ roll jubilance that was scarce on previous records. The new record offers bite-sized melodies and tighter lyrics where albums like 2008’s Slave Ambient or 2010’s Lost in the Dream thrummed with expansive guitar riffs and stifled, impossible-to-encapsulate feeling. Granduciel attributes his new sound to the birth of his son, Bruce. After more than a decade of touring, fatherhood has had a clarifying effect: “I can write about the same things that I did in my 20s,” says Granduciel, “But I know what I’m singing about.” Below, the musician talks with his new friend and mega-fan, the actor Keri Russell, about his upcoming tour, the art of improvisation, and being 42. Continue reading Adam Granduciel and Keri Russell Celebrate The War On Drugs’ New Chapter
Adrienne Shelly was an actress, a director, a mother, a wife, and a friend, and her life was cut terribly, unthinkably, unjustly short on Nov. 1, 2006, when 19-year-old construction worker Diego Pillco broke into her apartment with intent to rob her and, upon being discovered by Shelly, fatally strangled her and then hung her in the bathroom in an attempt to make it appear that she’d committed suicide. Those are the gruesome details of Shelly’s death, and they’re not shied away from in Adrienne, a new documentary premiering on HBO on Dec. 1 following its debut at the DOC NYC festival on Nov. 14. Yet as directed by her husband, Andy Ostroy, this non-fiction remembrance is less about the horrors of Shelly’s final day than about the inspiring brightness of her life—and, also, the tremendous grief wrought by her untimely demise.
Ostroy serves as the on-screen narrator of his late wife’s story in Adrienne, turning the film into both an act of grappling with perversely arbitrary tragedy and a celebration of her many roles. The most public of those was as a rising star, as Shelly made an instant indie-cinema name for herself in Hal Hartley’s The Unbelievable Truth and Trust. Those lead parts were showcases for her vivacious personality and determined toughness, the latter of which shone through despite the fact that she was pretty and petite (standing only 5′ 2″) and thus, easily objectified by film industry chauvinists as a dainty sexpot in need of manly protection. Not content with simply being an actress, however, Shelly—after a series of less-than-fulfilling projects—quickly gravitated to working behind the camera, peaking with 2007’s Waitress, which became a Sundance hit a couple of months after her death.
Waitress has continued to have an amazing life of its own as a popular Broadway musical, and early in Adrienne, Ostroy asks patrons waiting to enter the theater if they know his wife. That they don’t recognize her name (even though it’s on the marquee) is merely another in a long line of pointed jabs suffered by Ostroy, and underscores his own motivation for making this documentary: namely, to maintain her memory and, in doing so, to provide her with the acclaim and respect she deserved. To that end, he presents numerous clips from Shelly’s films and self-directed shorts, behind-the-scenes footage from her productions, photos of her on stage, interview snippets from the 1990s, and never-before-seen home movies, confessional recordings, and scenes from a still-in-the-works documentary she was making in and around NYC about the quest for—and nature of—happiness.
In those archival moments, Adrienne captures the joy that Shelly brought to every professional venture she undertook and the euphoric delight she felt for her daughter Sophie, who was only 3 at the time of her death. Now a teenager, Sophie joins her father in speaking candidly about Shelly’s absence, as do Shelly’s mother, friends, and famous collaborators, all of whom still seem stunned—and devastated—by her unimaginable fate. From Keri Russell and Paul Rudd to Jeremy Sisto and Hal Hartley, colleagues are effusive about her talent, with her The Unbelievable Truth co-star Robert Burke stating, “She was a complete unicorn, as far as I was concerned.” They also have high praise for the courageous feminist attitude that she brought to all her endeavors, notably Waitress, which was ahead of the #MeToo curve, and whose second life in musical form stands as a testament to the universal appeal of its forward-thinking spirit.
