Rian Johnson has been telling Empire about some of his cinematic influences on Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. And while the films he names that helped him with inspiration for the aerial dog fights and the lightsaber fights may not be that surprising, there is another more unexpected film that he cites.
“Twelve O’Clock High was a big touchstone, for the feel and look of the aerial combat as well as the dynamic between the pilots,” he says referring to the 1949 World War II film about the American air force. “Three Outlaw Samurai for the feel of the sword-fighting and the general sense of pulpy fun,” he adds, referring to the 1964 Japanese classic. “And To Catch A Thief was a great film to rewatch, for the romantic scale and grandeur.”
To Catch A Thief is the brilliant 1955 thriller from director Alfred Hitchcock at his creative peak, which is just as famous for its charmingly sparky romance between stars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. We actually think Johnson is probably using the word romance less to refer to the love story and more in its other literary sense, “a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement and remoteness from everyday life” – as in “the scientific romances of HG Wells”. Having said that, Han and Leia’s fiery relationship in the original trilogy seems to owe a lot the relationships between the male and female leads in many Hitchcock film – bickering basically – so who knows? Whatever the case, it’s a good excuse to watch To Catch A Thief again.
Johnson also spoke about what it feels like to helming a film in such a huge franchise.
“I guess the biggest surprise was the intimacy of the process,” he says. “It’s huge, sure, and it’s filled with pressures great and small. But at the end of the day, it boils down to the same things as the smaller films we’ve made: telling a story we care about with a camera and some actors. And a Wookiee.”