At the L.A. press day for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a singular moment stood out as proof positive that Rian Johnson's love of Star Wars stretches far beyond the attachment formed between filmmaker and franchise. Between press obligations, Johnson took a brief moment in the afternoon to separate from the fray and collect a vintage Kenner The Empire Strikes Back AT-AT transport playset. Then while heading back to his scheduled interviews via an escalator out of the way, Johnson hugged the huge battered box with both arms, brandishing a smile that would rival any kid on Christmas morning.
When SYFY WIRE spoke with Johnson an hour later, the AT-AT was perched on a chair of distinction, always within Johnson's protective peripheral vision. When asked about the new toy, Johnson lit up with excitement anew, explaining that the AT-AT toy was a piece he coveted as a kid, but never did get as a gift. Lucasfilm's YouTube program, The Star Wars Show, righted that wrong, leading to a very excited filmmaker.
You'd think directing a Star Wars film might be the culmination of a life-long Star Wars fan's dreams, but you didn't see Johnson's face holding that toy like we did. And in seeing it, we knew it was irrefutable proof that the man belongs in the geek tribe.
Laughing at his earned inclusion, Johnson then talked about another huge moment in this whole Star Wars experience: getting to consult on the new Star Tours ride upgrade that will include The Last Jedi in its canon.
"We moved to Orange County when I was going into junior high and my family got Disneyland passes," Johnson shared. "I remember the opening of the original Star Tours and standing in line for eight hours to get into it.
"So when they were developing, the newest version of the ride, I was like, 'Oh what if such-and-such did this?' And you know those guys are so good at what they do. It was so much fun for me and nuts that I got to go and test-ride the new thing," he continued, enthused all over again. "I also then got to watch it from the outside and see the simulator actually working. It was really wild. Any visit to the Imagineers to see what they actually do is astounding."
With an entire new trilogy under his direction to come, Rian will hopefully just pace himself ... and make a lot of shelf space for the tsunami of new Star Wars universe collectibles based on his creations to come.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens on December 15.