Adrienne’s tribute to Shelly constantly feels as if it’s being delivered through teary eyes, and that culminates with the film’s showstopping final passage, in which Ostroy visits Pillco in prison to understand what really took place on that appalling November day and why, and also to show the killer precisely what he stole from everyone. Through a translator, a seemingly repentant Pillco explains how his robbery of Shelly’s apartment—a frequent practice of his, since he was deep in debt—turned homicidal when the actress caught him mid-theft and attempted to call the police (Pillco was an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador). Ostroy and Pillco’s encounter is predictably wrenching, for us as well as for Ostroy, who forces Pillco to look at photos of his wife—with himself, and with young Sophie, including a snapshot taken on Oct. 31, 2006, the day before her murder—and then, overcome with anguish, cuts off the chat.
“Adrienne” premieres on HBO on Dec. 1.
Apple TV Plus announced that Edward Norton, Indira Varma, Keri Russell, Cherry Jones and Michael Gandolfini have been cast in “Extrapolations,” Scott Z. Burns upcoming climate change anthology series.
Russel, who has starred in “The Americans” and “Felicity,” plays Olivia Drew, a gun for hire. She is repped by WME, Burstein Company, Sloane, Offer, Weber and Dern and Viewpoint.
The new additions join previously announced cast members Meryl Streep, Matthew Rhys, Marion Cotillard, Eiza Gonzalez, Tobey Maguire, Forest Whitaker, Kit Harrington, Sienna Miller, Gemma Chan, Tahar Rahim, Daveed Diggs, David Schwimmer and Adarsh Gourav, with more cast members yet to be announced. Over eight episodes, the series will tell stories of how upcoming changes to the planet will affect day-to-day life including love, faith, work and family.
“Extrapolations” is now in production, produced for Apple TV Plus by Michael Ellenberg’s Media Res. Executive producers include writer/director Burns, Ellenberg, Greg Jacobs, Dorothy Fortenberry and Media Res’ Lindsey Springer.
“I’ll do it,” she said of a Felicity reboot. “People need a feel-good something and that would be a feel-good something.”
Russell starred in the titular role from 1998 to 2002, as a high school graduate who follows her crush (Scott Speedman) to college in New York City, and soon finds herself in a love triangle with him and her resident adviser (Scott Foley).
“In the middle of the pandemic I was like, ‘You know what? People need something nice. We should just do a really quick, low budget what happened to them, because I just want to feel good for a moment,'” Russell told ET, adding that she “would do” a reboot.
Both of her leading men on the series have also said that they’d participate in a reboot. The cast reunited in 2018 in honor of the 20th anniversary of the show’s premiere, and Speedman said he’d “absolutely” do a reboot during the panel discussion.
“A few years ago, the cast got together for a panel discussion on its 20th anniversary. Being around them, being onstage again changed my mind,” Foley told ET in April of being open to an onscreen reunion. “I missed working with them and I would give it another shot.”
Russell’s willingness to return to the iconic role, she said, is largely because it changed “everything” about her career.
“I think it was the first story that I really loved,” she told ET. “[Creators] J.J. [Abrams] and Matt [Reeves] together was such a unique pairing. It was the first character that I really cared about… It was a sweet little show.”
Russell’s latest project is a far cry from Felicity. In Antlers, the actress stars as a teacher, who, along with her police officer brother (Jesse Plemons), becomes convinced that one of her student’s is harboring a supernatural creature.
The horror flick was an unlikely choice for Russell, who admitted that, though she “grew up” with scary movies and loves them, she’s quick to be frightened in real life.
“Matthew, my guy, before he walks into the room he goes, ‘I’m walking in,’ because I always [scream] and he’s like, ‘You know I’m here,'” Russell told ET of her partner, Matthew Rhys. “… I am the one that gets afraid.”
Nevertheless, Russell was quick to sign on to the project, which was directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Guillermo del Toro.
“I was such a big fan of Scott Cooper’s films, especially Crazy Heart, and when I heard he was doing a horror movie with Guillermo, I just thought it was such an elegant way to do a horror movie,” she said. “I thought he could pull off that intimate character study piece and fit it into that genre, and I think he did.”
Antlers will hit theaters Oct. 29.
After a number of delays and missed release dates, Antlers finally gets a perfect, Halloween-adjacent spot on October 29. The film, directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Guillermo del Toro, stars Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, and Amy Madigan. The official synopsis for the incredibly creepy-looking movie follows: “In an isolated Oregon town, a middle-school teacher (Russell) and her sheriff brother (Plemons) become embroiled with her enigmatic student (Thomas) whose dark secrets lead to terrifying encounters with a legendary ancestral creature who came before them.”
