According to Oscar Isaac, the Star Wars: Episode IX set is more laid back compared to the sets for the last two Star Wars films. There was understandably a lot of pressure on Lucasfilm to get Episode VII - The Force Awakens right, what with it being the first Star Wars movie produced since Disney's acquisition of George Lucas' (former) company in 2012. On top of that, The Force Awakens was a sequel to Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and a continuation of the Original Star Wars Trilogy narrative that fans had spent (quite literally) three decades waiting for.
Ultimately, The Force Awakens became a smash success when it arrive in late 2015, earning over $2 billion at the global box office and being enthusiastically received by critics and general moviegoers alike. In many ways, however, that only raised expectations all the higher for Episode VIII - The Last Jedi when it hit theaters two years later. And while Rian Johnson's Star Wars movie proved more divisive among hardcore fans than its predecessor, it was also incredibly popular at the worldwide box office (taking in $1.3 billion) and is considered by many critics to be one of the best (if not the best) films in the series ever.
The Force Awakens cowriter and director J.J. Abrams is back at the helm for Episode IX and, as Isaac told Indiewire, he and the rest of the film's cast and crew are noticeably more confident, following the success of the last two Star Wars movies:
“The way they’ve been shooting it right now is looser than it’s been for the last two times. It does feel like a relief to get on set and feel like, ‘Oh, we can try things.’ It’s a testament to J.J. coming back and feeling confident. There’s less pressure for it to be right. We just want to make a good movie and have a really good time while doing it.”
It's encouraging to hear that, in general, everyone working on Episode IX is feeling more comfortable than they have on Star Wars movies past. The sheer amount of pressure that Abrams and his cast/crew felt while making The Force Awakens was probably as effective as a motivator as it was a hindrance to their efforts. It helps that Isaac and his costars now have a better understanding of who their characters are and what motivates them than they did when they first journeyed to a galaxy far, far away. Isaac told Indiewire that the cast's improvisation on Episode IX has come all the more naturally for it, explaining that “Often, you do feel like you’ve got to find your way to make something more alive, but this time, it’s been the opposite. There’s no need to smuggle anything in there.”
Abrams' job is likewise a bit easier, this time around. Whereas the filmmaker was tasked with both setting the stage for a standalone trilogy and picking up plot threads from Return of the Jedi on The Force Awakens, he only needs to focus on bringing the story that he originally set in motion (and Johnson continued) to a satisfying conclusion with Episode IX. That's not to say this film is without its own unique challenges (namely, incorporating previously-shot footage of Carrie Fisher as Leia), but all in all there's more room for Abrams and his team to mix things up a little as they move to bring The Skywalker Saga to a fitting close.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019