After the recent upheaval to find a director to replace Colin Trevorrow on Star Wars Episiode IX, the announcement that J.J. Abrams would return to complete the current trilogy of the Skywalker Saga restored balance to the Force. Abrams, of course, helmed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which grossed $2-billion worldwide and reinvigorated the Star Wars film franchise. Abrams closing out the trilogy he began, while seen by many as a "safe" choice, is like poetry, it rhymes, as George Lucas might say.
The key central mystery Abrams and his co-writer Lawrence Kasdan introduced to the Star Wars saga in The Force Awakens regards the true heredity of Rey (Daisy Ridley), the lonely scavenger from the desert world of Jakku who discovered in the movie that she is powerful in the Force and emerged as the heroine of the new trilogy. When The Force Awakens concluded, Rey stood face to face with the legendary Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), offering to him the Skywalker family's lightsaber she had acquired. Director Rian Johnson promised that Rey's parentage will be addressed in his upcoming film, The Last Jedi, though how definitive the answers we will get remains to be seen.
Since The Force Awakens captured the imaginations of Star Wars fans worldwide, speculation has been unceasing about who Rey really is. Is the common and obvious assumption correct and Rey is really Luke's daughter and the next generation of Skywalker? Or is Rey a descendant of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the other primary guess by fans? Or is she something else entirely - perhaps a second child of the Force like Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) was? And if that were the case, does that make Rey somehow a Skywalker in some way? We just don't know, and that's part of the fun of the Rey guessing game.
The truth about Rey has been admirably kept under a tight lock and key by Lucasfilm. In this Internet era of email hacks and studio leaks where details and secrets about movies are difficult to keep a lid on, Lucasfilm maintains a strict cone of silence about Rey, ensuring audiences will discover the answers they crave in the proper way as they watch the movie. Still, there are clues to follow on the trail to the truth about Rey and they aren't necessarily all on screen. Some may have occurred behind the scenes when the character of Rey was being conceived during preproduction of The Force Awakens.
The character of Rey, who evolved out of a character called Kira, was constantly changing in the early stages of The Force Awakens, and re-conceived by Abrams and Kasdan when they took over writing the screenplay from Michael Arndt. Hundreds of actresses, including established names like Chloe Grace Moretz, were tested for Rey, though Abrams felt that it was vital to go with an unknown who could embody Rey without any preconceptions from the audience.
One of the then-unknown actresses who auditioned for Rey was someone who herself has deep blood-ties to the Star Wars saga, the daughter of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) herself, Billie Lourd. As she told Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen Show:
“J.J. Abrams called me to come in for Star Wars because he couldn’t find someone for the lead. He ended up finding Daisy Ridley, who’s an incredible actress — so talented! But I went in and he ended up giving me this tiny role with a couple lines.”
The role Lourd ultimately took on is Resistance Lieutenant Connix, a character she will reprise in The Last Jedi. Though auditioning for The Force Awakens was her first taste of acting, Lourd has since followed in her late mother and grandmother Debbie Reynolds' footsteps and gone on to a bright career starring in Scream Queens and American Horror Story: Cult.
While Lourd is just one of countless actresses who read for the part of Rey, it's worth pointing out that J.J. Abrams, who is a lifelong and diehard fan of Star Wars, certainly would have seen the delicious irony of having Princess Leia's biological daughter read for Star Wars' new primary heroine. It would be especially fitting if Rey were actually a Skywalker to have Carrie Fisher's daughter play her, even if that's not how it all turned out. We don't know how seriously Lourd was considered for the part of Rey, but if Rey is a Skywalker (or was at one point in her conception), Billie Lourd in the role would have kept the Force in the family in the most literal sense.
Whatever Rey ultimately will turn out to be, at some point at least, the consideration was certainly given to the character being a Skywalker scion, be it Luke's child or the offspring of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa. While the decision was made by Abrams and Kasdan for Ben Solo/Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to be the one who would embody the function in the saga of a descendant of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader - the only one at least as far as we currently know - Rey's parentage is still a huge question mark and the possibility of Rey being a Skywalker continues to loom. Though according to Daisy Ridley, Rey's family history may not even turn out to be that important, at least to the character herself.
Billie Lourd's family history, however, is very important to Star Wars. Her presence in the new trilogy is a lovely and fitting continuation of her family's legacy in the saga. Lourd's one-time test for Rey could mean the guess of millions of fans will turn out to be the correct guess and Skywalker blood runs in Rey's veins. Time will tell if Leia's real daughter testing for Rey was an indicator of Rey being a Skywalker all along.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019