Keri Russell is someone you can have a beer with. (She’ll take a Peroni, thanks.) Someone who, even after a good 15 years in Brooklyn, still exudes the sunny, girl-next-door ease of her roots out West, by way of Arizona and Colorado. The “uniform” she’s wearing today at an elegantly hip Italian restaurant she frequents is what she describes as “Sam Shepard from The Right Stuff”: a buttery leather bomber from Celine, rolled-up Gap khakis —“the ones I wore on an adventure trip with Bear Grylls” (Look it up)—Rag & Bone T-shirt (she’s friends with the designer; their kids go to school together), and leopard-print kitten heel Aquazzura booties.
It was actually Matthew Rhys, her partner of six years and former costar on The Americans, who coined the look, and it stuck. “We laughed really hard about it, but I realized that’s my true fashion—like tough guys,” she smiles. “Growing up, I didn’t play with Barbies or dolls. I wanted the adventures.” It wouldn’t be too long before her Hollywood joy ride would begin, as a 20-year-old Keri, onetime Mouseketeer, was cast as the lead in the hit cult drama series Felicity. The real magic is how she managed to do celebrity on her terms in the years that followed. “After Felicity, I didn’t want to act anymore because I was so tired, and I didn’t want to be more famous than I was,” she says. Since then, Keri has alternately pumped the brakes and hit the accelerator on a thriving movie and TV career while having three kids, 12-year-old son River and 8-year-old daughter Willa with former husband Shane Deary, and 3-year old Sam, her son with Rhys.
These days, she trades off doing film shoots with Rhys so they can be “on duty” for the kids. Keri, 43, is home at the moment, and she’s got brownies to bake (from scratch!) this afternoon for Willa to take with her to school tomorrow.
“They say you can have everything—just not all at once. I think that’s really true. There are times when you’re living for your career and times when you get to make cakes.”
So what’s a girl like Keri, who jumps at the word boo, doing in a horror film like Antlers? Well, who better to relate to that audience? “I’m a total scaredy-cat, but I think the reason why it’s OK for me to do scary movies is because I’m scared all the time,” she says. “I’ll be in the bathroom getting ready, and Matthew will be coming down the hall and he’ll warn me, ‘I’m about to come in.’ And I’ll still scream!” In this film, a lushly shot, creepy mix of supernatural evil and blood and guts premiering this month, Keri plays a quietly badass teacher with her own broken past. And then, of course, there’s a monster.
What’s undeniable is that Keri knows how to keep her cool in navigating the alternate universes of Hollywood and home. Her relaxed approach to food, fitness, fashion, and, well, life may be our new wellness goal.
ACE Comic Con Northeast is coming to Boston in just a few weeks, and the final addition to the headlining list of celebrity guests has finally been revealed — Keri Russell!
This will be Russell’s very first comic con appearance, so don’t miss out on this opportunity to meet Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘s Zorii Bliss! Russell will have a VIP package ($390), autographs ($125), and photo ops ($115), which will all go on sale Monday, March 2 at 3 p.m. EST.
Russell will be joining an incredible line-up of guests from a galaxy far, far away, including Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Matthew Wood, Tiya Sircar, and Taylor Gray.
Marvel’s finest will also be making an appearance, including Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Shameik Moore, along with Hogwarts alumni Rupert Grint and Bonnie Wright.
ACE Comic Con Northeast will be held March 20-22 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Tickets are on sale now. VIP packages, photo ops, and autographs are also available.
It was J.J. Abrams, who two decades earlier provided her breakout role on TV’s “Felicity,” which he co-created. His email posed a simple question:
Do you want to join Star Wars?
The offer a couple of years ago, though, came with a caveat. The character she would play in “Rise of the Skywalker,” a spice smuggler named Zorii Bliss, would never remove her helmet, which covers her entire face, except occasionally her eyes.
So “I can see everyone, but no one can see me,” Russell says by phone this month.
