The Rise of Skywalker is officially upon us, thanks to a little help from Stephen Colbert.
After a year’s worth of speculation, emcee Colbert, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy and filmmaker J.J. Abrams unveiled the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to a packed (and raucous) crowd at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago on Friday.
Among the big reveals is that Emperor Palpatine, the villain played by Ian McDiarmid in the previous two trilogies and thought to be dead, is back — as his laugh is heard at the end of the teaser. McDiarmid also walked out onstage after the trailer and ordered it to be replayed.
Earlier in the panel, Abrams made what might have been a reference to Palpatine, though he didn’t name him.
“This movie, in addition to being the end of three trilogies, it also has to work as its own movie,” said Abrams. “It’s about this new generation and what they’ve inherited, the light and the dark, and asking the question as they face the greatest evil, are they prepared? Are they ready?”
The late Carrie Fisher will appear as Leia in the film, with Abrams utilizing unused footage they shot together during 2015’s The Force Awakens. Colbert asked how they filled the void left by the star’s 2016 death.
“Every day it hits me that she’s not here. It’s so surreal because we are working with her still, if that makes sense. She’s in scenes. She’s alive in scenes,” said Abrams.
Colbert asked if this film takes place immediately after the events of 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Abrams confirmed it does not.
“Some time has gone by,” Abrams said. “This is an adventure that the group goes on together. … One of the great things about the movie, getting to work on it, was the dynamic between the characters. They are just the most wonderful together.”
Billy Dee Williams returns as Lando Calrissian for the first time since 1983’s Return of the Jedi. Colbert asked him what it was like to return to the character after decades away from him.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens Dec. 20.