The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is much more than a bunch of pretty pictures. Buried in Phil Szostak’s 256-page book are some fascinating insights into the production of the film. And while we highly recommend you flip through yourself, we picked out our favourites.
1) One of the earliest pieces of art for The Last Jedi was actually supposed to be in The Force Awakens. Designer Doug Chiang painted an image of Luke’s X-wing underwater in February 2013, but it got cut from that movie, and was used in TLJ instead.
All Images: Lucasfilm
2) A storyboarded version of the opening shot would have panned down from the crawl to reveal what at first looks like a huge planet, but was actually going to be the top of the tank Finn is recovering in.
3) The opening battle scene of the film wasn’t always directly after The Force Awakens above D’Qar. But choosing the location informed the design of the First Order’s Dreadnaught. The top was always flat, to allow for Poe’s heroics, but guns were added on its bottom, in order to fire at the planet below.
4) The Resistance bombers were a very early idea and a nod to how George Lucas was influenced by the planes of World War II. Also, while you may not be able to see it in the movie, some of the bombs have messages on them like “Hi Snoke” and “Han Says Hi.”
5) An early draft of The Last Jedi had Finn as the pilot of the bomber with Paige Tico, until writer-director Rian Johnson struck it down. “If Finn witnessed Paige’s death and didn’t know she was Rose’s sister that meant there would have to be a big scene after he found out,” Johnson says in the book. “If he did know Paige was Rose’s sister, there would either have to be a big ‘I saw your sister die’ scene, which I didn’t want to write and the movie would have come to a full stop to do, or he would be an arsehole because he would never tell her. So ultimately it felt really right as a set-up but I realised there was no wood to burn in terms of a pay-off.”
6) There was a piece of concept art that would have had Rey abandon the Millennium Falcon in the waters of Ahch-To because she couldn’t find a place to land.
7) For Rey’s costume change after Han’s death, an early design had her directly influenced by the smuggler, with a short blue jacket and brown pants with red marks down the side.
8) The character of Rose came about because Johnson originally had Poe travelling with Finn to Canto Bight, “and it was so boring,” he says. “It was just these two dudes on an adventure… I realised I had to come up with something else. Finn needing somebody else to go with who would actually challenge him and push him and contrast with him was where Rose came from.”
9) The codebreaker storyline on Canto Bight was also much more complex in early drafts and designs. Originally, Finn and Rose were going to find him playing keyboards accompany a lounge singer. He was there “casing an insectoid warlord known as the Butcher of Brix” from whom he planned to steal “the blood jewels that finance his murderous regime.” The three would go on a journey to find a backpack with thieving tools, only to get caught on the roof and Finn and Rose put into prison.
10) Late in the design process, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said that the design of Canto Bight didn’t feel “Star Wars” enough to her. So the team scrapped everything and ultimately drew inspiration from early Ralph McQuarrie drawing’s of Jabba’s Palace.
11) The whole Canto Bight scene originally started with Rose and Finn breaking into a clothing shop to put on fancy clothes to blend in. However, Finn would have put his tuxedo on backwards, and everyone was going to laugh at him.
12) There was a bathhouse sequence on Canto Bight that was designed and shot but not used in the movie. It’s not entirely clear how it would have played into the film, or why it was cut, but it seems like it may have been another elaborate, lavish location for the fathiers to smash through. It was a steamy place complete with aliens in all manner of dress, lounging around and sweating.
13) Before DJ was in the movie, Finn, Rose, and BB-8’s arrival on Snoke’s ship started with several different gags. One was them following a trail of lint into a laundry room. Another was an homage to Han and Chewie running into a mass of Stormtroopers on the Death Star, except this time, all the suits would be empty.
14) At one point, there was a line in the movie where Snoke mentioned his gold slippers.
15) The three flashbacks in the film, which are an homage to Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa, were one of the final things to go into the script before shooting. Johnson saw them as a way to give Rey more emotional impact when leaving Ahch-To, by having Luke initially lie about what happened between him and Ben Solo.
16) The Art of lists the various dates of the movie’s production, allowing us to put together a fascinating timeline of how it got made — and how early work began on it;
- January 9, 2013 – The first visual meeting about new Star Wars movies
- May 16, 2014 – The Force Awakens begins filming
- May 27, 2014 – Rogue One director Gareth Edwards’ first day at Lucasfilm
- July 2, 2014 – Rian Johnson’s first day at Lucasfilm
- August 2014 – The basic story for The Last Jedi is in place
- November 12, 2014 – A production office for The Last Jedi opens in Burbank, CA
- March 4, 2015 – The first draft of The Last Jedi is completed.
- April 20, 2015 – Rian Johnson and his team present the film and early work to Disney executives.
- July 29, 2015 – The second draft of The Last Jedi is submitted.
- August 3, 2015 – Rogue One starts filming.
- September 15-17, 2015 – Johnson and his crew capture the first footage for The Last Jedi on Skellig Michael in Ireland. This “preshoot” was to get outdoor shots before the weather changed.
- December 11, 2015 – A third draft of The Last Jedi is complete.
- December 18, 2015 – The Force Awakens opens in theatres.
- February 1, 2016 – The first draft of the shooting script for The Last Jedi is completed.
- February 11, 2016 – The Last Jedi begins principal photography.
- July 29, 2016 – The Last Jedi finishes filming.
Honestly, we can’t recommend this book enough.