'Star Wars': New 'Last Jedi' boss Laura Dern takes control of a conflicted Resistance
The heroes of the Resistance already have issues trying to survive the punishing First Order in the newest Star Wars trilogy. Getting an unknown leader in the middle of a firefight doesn’t help matters.
Laura Dern makes her franchise debut with purple hair and a luxurious gown as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (in theaters now), and the new boss is a shock to the system.
“She doesn’t look like a Resistance warrior. She looks like she’s going out for a night at the opera,” says Oscar Isaac, who plays rebellious X-wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron.
In previous film The Force Awakens, the First Order’s Starkiller Base scorched five entire planets of the Galactic Republic, though the Resistance won a big victory when Poe and his squadron blew it up, just like the Rebel Alliance took out two Imperial Death Stars in the original Star Wars trilogy. But The Last Jedi opens with the Resistance led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) desperately trying to get off their base before the First Order blasts it, kicking off an epic space chase with the villains in hot pursuit.
Along the way, Poe faces his greatest challenge, courtesy of Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson. “The one thing he knows how to do is be the ace pilot: jump into that cockpit, attack the enemy and obtain his objective,” Isaac says. “Rian takes that away from Poe in this situation — the circumstances are such that that’s not an option anymore, so he finds himself in a very frustrating position.”
Leia is also trying to groom Poe to be more of a leader, though it’s not the most natural fit. “What are the qualities that you rely on, that made you great at what you do, but also how do you evolve into something that’s more than just individual objective?” Isaac adds. “The decisions you make take on much greater consequences, and sometimes what seems very black and white as far as winning the day isn’t necessarily what’s going to win the war.”
Enter Holdo, who from the start rubs Poe the wrong way — and vice versa.
“There’s a lot of tension between them, some of which is sassy,” Dern says with a laugh. “It’s kind of a delicious but complicated dynamic. His reputation is as a successful flyboy of sorts, but I don’t think she knows whether or not he’s genuinely gifted in terms of how to problem-solve or if he’s headstrong.”
And Poe is bothered both by Holdo’s odd aesthetic and her lack of planning. “The way she speaks is ambiguous and more philosophical than strategic,” Isaac says. “That really gives him pause and makes him very nervous, coupled with the fact that they’re just these soft targets running away from the First Order.”
In George Lucas’ original Star Wars films, the Rebellion was a pretty copacetic bunch, but Johnson wanted a different vibe with his Resistance. Their internal power struggle was inspired by the recent Battlestar Galactica TV series and war movies like Twelve O’Clock High and The Dawn Patrol, “where it’s as much about the conflict within the band of soldiers as it is the conflict with the enemy,” says the director.
Dern appreciates how having tumult within a group trying to make the galaxy great again contributes to the movie’s political subversion: “It speaks to our culture in a profound way, that there is such discord between how people think we’re going to get there.”