“There’s a real power play to that,” continues Russell, describing how her nimble scoundrel of a character — who has a past with the dashing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) — would be a distinct change of pace after her starring roles. She jumped at the chance to disappear into Zorii.
While Abrams was co-writing the character, though, he didn’t even have his old pal in mind.
“You’re really not thinking about specific actors,” Abrams says. But then, “We started to cast the picture and suddenly there was an opportunity to work with Keri again, which is something that one takes advantage of if possible.
“So she was the first person I reached out to” about Zorii, “just to say: Listen, there’s this pretty fun character,” he says.
Because Russell has training as a dancer, Abrams knew that the actress could readily play the quick, agile Zorii. And he was quite confident that Russell could deliver Zorii’s sly humor.
Yet the “Rise” director also wanted someone who could communicate with simply their voice.
“The biggest thing is the conveying of emotion,” Abrams says. Russell, the director says, is able to have “a connection to a character [that] is usually weirdly sort of deep and abstract.”
To find that connection, Russell seized on the idea that beneath this enigmatic facade, Zorii is a survivor in occupied territory. The actress also dived into the big-budget costuming, with all the precise fittings for a helmeted look that harks back to vintage space serials. Her Zorii, she realized, must be as fleet of mind as of body.
Although the role is minor, it is memorable. From a creative standpoint, Russell says, “I can’t think of anything more fun than getting to do this part.”
– Talk Shows Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard | EP167 – December 16 2019
This is an unusual admission for Abrams, having just directed and co-written the “Star Wars” film that, when it opens Dec. 20, promises to be the final installment in a nine-movie narrative about the Skywalker clan. Moviegoers have seen the curtain come down on this saga twice already: with “Return of the Jedi,” in 1983, which concluded with Luke Skywalker and his allies seemingly triumphant over the treacherous Empire; and again, in 2005, with “Revenge of the Sith,” which tracked the final steps of Luke’s father, Anakin, on his dark path to becoming the malevolent Darth Vader.
But what seemed like closed history was reopened once more in 2015, when “The Force Awakens” began a third trilogy in which the old guard of the original “Star Wars” movies fought alongside a new generation of heroes and villains. True to his boast, Abrams — who, after some trepidation, directed and helped write the screenplay for that film — inaugurated this trilogy with considerable fanfare as “The Force Awakens” went on to gross more than $2 billion worldwide. It was the last and only “Star Wars” film he intended to make.
So when Abrams was once again approached, amid a last-minute creative shake-up, about taking on “The Rise of Skywalker,” he balked. To be considered a success, the new movie must satisfy a seemingly impossible array of demands: It has to wrap up the current trilogy while tying together the many themes and plotlines of its eight predecessors while — oh, yes — working as a complete story on its own. For those same intimidating reasons, Abrams accepted the assignment. “Sticking this landing is one of the harder jobs that I could have taken,” he said. “But that was why it felt worthy of saying yes.”
Like the stories told within the films themselves, the story of this “Star Wars” film — which its creators and stars described in a series of interviews — is one in which inadvertent decisions lead to unintended consequences. It is a tale in which history repeats itself and destiny can be outrun for only so long before it must be confronted. Yet even as Abrams and his colleagues bid farewell to this part of “Star Wars” history, they are as curious as anyone to know what comes next for the series and its characters — in part because no one truly believes that their adventures are over.
I. Relaunch of the Jedi
To understand the conclusion of this new “Star Wars” trilogy, you must go back to its inception. The latest films were born from a union of creative enterprise and corporate mandate, after the Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm from its founder, George Lucas, in 2012. That’s when the monolithic studio announced its intentions to produce the seventh, eighth and ninth chapters in the space-faring fantasy series, part of what was to be an ambitious plan to release a new “Star Wars” movie every year. Even before handing the reins of his company to Kathleen Kennedy, its current president and the architect of the franchise’s future, Lucas was having conversations with the original Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker — Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill — about resuming their roles.
At that preliminary stage, Abrams seemed like a natural candidate to help oversee a new era of “Star Wars.” He was an avowed fan of the original films, known for his stylized takes on genre TV shows (“Alias,” “Lost”) and for helping resuscitate aging properties on the big screen (“Mission: Impossible” and — ahem — “Star Trek”).
