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J.J. Abrams, 'Star Wars' cast on 'The Rise of Skywalker' trailer, title, and Palpatine shocker

Kevin Polowy
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Star Wars fans were fully anticipating the first trailer for Episode IX to pack some revelations, most prominently the actual title for the final installment in the nine-film, triple-trilogy series.

And they got that. Not only did we learn the December release is called Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and will bring back fan-favorite Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian as well as Carrie Fisher in her final appearance as Leia Organa, but director J.J. Abrams dropped an even bigger bomb on the Star Wars Celebration crowd at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, where the teaser trailer premiered.

Rise of Skywalker returns one of the saga’s all-time great rogues, Emperor Palpatine. The sound of the Sith Lord’s unmistakable cackle emerges over the trailer’s waning minutes. Palpatine’s role was confirmed when Ian McDiarmid, the actor behind the hooded villain, appeared on stage to order the trailer to be played again.

Ian McDiarmid participates during the "Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker" panel on day 1 of the Star Wars Celebration at Wintrust Arena on Friday, April 12, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo by Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP)
Ian McDiarmid emerges at the "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" panel. (Photo by Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP)

According to Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy, the re-emergence of Palpatine — thought dead after the events of Return of the Jedi — was long planned.

“This has been in the blueprint for a long time,” Kennedy told us on the film’s press line (watch above). “We had not landed on exactly how we might do that, but it was always [to be in Episode IX].”

Abrams wouldn’t say much (shocker) about how Palpatine would play into the story (has he been pulling the strings this whole time???) but he loved directing the Star Wars icon who played him. “Working with Ian was among the most wonderful experiences I’ve ever had. He is a breathtakingly good actor, and it’s going to be a lot of fun for audiences.”

John Boyega, the biggest Star Wars fan among the new cast members, was unsurprisingly impressed, even if he was a little skeptical: “I was very excited about that, and even had a discussion with J.J. — a very in-depth nerd discussion. I’m always devil’s advocate. I come on set and challenge all the narrative decisions because I’m always thinking about the fans. ... But I’m so excited. He’s my favorite villain, I love him.”

As for that title, which clearly hints at the return of our thought-dead original hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Kennedy will say this: “The Rise of Skywalker, it doesn’t answer anything. It’s provocative, it asks questions, and it could mean a lot of different things. And I think that’s what was important to us. We didn’t want to have a title that felt like it was telling you the story. At the same time, it needs to feel emotional, which is a challenge, to try to figure out what that might be, and I think the word ‘Skywalker,’ it captures all 40 years of what’s gone before.”

Abrams, meanwhile, was just impressed they were able to keep it a secret up until the big reveal (other titles like Will of the Force and Balance of the Force were rumored). “The fact that we got to withhold the title, the fact that we hadn’t released anything about the movie, and hadn’t any kind of trailer this far out, it’s sort of amazing to me that we were able to do it,” he said.

“I’m grateful to everyone involved who could’ve easily told someone or tweeted something or posted something and chose not to. It feels right to me and not very surprising. I say that because the entire experience of doing this movie has been working with people who seem to have the fans’ and audiences’ interests at heart.”

Watch the full trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker:

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