'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' Cast Opens Up About How Far Their Characters Have Come

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It's time to return to a galaxy far, far away.

On Wednesday, Vanity Fair released the cover story for its upcoming summer issue, which offers fans new glimpses at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the latest film in the beloved series. 

Among them is a chilling shot of Kylo Ren, Adam Driver's nefarious character in the new trilogy, sporting a muted First Order outfit complete with a cape. In the other, Rey (Daisy Ridley) strikes a powerful pose with her staff while wearing her off-white flowing ensemble featured since The Force Awakens. In both images, the pair stand before a sprawling desert skirted by jagged rocky inclines. All of the images were shot by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz.

In the issue's story, the film's cast discusses their relationships with their characters and how they immerse themselves in the otherworldly subject matter that makes up the epic storytelling at play.

"I literally visualize it. When I was lifting rocks I was visualizing the rocks moving," Ridley explains of Rey learning to use the Force. "And then I was like, 'Oh, my God, I made it happen!' And obviously there's loads of rocks on strings, so, no, I didn't. But I visualize that it's really going on."

'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'
Annie Leibovitz

She also shares how far her character has come from a quiet loner to an integral part of the Resistance. Ridley referenced the first scene in the upcoming film's teaser trailer, which shows Rey attacking a special TIE fighter (likely Kylo Ren's) with nothing but her lightsaber, an astonishing feat, even by Star Wars standards.

"It's nice having that shot at the beginning of the teaser, because I think it's quite a good visual representation of where she is now: confident, calm, less fearful," she says, adding, "It's still sort of overwhelming, but in a different way. It feels more right -- less like inevitable and more like there's a focus to the journey."

Ridley's co-star, John Boyega, also opens up in the cover story about his character, Finn's, arc in the trilogy, which, in the past, often found him torn between wanting to help his friends and knowing what the First Order is capable of.

"I think he's just an active member of the Resistance now," Boyega says. "Episode Eight, he couldn't decide what team he was fighting for. But since then he's made a clear decision."

'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'
Annie Leibovitz

In The Last Jedi, Rey and Kylo form a strange relationship while mentally aligning across the universe. Ultimately, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is defeated, leaving the villainous protégé wanting to rule the galaxy with Rey beside him. However, it was not to be. Rey returned to the Resistance in the end, but an intimate connection was formed, which Driver discusses.

"...He had been forging this maybe-bond with Rey, and it kind of ends with the question in the air: Is he going to pursue that relationship, or when the door of her ship goes up, does that also close that camaraderie that they were maybe forming?" he adds, referencing moments from The Last Jedi.

The new spread also offers a first look at some new players in the intergalactic drama, including the mysterious Zorri Bliss, a masked scoundrel played by Keri Russell. Also, Richard E. Grant's character, Allegiant General Pryde, is showcased as a higher-up in the Fire Order's ranks.

Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) are also featured in the spread, although the latter died in the previous installment. Meaning he'll likely be imparting wisdom from beyond the grave, which is fairly common in the series. After all, he does provide the voice-over in the teaser trailer, seemingly telling Rey: "We've passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now."

Last July, StarWars.com confirmed the inclusion of Williams and Hamill in the cast, as well as the late Carrie Fisher, thanks to the use of unreleased footage from her work on The Force Awakens

'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'
Annie Leibovitz

Director J.J. Abrams, who also directed Episode Seven, spoke candidly about how he approached this new film with much more creative latitude than with his last Star Wars outing.

"Working on nine, I found myself approaching it slightly differently, which is to say that, on seven, I felt beholden to Star Wars in a way that was interesting -- I was doing what to the best of my ability I felt Star Wars should be," he tells the magazine. "It felt slightly more renegade; it felt slightly more like, you know, 'F**k it, I'm going to do the thing that feels right because it does, not because it adheres to something.'"

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker soars into theaters on Dec. 20.

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