The final day of this year’s Star Wars Celebration closed out on Sunday afternoon in London with the much-anticipated Future Filmmakers panel, centered on the future of the “Star Wars” franchise as guided by Lucasfilm leaders Kathleen Kennedy and Kiri Hart.
The forward-focused panel promised to deliver all kinds of goods about the franchise’s still-untitled “Episode VIII” and their Han Solo standalone film, featuring appearances from “Episode VIII” director Rian Johnson and Han Solo helmers Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
In introducing Johnson to the crowd, Kennedy told the Celebration stage audience that when it came time to pick a director for “Episode VIII,” the “Looper” and “Brick” filmmaker was “way at the top of the list right away.”
And the Lucasfilm president certainly doesn’t seem disappointed with what Johnson brought to the table, telling the crowd that “Rian moves the camera like Steven Spielberg, so you guys are in for a real treat.” High praise (and a lot to live up to).
Per Johnson, the film will “break tradition” with “Star Wars” movie lore, as it will immediately pick up after the end of “The Force Awakens,” returning Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) to the far-flung island setting of Skellig Michael. For the director, the first day of shooting at such a location was “appropriately surreal.”
Like many of the newer “Star Wars” filmmakers, Johnson grew up a fan of the franchise. He told the – obviously simpatico – crowd that he still remembered his father taking him to see the first “Star Wars” film as a kid. When young Johnson asked his father where they were going, he said, “We’re going to see the most amazing thing you’re ever going to see.” Those words have clearly stuck with Johnson.
Yet the director stressed the importance of getting past those sorts of feelings in order to dive into the project “like any other film, basically.” He explained, “You come into with those feelings of deep nostalgia, but then you realize your responsibility is ultimately to get beyond that very quickly.”
Johnson said that this second film will really “zoom in on” the characters we first met in “Force Awakens” – including Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron.
A recurring theme of this year’s Celebration has focused on the synergy between the various features that are currently in the works, and Johnson noted that when he was first meeting with the Lucasfilm team to hash out “Episode VIII,” “Rogue One” director Gareth Edwards was also around and working on his film, along with “Rebels” animated series creator Dave Filoni (who also visited Johnson’s set on multiple occasions).
“I think we’re all going to have a really good time together,” Johnson said to the crowd of fans at the end of his talk, which didn’t include any major revelations like an official title or new cast members, instead looking forward to future Star Wars events to really dish out the galactic-sized news bits.
“Star Wars: Episode VIII” will open on December 15, 2017.