Die Hard Star Wars fans got a treat on Friday, when the trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX — now officially titled The Rise of Skywalker showed the return of Billy Dee Williams in his iconic role as Lando Calrissian after 36 years.
According to Hollywood Reporter, after months of speculation during the Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, emcee Stephan Colbert, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy and filmmaker J.J. Abrams took the stage to unveil the first teaser trailer for the highly anticipated flick.
Williams has been a celebrated actor for decades but the role of Calrissian is by far his most well known. So it’s no surprise that he relished returning to it.
“How did I find Lando again? Lando never left me,” Williams answered during an appearance at the event, when Colbert asked him how he got back into character.
Williams, 82, was on stage with co-stars including John Boyega, Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran, Oscar Issac, Daisy Ridley and Anthony Daniels.
He also admits that over the last few decades years he’s lost count of how many time’s he’s come to the defense of his character, who he believes is misunderstood.
“I have to explain this stuff to people I don’t know why. I get sick and tired of being accused of betraying Han Solo,” he playfully lamented. It was a reference to a deal Calrissian made in 1980s The Empire Strikes Back that left his buddy, Solo (Harrison Ford) in the hands of his enemies.
“All of a sudden it’s like I’m talking about me, not Lando Calrissian,” he joked. “But he was up against Darth Vader he had to figure out something. Besides, did anybody die? I had to figure out a way to prevent the complete demise of my friend and all of his friends.”
In the two-minute teaser trailer, Williams is only seen for a second, laughing as he pilots the Millennium Falcon with co-pilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). He is also apparently wearing the same costume as the one worn by Donald Glover when he played a younger version of the character in 2017’s Solo: A Star Wars Story.
“This movie, in addition to being the end of three trilogies, it also has to work as its own movie,” said Abrams who is directing the film. “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?”
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In addition to Williams, the late Carrie Fisher will also reprise her role as Leia, with Abrams utilizing unused footage they shot of her during 2015’s The Force Awakens.
When asked how they filled the void left by the Fisher’s 2016 death, Abrams responded, “We couldn’t.”
“You don’t recast that part and you don’t suddenly have her disappear,” he said if the conundrum they found themselves in. “The weird miracle of having a number of scenes from Force Awakens that had got unused, looking at those scenes and starting to understand that there was actually a way to use those scenes and continue her story, so that it would be her.”
“Every day it hits me that she’s not here,” said Abrams. “It’s so surreal because we are working with her still, if that makes sense. She’s in scenes. She’s alive in scenes.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is set for a Dec. 20 release.