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But when Kennedy formally approached Abrams, his instinct was to decline. He explained, “It was too close to something that I cared too much about. I didn’t want to leave not liking it anymore.” Or worse, he said he feared “falling flat on my face, and failing miserably.”
“My reaction was a reflexive one,” Abrams said. “I just thought it was too daunting, so I respectfully declined.”
Though Abrams had said no in a phone call, Kennedy asked him if they could talk further in person. “I knew, when the two of us sat down face-to-face, that I had him,” she said.
II. The New Hopes
One by one, the leads of the new trilogy found their way onto the project. John Boyega, who plays the renegade storm trooper Finn, wasn’t initially asked to audition but he learned about the casting call from a friend who was being considered for the role. Daisy Ridley, who portrays the heroic Rey, seemed to will her opportunity into existence. “I wasn’t approached,” she said. “I hunted it down. I didn’t even know if there was a part. I just had a feeling. So then I kept saying, ‘Are there auditions for “Star Wars” yet?’ And eventually there were.”
They were rookie actors — Boyega had starred in the cult film “Attack the Block” and Ridley had played small roles on TV shows like “Mr. Selfridge” — and both were simply excited that “Star Wars” would provide them with long-term gigs. “Before then, I was just living from project to project,” Boyega explained. “A ‘Star Wars’ film means six or seven months that I’m paying my bills.”
Once filming began on “The Force Awakens,” there was little time to revel in their fantastical surroundings. “I was mainly excited and then just terrified for a really long time,” Ridley said. “I was basically crippled with fear for a few weeks.”
Even more experienced stars like Oscar Isaac, who plays the dashing pilot Poe Dameron, found the production of “The Force Awakens” to be unexpectedly unnerving. “I hadn’t felt that self-conscious in a very long time,” Isaac said. “I remember we were about to shoot a scene and then Kathy Kennedy came up to fix my hair. It was crazy.”
Isaac added, “Everyone — particularly J.J. — was looking for, What is the tone of this movie? If we’re the symphony, what is the instrument sound that’s coming out of this character? How do we get that? It was challenging. I suddenly was uncertain.”
III. Attack of the Sequels
Amid the frantic casting, writing and construction needed to get “The Force Awakens” underway, Kennedy went to Abrams with a further proposition: In addition to Episode VII, would he like to tackle Episodes VIII and IX as well? Abrams’s response was succinct: “I was like, ‘Are. You. Crazy?’” he recalled. Kennedy acknowledged that Abrams had enough on his plate. “It was pretty obvious it was so overwhelming,” she said.
Instead, Episode VIII, titled “The Last Jedi,” was written and directed by Rian Johnson (“Knives Out”). In its story, the “Force Awakens” heroes were separated from one another, confronting personal roadblocks on individual journeys, and the actors found it just as challenging to make. “The characters were very frustrated, and it felt that way,” Isaac said. “You felt the difficult energy of those scenes, figuring that stuff out.”
“The Last Jedi,” released in 2017, was also a success. But each time it addressed one of several cliffhangers left dangling from “The Force Awakens” — what would happen when Rey returned Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber to him? who were her parents? who was the nefarious Supreme Leader Snoke? — Johnson’s movie seemed to say: the answers to these questions aren’t as important as you think.
Abrams praised “The Last Jedi” for being “full of surprises and subversion and all sorts of bold choices.”
“On the other hand,” he added, “it’s a bit of a meta approach to the story. I don’t think that people go to ‘Star Wars’ to be told, ‘This doesn’t matter.’”
Even so, Abrams said “The Last Jedi” laid the groundwork for “The Rise of Skywalker” and “a story that I think needed a pendulum swing in one direction in order to swing in the other.”
