The Last Jedi at SWCO: The Rian Johnson Experience


To celebrate The Last Jedi spotlight panel at SWCO, director Rian Johnson brought his A game and became an enthusiastic member of the fanbase.

Unless you were a big Looper fan, Rian Johnson may not have been on your radar before he was announced as the director for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. And whether you follow him on Instagram or Twitter (where he liked to post random YouTube videos to scare fans who were looking for a trailer), by now, Johnson should be one of your favorite people. Further, by the time The Last Jedi comes out, he may be one of your favorite directors, too.

Part of the highlight of Star Wars Celebration Orlando was Friday’s The Last Jedi panel that saw the release of the first trailer and a new poster. But guaranteeing a seat at the panel was hard work. Fans (like myself) had to be at the convention center before/by 8 p.m. ET on Thursday with hundreds of other enthusiastic people, sit on the cold, hard floor next to people’s stinky feet all night long, and wait for the convention center doors to open again at 6 a.m. on Friday for wristbands. It was a process.

Image via Buckie Wells

But sometime around midnight, the crowd swelled. People started to stand and suddenly, word spread that Rian Johnson had entered the room. Depending on your vantage point, this seemed like fake news until Johnson faithfully traveled around the entire sleepover hall and met with nearly every fan who greeted him.

And there were a lot.

His surprise only made the anticipation for The Last Jedi panel even greater. And it paid off. Because the second Josh Gad welcomed him on stage at 11 a.m. on Friday, everyone fed off his excitement, including Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.

She praised his work as Episode VIII‘s director and writer. At the panel, she said:

"“He’s on his way to standing alongside many of the great filmmakers I had the opportunity to work with. He writes as beautifully as he directs, and he writes amazingly, fierce and independent women.”"

Unlike Rogue One, which was the lovechild of several collaborations and re-writes, it’s apparent that fans will enjoy a much more cohesive world in The Last Jedi. In addition to being hands-on from the very beginning, Johnson also did work on the script for Episode IX, which will be directed by Colin Trevorrow.

It’s worth noting, though, that Johnson didn’t do all the work himself. In fact, he shared his experience with visiting Carrie Fisher at home, sitting on her bed, and taking notes on everything she said regarding the script (and more). He took tons of notes just so he could end up with four perfect words. And if Mark Hamill’s remarks are any indication, it seems like Johnson had a great relationship with everyone on the cast.

"“I totally turned my performance over to Rian. It’s not Luke’s story anymore.”"

Johnson’s enthusiasm for the franchise is so evident and extends to its fans as well. Of course, it’s always awesome when someone reaches out and validates how much fans care about Star Wars. And still, it’s another thing entirely when the director is as overwhelmed with love and gratitude as the fans.

When it came to announcing The Last Jedi‘s trailer, Johnson teased the fans with the well-worth-it poster that basically made the audience die, then come back to life in time to watch the trailer and die again.

And because once wasn’t enough, Johnson gladly introduced it a second time. So for your hundredth viewing pleasure, here it is one more time:

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Can’t wait to see what Rian Johnson delivers this December? Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in theaters on Dec. 15, 2017.