When Rian Johnson's Episode VIII: The Last Jedi hit theaters in 2017, it quickly became the most divisive Star Wars movie in the galaxy far, far away.
A large portion of the fanbase claimed that it was one of the best installments to the franchise, while another group felt that it disrespected everything that had come before it. Johnson recently reflected on his Star Wars film, saying that he is "even more proud" of it now than he was when it was first released.
One of the main criticisms of The Last Jedi is how Johnson elected to handle Luke Skywalker, arguably the most recognizable character from the franchise, and someone who had been a major on-screen focus since the birth of the saga in 1977. Many viewers didn't think that the character would ever turn his back on the Rebellion or the Jedi, and when approached with a problem, literally throw his old lightsaber over his shoulder.
Included in this group of critics was Mark Hamill, the actor known for bringing Luke to life. It was revealed in the past that Hamill approached Johnson multiple times and expressed his disappointment with how his character was being handled. Recently, Johnson again reflected on his experience making The Last Jedi, specifically his time and relationship with Hamill during production.
Rian Johnson on His Disagreements With Mark Hamill
In the latest issue of Empire Magazine, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson reflected on his time on-set with Mark Hamill and how the two disagreed with the direction Johnson was taking Luke Skywalker.
Johnson's version of Skywalker differed from how he was written in the original trilogy. The director stated in 2019 via Twitter that he didn't want Luke to be seen "as a video-game character who has achieved a binary, permanent power-up," and instead presented him as a broken man that was not associated with the Force or the Jedi any longer.
Hamill actively expressed his problems with these choices and even said he "fundamentally disagree(d)" with all of Johnson's decisions. The director, now reflecting on the experience, said that he could "never fathom" what it was like for Hamill to come back and play the character again after so many years and that he has to be careful not to "frame Mark's experience of this through (his) own lens:"
"I mean... It was also ultimately... To the point where I... I’m choosing my words carefully, not to be diplomatic, but I don’t want to frame Mark’s experience of this through my lens because there’s no possible way I can ever put myself in the shoes of Mark, or Carrie [Fisher], having lived their entire lives being known as these characters. And what it’s like to play them first in their twenties, and then to come back and play them in these movies and have a script handed to you saying, ‘Well, it’s this now’... I can never fathom what that experience is like. It’s impossible."
Johnson then went on to express his respect for Hamill, saying that "if Mark Hamill is talking to (him) about Luke Skywalker, (he) is gonna listen" despite any "arguments" and other conversations that took place about the character's unexpected arc. The director admitted that such discourse was "f---ing terrifying" due to how complicated this character choice was:
If Mark Hamill is talking to me about Luke Skywalker, I’m gonna listen to him, and I gotta think about that and argue with him and go back and forth. And genuinely plumb the depths of my soul and what I wrote and figure out if this seems right. Also, though, remembering that, obviously, he created the character on screen, but he’s Mark Hamill, he’s not literally Luke Skywalker. Luke Skywalker lives as a creation on that screen. He’s a myth. And as such, he only really lives in the minds of people who listen to and in various ways believe that myth. And I know that was me. So, it’s complicated. But I mean, the short answer to your question is, it was f-----g terrifying."
Ultimately, Johnson and Hamill saw eye-to-eye, and even if Hamill still didn't agree with Johnson's direction, he committed himself to the director and to the film and ultimately "do the best version of that [he] possibly can:"
"For all the back and forth, on day one of shooting, Mark said, 'Okay, this is the vision that you’re going for, and I’m going to do the best version of that I possibly can.'"
The Last Jedi's Final Product
Rian Johnson was met with criticism from the beginning of his journey as a director in Star Wars, but he didn't let it influence the outcome in any way, even if he had someone with as large an influence as Mark Hamill disagreeing with him.
Even though there were some disagreements between Hamill and Johnson regarding the character of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi, it didn't affect the film in any way. Hamill was ultimately committed to Johnson's vision and gave a performance that many fans claim is the best of his career as Luke.
As far as Johnson's future goes with Star Wars, he is ready to come back. It was revealed at one point that he was going to be given an entire trilogy at some point in the near future, but no official developments have been released to the public. Johnson recently stated that he is still up for the challenge, and that "it would break (his) heart" if he wasn't able to come back to the franchise in some capacity.
Star Wars - Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is available to stream on Disney+.