IV. The Auteur Strikes Back
Some journeys end before they begin. So it went for Colin Trevorrow, the “Jurassic World” director and co-writer, who was originally set to direct Episode IX but left the project in 2017. (He and his collaborator Derek Connolly still share story credit on the film with Abrams and Chris Terrio.) Explaining the change, Kennedy said, “We had gotten to not even a first draft when we realized it just wasn’t heading in the direction we’d been talking about.” She added that Trevorrow’s departure was “very amicable” and something that “happens quite frequently in the development phase.” (A publicist for Trevorrow said he declined to comment for this article.) Such down-to-the-wire decisions are rare but not unprecedented on tentpole studio films, and certainly not in the realm of “Star Wars,” where the “Solo” directors Philip Lord and Christopher Miller were replaced by Ron Howard after several weeks of principal photography.
With the clock already ticking on a planned 2019 release for Episode IX, Abrams was the only logical choice to take over — and even more reluctant than he was with “The Force Awakens.” On that movie, he said, “we got away by the skin of our teeth. Why the hell would I go back? Am I a moron to tempt fate a second time?” Abrams said he took the job knowing he’d be working “in an accelerated way from the beginning,” with three fewer months for postproduction than he had on “The Force Awakens.”
“I’m not saying it’s like the closest that ‘Star Wars’ will ever get to being live TV,” he said, “but it was not leisurely.”
But when it was announced that Abrams was indeed returning, his actors breathed sighs of relief. “I cried,” Ridley said, explaining that the director brought a comforting sense of structure and security. Boyega said he was glad that Abrams would get to finish the tale he’d begun in Episode VII. “Even as a normal person in the audience, I wanted to see where that story was going,” Boyega said.
Abrams, who brought in the “Argo” screenwriter Terrio as his writing partner, faced significant challenges on “The Rise of Skywalker.” Among them, the film had to provide a proper send-off for Carrie Fisher, who died in 2016. As Leia, Fisher had been an integral element of “Star Wars,” an embodiment of its hopefulness and its grit, and her story arc had not been finished by the end of “The Last Jedi.” Abrams’s solution was to draw on unused footage that Fisher had shot for “The Force Awakens.” “The idea of continuing the story without Leia was an impossibility,” he said. “There was no way we were going to do a digital Leia. There was no way we would, of course, ever recast it. But we couldn’t do it without her.”
V. The Ride of ‘Skywalker’
How you experienced the making of Episode IX depends on which tribe you belong to. For the series leads who met on “The Force Awakens” (and still haven’t fully adjusted to being called veterans), there was the simple pleasure of having an adventure that brought Rey, Poe and Finn back together, fulfilling what Ridley called “the ‘Star Wars’ mythical thing of threes.” As Boyega put it, “We’re in legit, legit ‘Star Wars’ now. We’ve got a trio up in here.”
Franchise newcomers like Keri Russell (cast as a masked mercenary named Zorii Bliss) and Naomi Ackie (who plays the warrior Jannah) felt that the new trilogy’s lead actors did all the heavy lifting for them. “I’m not going to complain,” Russell said. “It’s fun to come in on their coattails and ride this train.” With a laugh, Ackie added, “They’re all tired and weathered and worn, and we’re just like, ‘Hey, guys!’ It’s a blast.”
Then there are stalwarts like Anthony Daniels, who has played the anxious automaton C-3PO in all nine “Star Wars” saga films, and found himself bewildered by the movies’ increasing complexity. “One reason I liked the original was there weren’t that many characters,” he said. “You had the good guys, the bad guy, a few rocket ships and that was it, really. Then eventually we end up with hundreds of Jedis with different colored lightsabers and I lose track.”
The filmmakers tried to shield the actors where possible from a behind-the-scenes process in which major plot elements and whole swaths of dialogue were being reworked up to and on the days they were filmed.
As Terrio explained, “It’s a war to do a movie like this, and every day you have to get up and go to the front again. And maybe the day before, the battle didn’t go so well, but you have to get up with great optimism and enthusiasm to do it again.”
Abrams makes no apologies for this seat-of-the-pants approach. “As we did on ‘Force Awakens,’” he said, “while we’re shooting, we’re reconsidering things, changing some significant story points going back to ideas that we had loved but put away. That process never stopped.”
“Some people can say, oh, that sounds like it’s crazy,” Abrams said. “But when you have the better idea, it doesn’t matter when it is — you have to try it.”
