John Williams is a giant in the history of Star Wars. Every film in the Skywalker Saga, beginning with the franchise's debut in 1977, has been graced with his soaring themes, and it's impossible to know what the films would feel like had another composer taken on the job. Williams and his music are as essential to Star Wars as Droids and Wookiees, but until last year he'd never appeared in one of the films as an actor.
For The Rise of Skywalker, the final film in the main saga, director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy decided to change that, and talked Williams into making a brief cameo appearance in the same underworld hangout where Babu Frik attempts to hack into C-3PO's memory. In the final film, Williams is just in one shot, but if you know what it he looks like it's a thrilling moment for fans, and it turns out that if you look closely that shot is packed with much more than just one legendary composer.
In The Skywalker Legacy, the documentary that comes with The Rise of Skywalker's home release, Abrams and his crew describe how they decided Williams' brief moment in the film should be packed with nods to his storied career as a movie composer. To make that happen, the crew designed and built 51 different props designed to look like various bits of Droid shop junk, each of which was a tribute to one of Williams' 51 Academy Award nominations as a composer.
"We thought it would be fun to do something as a kind of celebration of what he's done and who he is," Abrams said.
Perhaps best of all, Williams — who was reluctant to do the cameo until his wife told him it was "more important than doing the score" — was not aware of this quirk of the production design until the day he arrived on set to film his cameo. Only then, when he was tucked behind his little bar station, did Abrams reveal that he was surrounded by props symbolizing everything from the Omaha Beach barricades in Saving Private Ryan to the spaceship from E.T. to the iron from Home Alone. If you look closely in the final film you'll be able to spot some of them, but the documentary is well worth checking out at home just to see a few minutes of Abrams completely nerding out over the props.
Since The Rise of Skywalker was released, Williams has received his 52nd Oscar nomination for working on the film's score. He remains the second most-nominated individual of all time, behind only Walt Disney, and the most-nominated person alive. Six of his nominations, and one of his five Oscar wins, were for Star Wars films.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is available digitally now and arrives on Blu-ray and DVD March 31.