Ever since The Force Awakens revealed Luke Skywalker had disappeared in search of the first Jedi temple, Star Wars fans experienced a new hope that they’d finally learn the canonical origins of the far, far away galaxy’s defunct peackeeping order. Exploring the “deep lore” of any major franchise is a daunting proposition, but the challenge facing The Last Jedi production designer Rick Heinrichs proved doubly so. Not only had director Rian Johnson tasked Heinrichs with exploring the legacy of the ancient Jedi, but Heinrichs realized that he would have to discard George Lucas’s original vision for Luke’s temple in order to do it. “There were a lot of different [versions] that had been done prior to my getting there and nothing was really working,” Heinrichs explains to Yahoo Entertainment.
Some of Lucas’s original plans can be found in The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi book, which included bell-shaped golden temples reminiscent of the designs seen in his prequel trilogy. “Everything felt a little cliché,” Heinrichs says. “[It was] everything that you might expect it.” Instead, the designer took his inspiration directly from Skellig Michael, the UNESCO World Heritage Site J.J. Abrams chose for the Jedi temple’s location of Ahch-To. “One of the things that is extraordinary about the island isn’t just the beehive huts, but also the geography of the place feels like architecture itself. It felt like the Jedi would have worked with the natural environment because their whole ethos is about balance instead of being complicated builders,” says Heinrichs.
While Rogue One’s brief sojourn to the doomed desert moon of Jedha revealed what might have been one the Jedi’s earliest holy cities, (and, if we’re speculating, the potential origin of the term “Jedi”), Ahch-To appears to be the long-lost cradle of the faith; the “Qumran Caves” of the Jedi. Eschewing the majesty and smooth lines of the towering Jedi Temple viewers saw in the prequels, Ahch-To shows the most primitive structures yet seen in the Star Wars universe. The filmmakers wanted the temple “to feel like it predated our own civilization here on Earth, because we’re in a galaxy far, far away and that it embodied the sense of push and pull, the light and the dark. The reflecting pool [reflects] the simplicity of the place. We just wanted to have a very few, and very simple and very clear elements in it, because there’s no ceremony that happens in here. All it needed to do to tell a story was to give a kind of hallowed environment to the background to what happens between Rey and Luke.”
For the cave-like temple itself Heinrichs wanted the interior to be a simple, organic space where they would have gathered to perform their rituals around the mosaic of the first of the order, the Jedi Prime, while exterior ledge where Luke would eventually become one with the Force, was meant as place of meditation. But a major part of that religion are the holy texts — the first physical books seen in a Star Wars film — housed in the tree library, which are designed to hint at not only the origins of the Jedi symbol, but the Rebel Alliance symbol as well.
“I had this idea of the tree,” Heinrichs explains. “It was not a tree, first of all, it was a library… a piece of architecture. I was just sitting there looking [at] all our inherited Jedi legacy, everything we’ve had since A New Hope; I wanted there to be something about the place that echoed that familiar, simple shape, and that’s really how the tree evolved. I thought, ‘What if this Jedi symbol was based on the home of the sacred Jedi texts?’ That made sense to me, and then I developed it from there to what that tree became.”
While the books’ pages are only briefly seen in the film, they are our first glimpse of what amounts to the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Jedi faith. The illuminated pages — which can be seen in detail in The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi — were written in a heretofore unseen script, (a mixture of Semitic and Runic letters), completely unlike the more common Star Wars language of Aurebesh. “We did talk a lot about what the general idea of what was in the text was going to be and there is a lot of thought that went into that, but to be perfectly honest, it was never meant really seen in anything more than a glance,” Heinrichs admits. Still, he does tease the possibility of learning more in J.J. Abrams’s forthcoming Episode IX. “There definitely is something there,” he says cryptically. “[You] saw at the end of the film that those texts are preserved, and I think it would actually be fantastic to get into what they contain and I hope that J.J. does that.”
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
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- Check out the colorful proto-porgs and other exclusive ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ concept art
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