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Later this month, more than 30 years after he last appeared in Return of the Jedi, Billy Dee Williams will make his triumphant live-action return to the Star Wars franchise in The Rise of Skywalker. Williams' reprisal of the Lando Calrissian role he made instantly iconic in Return of the Jedi back in 1980 feels like a long time coming for fans who've been asking for it since before The Force Awakens came out, and J.J. Abrams knows how those fans feel. Though he didn't bring him back until Rise of Skywalker, Abrams was originally hoping Lando could return for The Force Awakens too.
Speaking to Vanity Fair about the character, the director and co-writer of both the first and third installments in the Star Wars sequel trilogy explained that, in the early stages of crafting the story for The Force Awakens, he and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan (who first scripted Lando back in Empire) considered bringing Williams back in the role. Sadly, it just didn't seem to fit with everything else they had to do in that film, including returns for Han Solo, Leia Organa, and, finally, Luke Skywalker.
“Having Lando back in Star Wars is something that [co-writer] Larry Kasdan and I wanted to do in The Force Awakens, just as much as I wanted to have Luke training Rey,” Abrams said. “I was so excited about things that we just realized we could never, ever get to.”
Now, at the end of the Skywalker Saga, with his old friend Han already passed on, Lando is back, and while we don't know much about his character's arc in the film, we do know that he'll get to fly the Millennium Falcon one last time.
He’s just wonderful and funny and fascinating and curious, and he cares so much,” Abrams added. “Having his spirit and his personality, and his swagger, and that f***ing smile, which is the greatest thing that, maybe, God ever made … He’s just, you just can’t deny the guy. Getting to see him in a scene with our characters, it just feels so right.”
Lando returns when The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters December 20.
Though several of the film's stars and its director and co-writer, J.J. Abrams, have been making the rounds in recent weeks, the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker press tour finally kicked off in a very official way earlier this week, when the cast gathered for a massive press conference about the film. That means we'll get to see the film's stars in all manner of interviews and fun scenarios over the next couple of weeks, but few of them are likely to top John Boyega's appearance on the popular YouTube series Hot Ones on Thursday.
For those who don't know, Hot Ones is an interview show with a very specific hook: The guest and the host both consume 10 hot wings, each one coated in a progressively hotter lineup of sauces. As the wings get hotter, the guest is both running the gauntlet of pain and answering potentially sensitive questions while being thrown off by the heat. It's a fertile environment for viral moments and candid answers, particularly when the guests aren't good with spice.
Boyega, who was quick to point out that his Nigerian family is quite comfortable with heat, was one of the show's more composed guests, and he wasn't about to drop any major Rise of Skywalker spoilers while caught off guard. He did, however, take a little time to share some memories from shooting the sequel trilogy, including a time when a security guard didn't recognize him and wouldn't let him back in after he left set in an overcoat to cover his costume.
Then there was the time he managed to beat Adam Driver in a lighstsaber duel.
"Adam Driver actually caught me a few times on my fingers, and I genuinely ... I got mad about it. I was like, 'This guy needs to aim up, man, or don't aim at all.' So, when we were going back and forth, I actually disarmed him, and his saber like flew and landed in the snow. I was like, 'That's how it should have ended.' That's how it should have ended."
Check out the full interview above for more talk about Star Wars memorabilia, the best Star Wars games, and how Boyega's father ranks Pacific Rim: Uprising.
It's a longstanding tradition within the Star Wars franchise that, as the characters learn more about what the Force can do, so too does the audience. The Empire Strikes Back introduced Force pulling and levitation to Luke Skywalker, Return of the Jedi brought us Force Lightning, the prequels showed us a whole range of Jedi abilities, and of course The Last Jedi revealed ... well, quite a bit. Now that things like Force projection and Force "skyping" are canonically part of the Star Wars universe, what will The Rise of Skywalker bring to the table?
Well, director and co-writer J.J. Abrams isn't offering specifics ahead of the film's release, but he did promise in an interview with Vanity Fair that audiences will see "aspects of the Force in ways that go beyond what you’ve seen before.”
“It was really important that we not just redo the things you’ve seen, but add new elements — which we knew will infuriate some people and thrill others,” Abrams explained.
What that means at this point, two weeks out from the day when the first general audiences will finally get to see the film, is anyone's guess, but the film's trailers do offer a direction in which we can look. For one thing, there's the idea of General Leia Organa training Rey in her own knowledge of the Force, which is at least somewhat substantial based on what we saw in The Last Jedi. Could Leia know things that even Luke Skywalker didn't, or at least be willing to say things that Luke wasn't? We don't know, but of course Luke is still around in some form even after his death in The Last Jedi, so he — and his old sacred Jedi texts that Rey lifted at the last moment — could also have a thing or two to offer.
Then there's the issue of Emperor Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious, who's somehow managed to survive over the past three decades even after his apparent death in Return of the Jedi. We have no idea at this point exactly how that happened, and how much of the Force was involved, but if Palpatine's really been around all these years with nothing to do but plan and learn, there's a good chance he's got a few new Dark Side tricks up his sleeve as well.
We'll dive deeper into these new Force mysteries, whatever they may be, on December 20.