Kathleen Kennedy on the Big Decisions Behind The Rise of Skywalker

While writer/directors J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson are hugely responsible for what we’ve seen and experienced in the new Star Wars trilogy, nobody has had a bigger impact than Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Kennedy has been the prime mover behind-the-scenes of Star Wars since she became the co-chair of Lucasfilm alongside Star Wars creator George Lucas. When Lucas sold his company to Disney, Kennedy became the president of Lucasfilm. Everything that has happened in the Star Wars universe since Abrams’ The Force Awakens in 2015 has been under Kennedy’s direct supervision.

With Abrams returning to the fold to co-write and direct The Rise of Skywalker, the 9th and final film in the Skywalker Saga, nobody knows more about the film and the approach to the story, the marketing, everything about it, really, than she does. iO9’s Germain Lussier got a chance to speak to both Kennedy and The Rise of Skywalker producer Michelle Rejwan about the film, and it’s really a must-read for you Star Wars fans. We’ve highlighted some of our favorite parts from the interview below:

On why seemingly big reveals, like Emperor Palpatine’s return and “Dark Rey“, were shown in the trailers:

Kennedy: We’re not trying to be coy and unnecessarily clever. And we had a lot of conversation about that. We certainly tease Palpatine, but we arrived at a decision pretty early on, right around Celebration, that we were like, “Wait a minute. The fans are going to want that. We need to be somewhat more open than we would normally be because there isn’t something to hide here. There’s actually something to tantalize everybody with. To let speculation be a part of the conversation.” And that’s always been such a great thing about Star Wars, is that the fans get so engaged in that. And we felt that with this story that should be allowed to happen.

On the difficulty of finding the right title:

Kennedy: I think every Star Wars title is very important. And so we spend a lot of time thinking about it. It was interesting. We came to the title pretty late on this movie because I think all of us were so immersed in creating the story. And I’m a big believer, I think the author should fundamentally drive the title and Chris [Terrio] and J.J. [Abrams] writing the script, it was important to let them really spend time with understanding what this was and all the nuances of what the mysteries were that were being revealed. So I think you’ll find when you see the movie, it was a very apt title.

On the different interpretations of the Force, especially with Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi showing that now-famous shot of “Broom Boy” apparently using the force.

Kennedy: What the Force means lying ahead, I think is Star Wars. It certainly is a part of what Episode IX is. But the Force is a huge part of the conversation about where we’re going and what is the future of Star Wars. And once we move on from Episode IX and we start telling new stories, the force is the foundation of Star Wars.

Rejwan: And its mystery and continued discovery is part of what makes it so special.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20, 2019.

For more on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, well, we’ve got a lot. These 8 new photos include the mysterious Knights of Ren. Check out Rey rocking the double-edged lightsaber, glimpse these four new photos (including the flying Stormtrooper), watch this clip of Leia holding a lightsaber (and more), or this clip of flying Stormtroopers, read about Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and writer/director J.J. Abrams meeting with George Lucas, watch the Knights of Ren and a Sith Trooper in action, behold the new character posters, read this helpful Star Wars timeline, watch the latest TV spot, read our breakdown of the final trailer, watch the final trailer itself, read our break down of a bunch of new images, and a have look at Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)’s complicated relationship.

Featured image: Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. Courtesy Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Studios.


Bryan Abrams

Bryan Abrams is the Editor-in-chief of The Credits. He's run the site since its launch in 2012. He lives in New York.