Details About Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro’s Characters Among Bounteous ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’ Revelations

Vanity Fair has done a massive cover story on the upcoming Star Wars film helmed by Rian Johnson (who also, as a rarity for such an immense-budgeted franchise film, is credited as its sole writer). The piece is a sweeping look into the making of the The Last Jedi — and as limitedly sweeping a preview of it as any 6-months-in-advance preview of a super-withholding, (f)anticipation-stirring blockbuster can be. If you’re already getting excited about film, you should definitely read the piece, and revel in its images by Annie Leibovitz. But if you’re feeling lazy and/or your thirst for new Star Wars factoids has slowly waned with the overwhelming downpour of informational breadcrumbs about all the sequels/spinoffs over the past few years — since Disney brought Star Wars back to cultural centrality — here’s a handy gathering of some of the article’s biggest revelations.

— One of the most exciting aspects of the article:

Why yes, that IS Laura Dern, as her character who was notably absent from the first trailer for the film. It’d been known that Dern would be in the Force Awakens follow-up, The Last Jedi, but the role she’d be playing was kept under wraps until today. Described as an invention of Johnson’s, her character, named Vice Admiral Holdo, is “a prominent officer in the Resistance.”

— Another new character — played by Benicio del Toro — was also revealed. He’s described as a “‘shady character’ of unclear allegiances.” He’s so shady, in fact, that his character goes unnamed in the film, though those working on the project refer to him as “DJ” — a nickname that Johnson says we’ll soon understand. (I’m hoping there’ll be a scene of him spinning at a space bat mitzvah — a deeply underrepresented ceremony in the space opera genre.)

— The morale among key characters, as you’ll remember from the end of The Force Awakens, isn’t exactly high, and it seems like Johnson will keep throwing them into more and more perilous and uncertain situations (no mention of that bat mitzvah, though.) “I guess I saw it as the job of this middle chapter to challenge all of those characters—let’s see what happens if we knock the stool out from under them,” says Johnson. And John Boyega, who plays Finn, confirmed that at the beginning of the film you’ll see his character healing from the last movie’s wounds in an immersion tank that fixes damaged tissue. Meanwhile, Adam Driver — whose character Kylo Ren just brought the legacy of Star Wars daddy issues to new heights by, erm, killing his daddy — said “I feel like almost everyone is in that rehabilitation state. You know, I don’t think that patricide is all that it’s cracked up to be. Maybe that’s where Kylo Ren is starting from.”

— As expected from the last scene in The Force Awakens, the film will largely center around Luke Skywalker’s relationship to Rey (Daisy Ridley). Luke, Johnson says, indeed, has spent many years searching for a Jedi temple, and has been living in a Jedi village with a non-Ewok “indigenous race of caretaker creatures.”

— Finn (Boyega) will find a new companion in Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a resistance member, and together they’ll venture to Canto Bight, a casino city, which Johnson describes as “ultra glamour…a playground, basically, for rich assholes.”

— Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) features more heavily in Episode VIII than The Force Awakens, and Oscar Isaac describes a scene where she got to slap his character, Poe Dameron — and how they did 27 takes of said slap. “She loved hitting me,” he fondly recalls. Boyega, Ridley and Johnson also pay homage to her talent, warmth, bluntness, and influence in the piece, with the director discussing how he spent a lot of time hanging at her house while he was doing rewrites of the screenplay. Kathleen Kennedy, the president of LucasFilm, says that Han Solo was the central original character in The Force Awakens, while Luke Skywalker is that of The Last Jedi; bittersweetly, she notes that the ninth film would’ve been Leia’s movie.

The Last Jedi is out December 15, 2017. Re-watch the teaser trailer for the film: