Chris Terrio was a writer that J.J. Abrams hadn’t worked with before, but something about his previous work – perhaps it was the Oscar he earned for Argo, or his work in the DC Universe – attracted the director to approach Terrio and bring him onboard for The Rise of Skywalker. Here, Terrio discusses the process of making the film and the care and attention they took to make it feel ‘Star Wars‘, pouring through unused scripts and the earliest drafts of the original trilogy.
Rolling Stone: J.J. told me he was really impressed by the level of familiarity you had with Star Wars beyond the films — the books, the cartoons, the comic books. How did that knowledge play into the tasks at hand for this movie?
Chris Terrio: It’s sort of a multivariable equation, because if you look hard enough, so many directions in which you could take the story have already been done, and done really well, by novelists or comic book writers or [longtime Lucasfilm director/producer] Dave Filoni and his collaborators in TV shows. So you want to find new paths, but you also want to be informed by all these really good ideas that have come before. For example, the Timothy Zahn novels are really great. I think the Aftermath novels [by Chuck Wendig] are really great. There are episodes of Clone Wars or Rebels [which Filoni spearheaded] that are as good as anything I’ve seen. So you sort of take all that in.
But at the same time, you want to keep the spirit of the Flash Gordon adventure serials that the main saga films have. So while there are times you want to go off on a tangent and explore something that is a more obscure, esoteric corner of the galaxy, you also want to stay true to George Lucas’ original idea, which is that the story just has to be shot out of a rocket and keep going, and the characters always have to be in peril, and you want it to be entirely gripping from beginning to end. The hope is that all that expanded universe stuff could be baked into the DNA without derailing us from from the task at hand, which is to have the adventure feel kinetic and urgent and new.