VI. The Phantom Ending
Why does the Skywalker saga have to end at all? Abrams pointed back to Lucas’s own ever-evolving plans for the “Star Wars” series and to a certain feeling of symmetry: If each previous set of films was its own trilogy, shouldn’t they all come together in a trilogy of trilogies? “Can it go on?” Abrams said. “Of course it can go on. But there’s something bold about saying this is what the story should be.”
As he slyly acknowledged, “Any great ending is a new beginning on some level.” But what the future of “Star Wars” might look like without its foundational narrative is something Abrams — who struck a lucrative overall deal with WarnerMedia in September — was in no hurry to envision. “I didn’t design that, so I don’t know,” he said.
It’s Kennedy’s responsibility to determine what comes after the final Skywalker chapter and, as she put it, “It doesn’t have to end.” But part of living up to Lucas’s vision, she said, was looking beyond it. “We’re all custodians of something that George created, and we’re trying to do the best we possibly can,” Kennedy said, adding that it was important to “recognize and honor what it is that he created — and move on. I think we’re ready to move on.”
Who will make the next “Star Wars” film, which Disney has already scheduled for 2022? Kennedy isn’t saying, but she has been developing new projects with Rian Johnson and with Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios. (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of TV’s “Game of Thrones,” recently walked away from their own deal at Lucasfilm to focus on projects for Netflix.)
Kennedy said she continued to discuss opportunities with other artists, and she pointed to the success of “The Mandalorian,” the live-action “Star Wars” series created by Jon Favreau for the Disney Plus streaming service, as a model for the future of the franchise. Shows like it could provide a pipeline for new stories and characters, as well as for writers and directors who could make the feature films.
“I knew that Jon Favreau was a huge ‘Star Wars’ fan,” she said. “I’d been talking to him, off and on, for a few years. He had this story, and suddenly the two of us realized, not only could this be told in the television space, but we could also push technology.”
Determining what should come next, Kennedy said, was as simple as looking at the stories that “Star Wars” has already told.
“It’s not as though we have nothing to dip into, but all it is, really, are road posts, pointing us in a direction,” she said. “You don’t spend a lot of time defining what it is that George intimates in this mythology. You tell stories about people, and you take the mythology and apply it to their conflict.”
VII. Will the Force Be With Them?
Daniels, the C-3PO actor, has been through too many “Star Wars” finales to believe that “The Rise of Skywalker” will be either his farewell or the ultimate conclusion of a story line. “You feel like you’re coming to an end, but not really closing down,” he said. “It’s a good end and our perspective on it happens here” — he held his hands up like a viewfinder, and began to pan across the room — “and then the cameras walk off over there.”
The actors with less tenure on the series are also beginning to understand what this transition means in personal terms. Their lives and careers are still largely ahead of them, and whether “Star Wars” has a lasting effect on them — positive, negative or none at all — remains to be seen. As Ridley put it, “It’s just the saga that ends. We are all still going.”
Boyega described his “Star Wars” farewell tour as bittersweet, saying, “It was sweet to play a character who grows in front of people’s eyes, and it’s bitter, leaving that consistency.” Every year he worked on the franchise, it dominated his schedule, providing a center of gravity around which everything else in his life revolved. “Now I have to go and create my own path,” he said.
Whether it takes months, years or decades, Boyega and his co-stars all believe they will one day return to their “Star Wars” roles. Pointing to Isaac, Boyega laughed and said, “This guy’s going to be in an X-Wing next week in a little spinoff series.”
Adopting an exaggerated announcer’s voice, Isaac replied, “‘Go Poe,’ on Disney Plus.” (Needless to say, Disney has not disclosed plans for any such program.)
Ridley at first seemed to dismiss the possibility of a future trilogy where she would help pass the torch to an even younger team of heroes. “I just don’t think anything could exceed this,” she said.
But Boyega was not exactly buying that. “I’ll give her a call,” he replied to her. “I’ll be like, ‘Girl, get your ass out of that damn house. Come on, Oscar said yes.’”
And who knows? Maybe Abrams might even be the one to tell that story. “I just need one night’s sleep,” he said.