It seems that director JJ Abrams knew Rey had to be descended from someone important in Star Wars, he just didn’t know who. Star Daisy Ridley revealed that Rey’s parentage kept changing through all three films in the Skywalker trilogy — and it wasn’t until Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was already being made that they finally settled on the “truth.”
In an interview with Josh Gad for Jimmy Kimmel Live, Ridley shared that she didn’t know Rey was Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter until she was filming The Rise of Skywalker, the final film in the latest Star Wars trilogy. She said Abrams was deliberating “different versions” of Rey’s parentage early on, including some centered around “an Obi-Wan connection.” After director Rian Johnson entered the picture for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it was decided that Rey would be “no one” (confirming that the scene between Rey and Kylo Ren wasn’t intended as a fake out). Then, Abrams came back — and this happened.
“It came to Episode IX, and JJ pitched me the film and was like, ‘Oh yeah, Palpatine’s granddaddy,’ and I was like, ‘Awesome.’ And then two weeks later, he was like, ‘Oh I’m not sure.’ So it kept changing,” Ridley said. “Even [inaudible] filming, I wasn’t sure what the answer was going to be.”
— Jimmy Kimmel Live (@JimmyKimmelLive) September 9, 2020
In a previous interview, before the release of The Last Jedi, Ridley said Abrams had already told her the secret about Rey’s parentage. I’m guessing that’s the Obi-Wan thing. Rey having a connection to Obi-Wan Kenobi was one of the earliest rumours that circulated in Star Wars fandom around the sequel trilogy, so it’s no surprise that it was an early contender for Rey’s secret parentage. Frankly, given Star Wars’ love of generational storytelling, it’s surprising that it’s not what they ended up going with, since it would’ve made a lot more sense to most than “Palpatine Fucks.”
However, Johnson didn’t have to follow Abram’s head canon and was given free rein to pursue his own version of the story, which supposedly ended up being that Rey was “no one.” I’ve got to be honest: That was the better option. It made sense for the character and story to show how true greatness can come from small beginnings. The moral of The Last Jedi was that your lineage doesn’t define you…and anybody can be a hero. Way better if you’re wanting to inspire a generation of kids to believe they can do anything, even be a Jedi. Unfortunately, it seems fanfiction won out over common sense, and we got the whole Palpatine thing.