Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern on How They Each Went From 'Wilson' Set to 'Star Wars' Galaxy

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·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson in the film ‘Wilson’ (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson in the film ‘Wilson’ (Photo: Fox Searchlight)

The Force must be strong with Wilson. That would certainly explain how the two stars of that offbeat comedy, Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern, are now part of the Star Wars universe. Since collaborating on the Minnesota set of Wilson, director Craig Johnson‘s adaptation of Daniel Clowes‘ 2010 graphic novel, Harrelson and Dern have separately traveled to that far, far away galaxy — conveniently located within England’s famed Pinewood Studios.

Dern has a yet-to-be revealed role in Rian Johnson‘s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth chapter in the Skywalker saga that will dominate the Christmastime box office when it opens on Dec. 15. And on May 25, 2018, Harrelson makes his debut as Beckett, a mentor to Alden Ehrenreich‘s young Han Solo in that still-untitled anthology film, directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

The logo for 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'. (credit: LucasFilm)
The logo for ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’. (Credit: LucasFilm)

“That didn’t happen while we were making Wilson,” Dern tells Yahoo Movies about how the two co-stars each ended up in back-to-back entries of the world’s most popular film franchise. “But Woody and I have definitely connected and laughed about it since. It’s like a childhood dream for me, and they’re an amazing group of people.” Asked whether she had the opportunity to work with Carrie Fisher, who passed away on Dec. 27 after completing what proved to be her final performance as Leia Organa, Dern neatly avoids dropping any clues about her role. “I have met her over the years, and loved her. She was as extraordinary as we all know, and privileged to be part of a film that continues the legacy of her playing the original female superhero.”

In a separate interview, Harrelson says that both he and Dern “feel lucky” to be part of Star Wars, even if it wasn’t exactly a life goal on his part. “I quite like the series, but I can’t count myself as a fanatic,” he admits. “I do have a lot of appreciation for it, though.” He also appreciates the comic possibilities afforded by telling the story of Han Solo’s early years (As Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed recently, the standalone prequel will cover a six-year span in Solo’s life, from age 18 to 24.) Not only is the charming smuggler one of the most reliable sources of humor in the original trilogy, but Lord and Miller have been at the helm of some of the most successful studio comedies of the past few years, from 21 Jump Street to The LEGO Movie. “I hope we make the best one yet, but certainly even if we don’t accomplish that, I hope we make the funniest one,” Harrelson says wryly.

Young Han Solo and crew aboard the Millennium Falcon - Credit: Lucasfilm
Young Han Solo and crew aboard the Millennium Falcon (Credit: Lucasfilm)

Since their respective Star Wars adventures’ release dates are separated by five months in the real world (and by a little more than 50 years of current canon continuity), those hoping to see Dern and Harrelson share the big screen for the first time should make a point of catching Wilson, now in limited release. Harrelson plays the titular curmudgeon, who has led a cantankerous — and thus, largely solitary — existence ever since his ex-wife Pippi (Dern) walked out on him 17 years ago.

But it turns out that they’re not separated by as great a distance as the one between, say, Tatooine and Takodana. Tracking Pippi down to a local restaurant where she’s working as a waitress, Wilson reignites their mutually unhealthy relationship and, in the process, learns that she gave birth to their now-teenage daughter (Isabell Amara) without telling him. “I’ve been saying that maybe [the Star Wars producers] saw this movie, and said ‘Oh my god, we need to have Wilson and Pippi in space,'” Dern jokes. “They’re just a lightsaber away from finding joy.”

Harrelson, Isabella Amara, and Dern in 'Wilson' (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
Woody Harrelson, Isabella Amara, and Laura Dern in ‘Wilson’ (Photo: Fox Searchlight)

The actors certainly found plenty of joy collaborating with each other while filming Wilson. “I think she’s a phenomenal actress,” Harrelson remarks of Dern. “We’re playing two broken, bent people, so that creates a lot of comedy hijinks.” Meanwhile, Dern likens their onscreen relationship to a vintage screen team from Hollywood’s Golden Age. “If I were Ginger Rogers, he would for sure be my Fred Astaire. He’s brilliant, brave, and fearless.” Here’s hoping they find a way to dance with each other onscreen again soon — perhaps in a future Jurassic World sequel? “Let’s get that story going,” Dern says, laughing. “My co-stars came back and saved the day [in The Lost World and Jurassic Park III] so I think it’s time for Ellie Sattler to do the same. She was a badass.”

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