The cast of Star Wars: The Last Jedi took the stage for a press conference in Los Angeles this morning, using the opportunity to pay tribute to Carrie Fisher, who passed away last year after finishing filming on this movie.
“I watched TV and film obsessively from such a young age, but [she] stayed with me throughout my formative years,” said Gwendoline Christie, who plays Captain Phasma in the new Star Wars movies (not to mention Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones).
“She’s really interesting, she’s really smart, she’s really funny, she’s courageous, she’s bold, she doesn’t care what people think, and she isn’t prepared to be told what to do,” Christie continued. “And she doesn’t look the same as a sort of homogenized presentation of a woman that we had been used to seeing. So what was really instrumental to me, as someone who didn’t feel like they fit in that homogenized view of what a woman was supposed to be, that there was inspiration there–that you could be an individual and celebrate yourself and be successful without giving yourself over, without necessarily making some sort of terrible, huge compromise.”
Laura Dern, who plays Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, said FIsher was “without shame.”
“And that’s what moved me the most about the icon she gave us, but also what she gave us individually and personally, which is to carry who she was so directly, and to be without shame and to share her story and to expect nothing less from any of us,” Dern said. “And the privilege of watching how [The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson] has so beautifully captured all of that, and her grace, in this amazing, beautiful, pure performance.”
Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose Tico–another character new to The Last Jedi–said Fisher was a personal inspiration. “Something about Carrie that I really look up to is something I didn’t realize until recently–just how much courage it takes to truly be yourself when you’re on a public platform,” Tran said. “She was so unapologetic, and so openly herself, and that is something that I am really trying to do, and it’s hard. And just like Daisy said, and Laura said, and Gwendoline said, I think that she will always be an icon as Leia, but also as Carrie. What an example, and I am so fortunate to have met her, and I think that she will really live on forever.”
Daisy Ridley, who returns as the mysterious Force-wielding Rey, paid a compliment to Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd, who recently played Winter on American Horror Story Cult. “Carrie’s daughter Billie is, I think, all of those qualities,” she said.
Ridley discussed the impact of having so many female characters in the new generation of Star Wars films.
“As a girl growing up in London, obviously I knew there was a disparity in films, but I wasn’t so aware of it. Growing up in a liberal household, I was never made to feel any one way,” Ridley said. “So when I got involved, I knew it was a big deal, but the response was so beyond anything I could have imagined, that it was only afterward that I was like ‘Oh–oh yeah!'”
Dern said she’s excited to play a strong female character who owns her feminine side. “I just want to pay tribute to Rian for being one of the most brilliantly subversive filmmakers I’ve ever been able to bear witness to,” she said. “In the case of the look of my character, I was moved by the fact that he really wanted her strength to first lead with a very deep femininity. And to see a powerful female character also be feminine is something that moves away from the stereotype that’s sometimes perceived in that strong female characters must be ‘like the boys.'”
On the other hand, Christie was “delighted” that The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi feature female characters, like Captain Phasma, who don’t adhere to stereotypical feminine ideals.
“I wasn’t cast in [The Force Awakens] yet when I heard about the casting, and I was utterly delighted to see that there was a more representative selection of actors that were going to be in this incredible Star Wars film,” she said. “You get to see women that are not being strong just because they’re acting like men. They’re doing something else…I’m delighted that something as legendary as Star Wars has decided to be modern and to reflect our society more as it is.”
“I was very excited when I was shown just the basic elements of the [Phasma] costume,” she said. “I knew we were seeing a character whereby her femininity was not delineated in terms of the shape of her body, in terms of her physical attractiveness–that weird, random group of elements we’re born with in some kind of odd lottery and then we’re judged on in society.”
Tran added that “the girls in this movie kick some butt.”
“Every single one is so good!” she exclaimed.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters December 15.