If you keep up with Rian Johnson on Twitter, you probably know that the Star Wars: The Last Jedi director has the same deep memory of George Lucas’ groundbreaking original film trilogy as the most ardent of old-school Star Wars fans.
Now we’re learning how Johnson’s affection for Episodes IV-VI actually found its way onto the screen in The Last Jedi. In a recent Twitter back-and forth with entertainment journalist Scott Collura, Johnson revealed that one of The Last Jedi’s most arresting moments — when Rose saves Finn from martyring himself against Kylo Ren’s forces outside the Resistance base on Crait — has a soul that’s rooted all the way back in Irving Kershner’s The Empire Strikes Back.
Collura made the connection between Empire and Johnson’s 2017 film, after discovering Kershner’s thoughts on what would drive the Rebellion to take up arms when he was directing Empire back in the late 1970s. Tweeting out a passage from a long out-of-print book called Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Collura's tweet caught Johnson’s eye — and what’s super cool is Johnson’s response.
Johnson replied that, yes, he'd seen that very book — in fact, he owns it! A friend, he said, had given him a copy while he was filming The Last Jedi.
In a thread that eventually roped in Mark Hamill, too, Johnson called Empire’s making-of journal “a strangely plain & intimate view of the production with lots of very unguarded interviews” — the kind of candid, behind-the-scenes take that fans of the current film cycle no doubt would love to see today.
Even if studios have tightened their grip over the past three decades on granting access to the inner workings of their sacred, money-printing movie franchises, it’s cool to know that Johnson’s heart is pretty much in the same place as the most die-hard Star Wars fan. Reading through the whole thread, you kind of get the feeling that the people who were around for the first Star Wars trilogy knew they had a culture-defining moment on their hands.
Or, as Hamill put it: