Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker not only closes an important chapter in cinematic history, it caps an unforgettable journey for the trio of stars at the centre of the latest trilogy.
Daisy Ridley (Rey) and John Boyega (Finn) rose from relative anonymity to worldwide stardom, while Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) transitioned from acclaimed arthouse fare like Drive, Inside Llewyn Davis and Ex Machina to the world's biggest movie franchise.
It was 14 April, 2014, when our galaxy got its first look at the future mega-stars who would travel far, far away. That was the day Disney and Lucasfilm released the first photo of its new cast — a black-and-white shot of The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams and crew (including original trilogy stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford) gathered for table read in London, a full 20 months before the seventh episode in the Skywalker Saga would hit cinemas.
What you could not see in the photo: the pure horror that Ridley was experiencing.
"I was terrified," Ridley told Yahoo Entertainment during our interviews for The Rise of Skywalker (watch above). "I had [those] cold sweats… when you're so uncomfortable and you constantly feel like you need a shower."
Boyega, meanwhile, thought he was still in the auditioning process. "They put me through it, man," he said.
Read more: Mixed reviews for The Rise of Skywalker
"I think all of us we're just so excited about it," Isaac said. "To be there with Harrison and Carrie and Mark, it was completely surreal. And it was hard to know what it was going to be because it was starting anew again. There was just so much anticipation and excitement."
Four years and three blockbusters later, the actors can now reflect on the legacies of their characters, who have not only become beloved for their onscreen exploits, but also for breaking new ground in the franchise: the leads were a woman and two men of colour.
"I think JJ says it best, this is a really divisive time we're living in," Ridley said. "So I think to be part of something that brings people together, and to play people that have a strong moral compass — they're not always making the right decisions, but they're making decisions for the good of it all — I think that's a really great thing to be a part of. Hope."
"For me, there is something that's pretty incredible about being a Latino in space," said Isaac, who was born to a Guatemalan mother and Cuban father. "And knowing that there's a bunch of little kids that'll get to see someone that looks like them up there."
That's the past and the present. As for the future of the Star Wars series? After five movies over the past five years — The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker and standalone entries Rogue One and Solo: A Star Wars Story — Disney CEO Bob Iger and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy are taking a hiatus.
Iger has said there won’t be a new Star Wars feature for at least three years, and there are no firm details for what the next chapter will bring. What we do know is that Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is plotting a new trilogy unrelated to the Skywalker Saga and Marvel boss Kevin Feige also has a separate film in development.
Read more: Where next for Star Wars?
However, the status of the much-hyped trilogy overseen by Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss is in limbo after they departed the project; the official word was that they didn’t have the proper time to give Star Wars due to their expansive (and lucrative) deal with Netflix, but there was also a report that the duo had become wary of Star Wars’ toxic fandom in the wake of blowback from their final season of Thrones.obi
Star Wars fans will have to content themselves with the small screen until the next movie. In addition to Disney+’s successful launch of The Mandalorian, the streaming service has live-action series based on Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and Diego Luna’s Rogue One character Cassian Andor. Disney+ also will launch a Star Wars game show, Jedi Temple Challenges, hosted by Jar Jar Binks alter ego Ahmed Best, to go along with a steady stream of novels, comics and merchandise, as well as immersive experiences at Disney theme parks.
But when it comes to Rey, Finn and Poe, the actors behind the characters stand in agreement on what they'd like to see.
In a word, less.
"What I want is a break," Ridley said. "And everyone's discussed it. But I think we need to let Rise of Skywalker have its moment, and then just take a breath, figure out where next."
"I just think it's really important," Boyega agreed, "especially now where we've got so many options in terms of how we watch content, I think it's important for the biggest movie of all time to make sure it has it's place in the cinematic universe. Because that's how we love seeing Star Wars."
"I would like to see it slow down a little bit," Isaac said. "To make it special when the next one comes out and it doesn't feel like it's part of an assembly line, but that it's really particularly specially made stories that are really about something."
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in cinemas now.