Thank you to Disney and Lucasfilm for hosting me during the #TheLastJediEvent.
With a career over four decades long, it’s practically impossible to have not seen something with Lauren Dern in the cast. Following up her award-nominated turn in HBO’s Big Little Lies, you can catch her soon as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. A friend mentioned Big Little Lies as we were finishing up the interview. Dern replied, “Isn’t it amazing that The Last Jedi and Big Little Lies have the same number of female leads?” I have a feeling that a whole new generation of little girls are going to find new heroes in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
What can she tell us about her character?
I have purple hair. There’s a new boss in town. I have arrived in the Resistance and I am a Vice Admiral. And that’s pretty much all I can tell you. I can tell you how amazing it was to be inside Rian’s head… It was incredible to have the privilege of collaborating on who she is and how to present a powerful woman. And the longing, which I really appreciated, of Rian and Kathy Kennedy and all of our Producers to allow a powerful female character to also [have] her physicality to be feminine, as opposed, to “Oh, she’s a strong female. Let’s put her in the guys’ clothes.” And I thought that was wonderful and I feel excited to join this amazing legacy of strong females in space, starting with our magnificent icon of Princess Leia. So that was a great pleasure.
How did she become involved with the project?
Rian called asking to have lunch and talk about something. I knew Looper, and I was told he was an amazing independent filmmaker and he’s really excited about something that he wants to talk to you about. And then Kathy Kennedy simultaneously called me just to check in and say “Hey, how are you?” And we went to lunch and he started describing something he was looking for in a character and would love for me to help invent this with him. And it all sounded great and it wasn’t until sort of the end of the lunch, I was like [WHISPERS] “Is this Star Wars?” Oh my God, it’s amazing having been a huge fan as a child. I was sort of listening to this amazing story and that’s what’s incredible about Star Wars. He started describing a world that was about the complexity of being a human being and the battle between light and dark and not knowing which would win, and the struggle of family and the hero’s journey. And you feel it all and you realize that it is what filmmakers that I’ve worked with in independent film have longed to explore. He described this complicated female character in such a beautiful way. [It] also spoke to something that rebel filmmakers have asked of their collaborators, and in my case, as an actor, of me. And then to realize, My God, that’s what George Lucas invented. And that’s why I think this stands the test of time in such a profound way. It’s not a franchise. It’s a legacy of the deepest storytelling we have. And there isn’t a child or an adult that doesn’t connect to that question, and that it isn’t good guy vs. bad guy. All of it is contained and being wrestled within many characters, but within one’s self, and particularly this film, you feel it in every storyline and every character in a really profound and beautiful way.
Does she have childhood memories of going to see movies that changed her?
Well yes, and I’m spoiled in my answer. I saw the first Star Wars, I was probably 6 or I don’t remember exactly, as a little girl and I stood in line. It was the first time I stood in line for a movie at the Cinerama Dome and it was blocks long. And it was profound for me. And the genre seemingly would not have been something I was interested in but the spoiled part is I have been raised by actors. I’ve been introduced into a world where movie is magical and my parents are such fans. My mother and my father, they’re rebels and they love hard core independent film… My dad, I think, a few years before [Star Wars], had done a Douglas Trumbull film called Silent Running, and I’m told it was a great influence on George Lucas in that it was my dad alone in space with three droids named Huey, Dewey, and Louie. And I became obsessed with these droids. Those droids, I’m told, were a great influence toward R2-D2. I had a figurine of this droid and remember that idea of being is space with these characters, who are your partners. And then suddenly Star Wars opened up this kind of storytelling in this massive way so it felt personal, as Star Wars does to all of us.
What will all of the strong female characters in The Last Jedi mean to little girls?
Well it’s just incredible. That’s so exciting. I know what Leia was for me, as I know she was for all of you. And it was again, not just her strength in some super heroic way, but in the deeply human way that she, Carrie, so incredibly embodied. This fearless, irreverent, sassy, bold, vulnerable female. All things to be. True and powerful and kick butt and all of those things were in one character. We know how rarely we see that. So that meant the world to me, and now my daughter and all her friends have this in Rey, and soon other female characters in this movie and it’s really exciting to see what the different females do.
How did she prepare for the role as a fan of the Star Wars franchise?
I think, speaking to all of the actors, it’s incredible that we have this true shared experience of needing to have the moment, the fan freak out moment to let it all then disappear so you’re just telling the story of these characters. It’s insane to get there and rehearse with Rian, and everything’s deeply personal… I’m having coffee with Oscar Isaac and Benicio del Toro, I’m like hey I’m on another Independent Movie with my fellow actors. It doesn’t feel like any other movie I’ve done, which is hilarious, with Rian who’s this independent film maker. So I’m like are you sure this is Star Wars? What is happening? But then you walk onto set in the morning, Rian is like, “Oh, somebody’s a fan, wants to say Hi.” Right before we were starting one day, standing making tea, and I turned around and Chewbacca was there and embraced me and I cried. I really cried. It was so moving to me. And then you know, being on set and seeing R2-D2 and these characters we all fell in love with. It’s stunning. So then you have to get over it and go to work but it’s an incredible opportunity and experience. I’m so happy to get to be part of it.
If she had a lightsaber in real life, what color would it be?
I mean, maybe we need to see a rainbow lightsaber. I think it’s time guys, I think it’s time.
There’s plenty of #TheLastJediEvent coverage still to come, so make sure you follow along!
In Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Skywalker saga continues as the heroes of The Force Awakens join the galactic legends in an epic adventure that unlocks age-old mysteries of the Force and shocking revelations of the past. Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in U.S. theaters on December 15, 2017