Cover Story: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

That part of Luke’s legend, Johnson confirmed, is accurate. The site of Rey’s Force Awakens encounter with Luke is Ahch-To, the temple’s home planet, which bears a striking resemblance to southwestern coastal Ireland. Though their time on Skellig Michael was brief, the Last Jedi crew returned to the area for additional shooting on the Dingle Peninsula, a ragged spear of land that juts out into the North Atlantic. There, Johnson said, the set builders “duplicated the beehive-shaped huts where the monks lived on Skellig and made a kind of little Jedi village out of them.” Luke, it transpires, has been living in this village among an indigenous race of caretaker creatures whom Johnson is loath to describe in any more detail, except to say that they are “not Ewoks.”

That Luke is so changed a person presented Johnson with rich narrative opportunities. The Last Jedi is to a large extent about the relationship between Luke and Rey, but Johnson cautions against any “one-to-one correlation” between, say, Yoda’s tutelage of young Luke in The Empire Strikes Back and old Luke’s tutelage of Rey. “There’s a training element to it,” he said, “but it’s not exactly what you would expect.” This being the spoiler-averse world of Lucasfilm, the production company behind the Star Wars movies, that’s about as specific as the director is willing to get. (No, he won’t tell you if Luke is related to Rey, or, for that matter, what species the super-villain Supreme Leader Snoke happens to be, or which character the title The Last Jedi refers to.)

But Johnson was happy to talk about Hamill’s performance, which, he said, “shows a very different side of the Luke character.” In the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke was the de facto straight man, playing off Ford’s rascally Han and Fisher’s tart, poised Leia, not to mention the droid comedy tandem of C-3PO and R2-D2. Hamill? He was cast for his sincere mien and Bicentennial-era dreamboat looks—part Peter Cetera, part Osmond brother. He still catches grief, he noted, for one particularly clunky line reading in the first movie, when Luke responds to his Uncle Owen’s order to polish up their newly purchased droids by complaining, “But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!” Though his approach to the line was, he swears, deliberate—“I distinctly remember thinking, I’ve got to make this as whiny and juvenile as I can,” he said—Hamill admitted that his greenness as an actor left him with “somewhere to go later, where I wouldn’t make those kinds of choices.”