The following story contains MAJOR SPOILERS about Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
One of the biggest mysteries from Star Wars: The Force Awakens — who are the parents of Rey (Daisy Ridley) — spawned such rabid speculation and theorizing among fans that director J.J. Abrams had to walk back a statement that seemed to suggest that those parents did not appear in the film.
That also suggests that Abrams knows who Rey's parents are. But when filmmaker Rian Johnson decided to (more-or-less) reveal Rey's parentage in The Last Jedi, he said that no one — not Abrams, nor producer Kathleen Kennedy, nor anyone else at Lucasfilm — told him who they were supposed to be.
"I know that they had been thinking about different things, you know," Johnson told BuzzFeed News in an interview on The Last Jedi's opening day. "But I was never given a card with 'This is the answer' written on it and slid over to me. It was presented to me as something that was still open... There was nothing like 'We need this to happen.' There was none of that."
So Johnson decided to make the choice that, he said, "had the most dramatic impact, I thought, for this film": Rey's parents were "nobodies."
The decision, Johnson said, was in keeping with the broadening view of the Force and of diversity within the Star Wars universe Abrams first introduced in The Force Awakens.
"It's a lot more interesting to me, the idea that anyone can pick up the flag and start running forward with it at the head of the army, as opposed to, no, you have to be of this lineage, you have to be the Chosen One,'" Johnson said. "I don't want to step on any mythology. I don't mean that you can decide to be the Chosen One from the Force, because obviously you can't. I just mean in life, anyone can pick up the flag and be a hero."
It was also part of Johnson's desire to broaden the Star Wars stories from the Skywalker family. "The original trilogy and the prequel trilogy being the story of the Skywalkers made sense," he said. "I think now if we want to keep telling stories in this world, and I do, it has to move beyond that."
Of course, this being Star Wars, the news about Rey's parents comes cloaked in a bit of mystery: She's told about them by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the central villain of the new trilogy who nonetheless forms a surprising psychic bond with Rey over the course of The Last Jedi. In the film, Kylo appears to believe that Rey was discarded by her parents, much like he feels his parents, Han and Leia, discarded him.
Still, Kylo has embraced the dark side. So could he be lying? "I think that Kylo feels that he's telling the truth, and I feel that Rey believes him in that moment," Johnson said, choosing his words carefully. "I don't think that he's playing chess there. I think that this is something that he genuinely saw, and genuinely believes that because of this connection [they share], basically. It's less like, 'I can use this on her.' It's more, 'Oh my god, we have this in common, this is more of a kindred spirit that even she realizes.'"
Johnson said his circumspection is because he is not working on Episode IX, which Abrams will direct, from a script by Abrams and Chris Terrio (Argo, Justice League). "I don't want to clamp it off with some kind of statement," Johnson said. "The same way [Lucasfilm] gave me the freedom to go where I had to go, I had to do the same thing with them."