Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker – 23 Things We Learned From The Bonus Features

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

by James White |
Updated on

Star Wars’ iconic Skywalker Saga came to a close in December with the arrival of the Episode IX: The Rise Of Skwalker – a film that not only tied up the stories of Rey and Kylo Ren, but brought full circle the entire trilogy of trilogies that began back in 1977. Now that the film has been digitally released in the US with a whole swathe of bonus features (including a feature-length documentary called The Skywalker Legacy), we’ve got an even better look into the making of the closing chapter – delving into the new planets, returning favourites, major narrative turning-points, and glorious array of new alien creatures featured in the story.

With all sorts of making-of tidbits and juicy nuggets about the production, the practical effects, and the playful techniques that went into bringing The Rise Of Skywalker to life, here are 23 things we learned from poring over the bonus features.

Spoiler warning, obviously, for those who haven’t yet seen the film.


23 Things We Learned About Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker From The Bonus Features

Adam Driver1 of 23

Adam Driver stays in character on set. A lot.

According to stunt co-ordinator Eunice Huthart, the man in Kylo Ren's mask is very much involved in everything to do with his character. "I'll go, 'Adam, you need to step out more, it's closing your strength down,'" Huthart says, "And he's, like, 'Nah, I don't need to step out like that, Kylo Ren wouldn't do that." But she loves him, and he respects her. And who wouldn't – she used to compete on Gladiators.

Leia2 of 23

The team designed scenes around the Carrie Fisher footage they chose

We knew director JJ Abrams and co. had cherry picked leftover footage from The Force Awakens to make sure Carrie Fisher's Leia appears in Rise Of Skywalker despite the actress' tragic death in 2016. But the sheer level of invention it required – with scenes literally built around what they had to work with – is impressive to see. Storyboards filled in details before anything else was shot to demonstrate to Abrams what could be done.

Training droid3 of 23

Rey's training remote droid should look familiar

In one of the movie's many callbacks to the original trilogy, the little flying droid that Rey defeats at the Resistance base has its origins in one that Luke Skywalker encountered on the Falcon when he was first learning the Jedi ropes. "The remote droid was moulded from the original mould from A New Hope," explains standby prop supervisor Sonny Merchant. "So it's exactly the same as that one."

Sith knife4 of 23

That Sith knife started life differently

As with many elements on a film like The Rise Of Skywalker, props are subject to much discussion before they're locked in. The dagger that helps Rey and the rest find the location of the Sith Way-finder went through several potential evolutions, including a scroll, a slab and a tablet as Abrams as his team looked for the right piece. "This particular item was something that we were struggling with the whole idea of, because it was such a story point," says props and weapons master Jamie Wilkinson.

Sally Guinness5 of 23

Alec Guinness' granddaughter, Sally Guinness, appears as a First Order officer

"It's just very exciting to be here," is Sally Guinness' enthusiastic response to Abrams' bringing her on set and in front of the doc's cameras. Sadly for her family history, she's gone to the dark side. Well, on screen. "Isn't it sad what's happened?" cracks Abrams.

Mark Hamill6 of 23

Mark Hamill got his wish for Luke to be more like we remember him

In a moment that appears to be gentle shade thrown at The Last Jedi, Ridley comments on the appearance of Luke's force ghost. "It's probably nice for Mark to be more like the Luke of old, and I think JJ really wanted that. It was nice to feel comforted... 'Ah, Luke Skywalker is here.'" Expect the villain in Knives Out 2 to be called Hay Jay Schmaybrams.

D-O7 of 23

Abrams never intended to be the voice of D-O

"We started some D-O sound design to get his vocalisations and went through a dozen different iterations before we landed on where it is now," says supervising sound editor David Acord. "It's JJ," explains Matthew Wood, the his fellow supervising sound editor. "He kept telling me what kind of voice he wanted, what kind of actor he wanted, the different traits of what the droid was like. And in the back of my head, I thought, 'that actually sounds like JJ." And so it does!

Richard E. Grant SW8 of 23

Richard E. Grant is a big Star Wars nerd

Though he plays the imposing Allegiant General Pryde in the film, Grant spent some of his time on set fiddling with consoles. "It's a dream job come true," the actor admits. "You feel like a kid in here and I've seen other crew members doing this as well. Even though it's switches and buttons and it doesn't work, the impulse to just go up and press things is very strong."

John Williams9 of 23

John Williams' cameo is loaded with easter eggs from his career

You may have spotted score maestro John Williams in his cameo, but his scene is full of props the crew put in from his Oscar-nominated work. "We thought it would be fun to do something as a celebration of what he's done and who he is," Abrams explains. Look out for dog tags from Saving Private Ryan, the ship from E.T., barrels from Jaws, and even the iron from Home Alone.

Shirley Henderson Rise Of Skywalker10 of 23

Shirley Henderson performed Babu Frik's mouth movements on set

It's very usual for an actor to be handed the controls to the puppet they'll be giving voice to, but Shirley Henderson did exactly that for Babu Frik. "I met the creature team, who are amazing and they handed me this machine and said I've got to work the mouth, which I didn't know I'd have to do, so that was a bit frightening," Henderson admits. Talk about on-the-job training!

Warwick Davis11 of 23

Warwick Davis is back as Wicket – along with his son

Warwick Davis gets his own chunk of the supplemental features on Episode IX, documenting how he returned as Wicket on Endor, and how Davis' own son, Harrison, played his on-screen... cub (or whatever it is that Ewoks call their kids). He's known as Pommet Warrick, by the way.

