Last Jedi Director Rian Johnson Explains Leia’s Unexpected Evolution

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If you have yet to see The Last Jedi and you feel like a spoiler or two has compromised the experience, here’s a non-spoiler for you: the movie has hundreds of surprises, so you’d really have to go out of your way to put a dent in all the tricks writer-director Rian Johnson has up his sleeve. That said, if you’re afraid to spoil a key scene (that arrives early in the film), read no further.

If you’re still reading, I can safely reveal that the scene in question involves an explosion that kills much of Leia’s crew, leaving her floating—seemingly on the brink of death—in space. Right when it seems there’s no way out of this crisis, she suddenly demonstrates a very special skill: the Force.

According to Johnson, this idea originated with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, a devoted Leia fan, who was anxious to see the character evolve. “She kept asking, ‘Leia’s a Skywalker, Luke gave her this speech in Jedi and told her basically, ‘You have this potential, too,’” Johnson explained during a Q&A on Friday. “It seemed to me it would be a really emotionally impactful thing to see her use it.”

While some have complained that this sudden evolution came out of nowhere, Johnson has a viable explanation. “I liked the idea it would be an instinctual thing,” he said. “This would be more like stories you hear about parents of toddlers who get caught under cars and they get Hulk strength and lift the car up. It would be something in these final moments to show that she’s not done with the fight. And like a drowning person pulling herself back, that’s how it manifests itself for the first time in her.”

To see Leia’s powers in action, check out The Last Jedi, which is in theatres now. You can read our review here and watch the trailer below.