The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson breaks down the genesis of the Holdo Maneuver

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Jan 24, 2018

Remember when Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) turned the Resistance ship around to face the First Order vessel and punched the hyperspace button in Star Wars: The Last Jedi? That was pretty stunning, wasn't it? The tragic scene was something we'd never seen before in a Star Wars movie, and the lack of sound even prompted some theaters to issue warnings to moviegoers that, nope, there wasn't a technical malfunction. 

In just seconds, Holdo carved a space for herself in Star Wars lore. But how did it all come together? During an appearance on an upcoming episode of The /Filmcast podcast, writer-director Rian Johnson recounted the genesis of the " Holdo Maneuver." He's said in previous interviews that the sequence was inspired by a line uttered by Han Solo to Luke in A New Hope about the precision and dangers of traveling at hyperspeed. 

But before he could even begin storyboarding, Johnson had to make sure such a thing could be done within the established rules of the Star Wars universe.

"I’ve got to reserve the right for [Story Group member] Pablo [Hidalgo] to build it back into canon, if he’s like, ‘Yeah, this is a thing and they outlawed it,’ " said the director. "But it’s not like it was the plan to do this. It’s a spur-of-the-moment thing. It’s this idea that she gets and she sits down and f****** does, and it obviously takes everybody completely by surprise... The fact that Hux doesn’t see it coming means it’s probably not a standard military maneuver. I think it was something that Holdo [laughs] pulled out of her butt in the moment.”

As for the absence of sound, the idea was there from the early stages of storyboarding — "the notion that this event is out of time in a weird way, and communicate the bigness beyond being just a big explosion."

The whole thing didn't come together until the bright minds at Industrial Light & Magic came up with the idea of shifting the exposure right when the Resistance spacecraft splits the First Order ship in two. Speaking on the trial-and-error process of coming up with the perfect way of conveying such a powerful moment, Johnson copped to some failed attempts before ILM "showed this version of it to me that had this exposure shift, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that makes it all kind of click.’ "