Is it uniquely satisfying to play a villain in a “Star Wars” movie, where you get to be especially villainous?
DOMHNALL GLEESON It was a delightful surprise, having people come up to me after “The Force Awakens” and say, “You were so bad in that movie.” It meant a lot to me. [Laughter]
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE It’s always exciting to be bad, isn’t it? It’s even more exciting to be bad as your job. And in a context where it doesn’t impact human lives. It’s particularly resonant at the moment, the idea of, what is a better use of human energy: to serve the group or to serve the individual?
Andy, you play Supreme Leader Snoke, one of your many motion-capture characters, so there’s a whole other layer to your performance.
ANDY SERKIS There’s a gold lamé layer. The Supreme Leader as Hugh Hefner, that’s something that I particularly grabbed onto. The luxuriousness of it all. The thing about Snoke is, leaders are fearful people, because when you’re in a position of maximum power, you can only lose power. And that fear drives nearly all decisions. That fear then makes you aggressive. It makes you want to destroy others. It makes you unable to see or care about others. But when you’re creating a villain character, it’s about humanizing — there’s something important in the task of creating Snoke to find his vulnerability, because that makes him even more dangerous and despicable.
Adam, I wouldn’t say that Kylo Ren is strictly an evil person, even though we’ve seen him do terrible things. Where does he come from for you?
DRIVER The best way I can describe it is, it’s like a conversation that we started with J. J. and it continues through this film. It was less interesting to think of him as pure evil, because I don’t really know what that is. He’s someone who thinks he’s right, more than he thinks what he’s doing is bad. When I meet people who are unable to hear the other side, who not only think they’re right but they’re justified, then there’s no end to what they would do to make sure that their side wins. To me, that’s more dangerous, because the boundaries are limitless. As opposed to just being evil, that seems like it can’t sustain itself. When you feel morally justified, that feels more long-lasting and more unpredictable.
He has a lot of emotional conflict but you seem pretty even-keeled. Am I reading you correctly?
DRIVER No. [Laughter] I’m a rational person. And then I killed my father. [Laughter]
This is the first “Star Wars” movie for Kelly Marie Tran and Laura Dern. What is it like to be initiated into this franchise?
KELLY MARIE TRAN It is both horrifying and amazing. Obviously, I was intimidated, but I never felt intimidated, personally, in Regina George fashion. Every single person sitting here was honest and open. I was allowed to go to set when I wasn’t working and watch them perform. I felt like I was in this epic acting school that I didn’t have to pay for. Someone just gave me the key.
DERN I have to discredit you, Daisy, with your comments about yourself [not being great with new people]. When my daughter came to set, she said, “Oh my God, Mom, do you think we get to see Rey?” I was like, “Oh, we don’t want to bother people.” And then your trailer door opened, and you went, [singing to the “Jurassic Park” theme] “Laura Der-rrrr-rrn, Laura Der-rrrr-rrn.” [Laughter] My daughter was like, “She’s the most welcoming person.”
HAMILL Another royalty for John Williams.
How do you make a movie that finds time to provide moments for every one of these actors?
JOHNSON That’s part of the reason that this movie is a little longer than all the others.
ISAAC He made sure everyone gets to cry.
JOHNSON “Star Wars” is on the public stage in a way that nothing else is. But even on a big scary thing like this, every single one of these people was excited to step outside their comfort zones, to go to places that were really interesting but not necessarily easy.
HAMILL Like the top of Skellig Michael [the Irish island whose steep, precarious mountains are used as the setting for Ahch-To].
JOHNSON I offered to carry you on my back, Yoda-style, but you didn’t trust my legs.
HAMILL Really, when I read VII, I said, “Oh, they’ll do it with green screens and J. J. will be up the road — I’ll be done by lunch.” Little did I know, I’ll suffer for your art, kid.
JOHNSON In the edit room, you get to a point where you realize, ah, we could make the movie shorter but we’d have to give somebody short shrift, and we’re not going to do that because every one of these guys has an amazing journey in the movie.
Is there a character, other than your own, that you wish you’d gotten to play in this film?
ISAAC What Adam does in this movie is insane. It’s incredible. [Mr. Driver begins looking around awkwardly, as if searching for a way to escape the room.] It’s so wild and unpredictable and very magnetic. It made me very jealous.
BOYEGA I have to second that. I was blown away by the conflict and the change in the character arc. And the fights.
ISAAC Oh, the fights. The beautiful fights.
BOYEGA It reminds me, as a guy, of the transition from a boy to a man, learning how to maintain a certain type of energy that you have and choosing the way you let it free. That’s what he struggles with.
Who here got to meet the porgs?
RIDLEY I got to meet the porgs, but also, I’ve gotten about 300 questions about the porgs. What’s the big deal about porgs? They wouldn’t even be able to fly. Their body-to-wing ratio is like a chicken. They can’t!
DERN The more I went on about how adorable they are — it was like looking into the eyes of E. T., I loved those eyes so much — Oscar only continued to talk about different recipes.
ISAAC Porgs with roasted turnips. Glazed porg.
What would you like to see happen to your characters in Episode IX? Do you want to have that much influence over them?
ISAAC Sorry, I was still talking about porg recipes.
JOHNSON It depends on who survives at this point.
GLEESON I only have a small part to play in all this, but if I had decided what I was going to do, from the last one to the next one, it wouldn’t have been nearly as surprising as what Rian came up with it.
ISAAC It’s amazing to think about giving up that feeling of control. You have to just be open and see what’s next.