The Rise of Skywalker isn’t the longest Star Wars movie — it’s about ten minute shorter than The Last Jedi — but, at six minutes shorter than Goodfellas, it’s pretty long. It certainly could have been longer, and at some point it probably was. For one thing, a new book suggests there was at least a bit more with Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calirssian, which may explain a final line that some found a touch weird.
This comes from Entertainment Weekly, who report that, according to the new book The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary, Lando may be related to Naomi Ackie’s Jannah, the resistance fighter who teams up with John Boyega’s Finn in the movie’s second half. At the ending, she winds up meeting Lando, who asks her where she’s from. When she replies that she doesn’t know, he tells her, “Well, let’s find out…”
Was Lando, played by an 82-year-old actor, hitting on someone a full 55 years his junior? Perhaps not. According to the book, Lando has more backstory than made it into the final cut. “When peace reigned, [Lando] attempted to start a family, but tragedy struck and his infant daughter vanished,” the book reveals. “It was only later that it became clear who the culprits behind the abduction were: the First Order, building their fighting forces but also specifically striking out at the old Alliance leadership.”
Jannah at one point opens up about being kidnapped as a child by the First Order. So is she Lando’s daughter? Or even grand-daughter? Who knows! Perhaps we’ll all find out more when Skywalker hits home video in either a longer cut or in an edition with gobs of deleted scenes. Besides, more Billy Dee Williams is never a bad thing.
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...