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SYFY WIRE Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker writer wishes they split finale: 'so much backstory' was 'left by the wayside'

By Jacob Oller
Rose and Rey

In the wake of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s anticlimactic end to the Skywalker saga, which not only received disappointing reviews but failed to meet the box-office standard set by its predecessors, those behind the movie have been on a press tour letting fans behind the scenes — and providing excuses for the film’s lackluster reception.

Chris Terrio, co-writer of the film alongside director J.J. Abrams, has been one of the most vocal, previously revealing the reasoning behind Emperor Palpatine’s return to the franchise and Rose Tico’s truncated role in the finale. He also preferred an unconventional path that could’ve made the Star Wars films more in line with franchises like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter: splitting the final film into two parts.

When asked about the prospect by Awards Daily, Terrio said, “I wish we could have done that.” While The Rise of Skywalker wasn’t based on a book, like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, the final film in the Skywalker saga had a lot of loose ends to tie up and a lot more subplots that it wanted to bring up on its own. Even then, more was left on the cutting-room floor (or even the draft folder).

“If there were a way of doing it, splitting it would have been my dream. We could have written these characters forever,” Terrio said. “There was so much backstory that had to be left by the wayside. I wish that we could have that, but George [Lucas] always said it was nine movies. That was the natural size of the saga, and so, other than a few initial discussions, we never really advanced that conversation.”

That there were even the beginnings of that conversation, abandoning the trilogy structure set up by Lucas, is a fascinating look at how much content the executives and writers behind The Rise of Skywalker were looking to include. But another interesting aspect is the “backstory that had to be left by the wayside.” This quote, viewed in context of Rose Tico’s shockingly brief role and the criticism from fans for limiting actress Kelly Marie Tran’s screen time, could also shed light on how the filmmakers chose to use their time.

“As the process evolved, a few scenes we’d written with Rose and Leia turned out to not meet the standard of photorealism that we’d hoped for,” Terrio said. “Those scenes, unfortunately, fell out of the film.”

Tran, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, clarifies this further. With regard to her scenes, Tran explained that not only was her screen time limited, but those scenes that she did shoot were all about mapping to Carrie Fisher’s footage from The Force Awakens. This was a major point for Abrams, who also directed TFA, and one he was adamant about getting right ... perhaps at the expense of other characters in the scenes.

“Yeah, the one thing that was difficult was that you were acting with footage that was prerecorded," the actress said. “So, instead of having an actor there and reacting off the actor, you would sometimes look — in between takes — at how the actor delivered a line and then try to imagine and react to that. So, it definitely took more time and was a very different experience for me. We probably did a lot more takes for scenes with her than without her.”

While Tran’s scenes composed a tiny percentage of the film (she appeared only in 1 minute and 16 seconds of The Rise of Skywalker’s 2 hour and 22-minute runtime), they also took up plenty of the production’s time—both during production and during reshoots. “I think there were more reshoots on those scenes, specifically, to just try and make sure all of the performances matched up since she wasn’t physically there.”

This higher workload, completely structured around pre-existing footage, makes the cuts seem even more brutal. Pairing a new character with one that only exists in archival footage seems like a damning fate, even when those scenes don’t get cut. Perhaps if there had been a Part 2, fans would’ve gotten more Rose.