Maz Kanata SW12 of 23

Maz Kanata is a practical effect this time

While the ancient being, played by Lupita Nyong'o, was all CG in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, in The Rise Of Skywalker she's a practical effect. "Maz up to this point was always computer generated," explains CFX electronics design & development supervisor Matthew Denton. "With the animatronic version, we had one person in a motion capture suit doing the upper body, and we had a person lip-sync live and perform the mouth, which is like puppeteering a sock puppet, but with two mechanical gloves." CGI was still used to create some of her expressions, though.

Orbak – Star Wars13 of 23

The Orbaks were originally even more practical

The horse-like Orbaks, ridden by Naomie Ackie's Jannah (and later, Finn and co. as part of their assault on the Star Destroyers) are played by actual horses. But while they're dressed in extra fur and decorations, their heads are largely replaced in the final film by CG. The original plan was for them to wear masks. "We tried to do the masks originally," says Becky Slim, an animatronic designer working in fabrication. "But we couldn't do that for the practicality of the horse running and how much it could see. It was too difficult and too limiting."

Daisy Ridley SW14 of 23

Daisy Ridley did not enjoy sliding down the sandbank into Luke's old home

"I'm not naturally a hugely adventurous person," she says. "It takes me a long time to get over things in general and fear in general." Cue footage of her screaming as she's slowly dragged down the hill on a shrapnel sled. Dunno, Daisy, looks pretty fun to us...

Exegol SW15 of 23

Exegol was designed to be huge – even by Star Wars standards

With Abrams dropping mention that Exegol is (maybe) where the Sith originated, there's also talk of how the team made everything there gigantic, from statues to Emperor Palpatine's throne. It's designed to make people look like ants.

Anthony Daniels SW16 of 23

Threepio's expanded role was a surprise to Anthony Daniels

While C-3P0 is a mainstay of the Star Wars franchise, he isn't heavily involved in the plots of the films. In The Rise Of Skywalker, though, he got to go on the team's mission – something C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels was unaware of until the table read for the script. And he was, unsurprisingly, happy about. "Suddenly, 3PO was part of the team again," he says. "Not since, really, the first film had 3P0 lived such a full life."

Jordanians SW17 of 23

The production cast hundred of people to play the Aki-Aki

To create the massive Festival Of The Ancestors scene on Pasaana, 450 people were cast to play the Aki-Aki, the alien species hosting the event. With filming taking place in Jordan, it wasn't feasible to fly in or locally house that many incoming extras, so Jordanians and Jordanian soldiers were cast. They were all outfitted with Aki-Aki costumes and dressed in fabric gathered from around the world. According to Abrams, it was "truly insane. I've never seen anything like this before. And the amazing thing is, that's literally the line in the movie that Rey says."

Aki-Aki kids18 of 23

The baby Aki-Aki creatures were hand puppets

Nearly 30 puppeteers were recruited to control the various kids watching a puppet show of their own during the festival. They were controlled from a trench under the ground in Wadi Rum, which had its own extra challenge. "They do a sweep for scorpions every morning before we get down here, and scare them all away," says creature puppeteer Mike Quinn. "We did see some scorpion tracks in the sand, so that was quite exciting."

SW Godrich19 of 23

Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich plays an ill-fated Stormtrooper

Godrich, who has also worked as a composer and music producer on movies such as Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, played trooper FN-9330 in The Force Awakens, and was shot by Chewbacca. in Rise Of Skywalker, he's FN-2802, blasted by Lando. "I sort of gradually work my way through the entire cast," Godrich cracks in the doc. "Maybe everyone can have a go." Be careful what you wish for, Nigel.

SW beans20 of 23

The sinking field wasn't sand

When Rey and the rest fall into the black sinking sand on Pasaana, they were naturally in no real danger. And they weren't in sand. With a complicated rig built underground (the filmmakers helped by the Jordanian army), the cast sank into a combination of materials, including black beans. The intent was to do it without scaring the actors, though Daisy Ridley wasn't a fan. "I get a bit claustrophobic," she says. "I remember coming through the first time, and you have to hold your breath, and, like, panicking. I got stuck in the air bubble. I think people were sort of joking about it, but it was awful."

SW Hidden Fortress21 of 23

Kijimi's design calls back to The Hidden Fortress

The snowy planet in the film was designed to resemble Kurosawa's 1958 film The Hidden Fortress, itself a big inspiration for George Lucas and his crew on the original Star Wars. "The original two guys in Hidden Fortress were basically the initial versions of 3P0 and R2, two people in a bigger adventure," points out production designer Kevin Jenkins.

Bad Robot SW22 of 23

The Bad Robot mascot is lurking in Babu Frik's workshop

There are many robo-bits hanging around Frik's workspace, including a Battle Droid head from the prequels. But one not usually seen around that galaxy far, far away is the red droid who crops up in the logo for Abrams' Bad Robot company. Looks like he came to a bad end...

Ford SW doc23 of 23

Harrison Ford explains his thoughts on Han's death

Han Solo, of course, appears to his son following Kylo/Ben's clash with Rey. The character died in The Force Awakens at Kylo's hand, and Ford shares his thoughts on Han's fate. "It's not that I wanted Han Solo to die," Ford says. "I wanted Han Solo to be able to lend some significant emotional weight to the story. His destiny is resolved in a powerful and effective way." Yeah, we still think he was ready to let go...

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is released on Digital HD in the UK on 13 April, and on 4K Ultra-HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on 20 April.

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