Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Marketing Recap

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker at The Hollywood Reporter.

Online and Social

As the other movies do, this one gets its own page on, complete with a collection of the posters, teasers, featurettes, photos and more. Blog posts that contain movie material or which highlight related announcements can be found on the page as well.

Media and Press

While we were still in the hype cycle for Episode XIII it was announced that Trevorrow, who’d long been attached to the project, had left. That was two Star Wars movies in row, including the Han Solo one, that had high-profile director shifts. Three if you count how Josh Trank was involved in a movie right up to the point he wasn’t. That firing was apparently a long-time coming and resulted from the director’s own personality issues, which caused tension with producer Kathleen Kennedy, and the fact that unlike on Jurassic World he didn’t have Steven Spielberg around to protect him.

Shockwaves then emanated when it was announced The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams would return for this movie, which was also pushed back from May to December. Later on, as part of the publicity for The Last Jedi, Abrams talked about taking the opportunity to return and close out the trilogy he started.

Isaac and others from the cast talked about the movie while promoting other projects.

A wide-ranging profile of Abrams included his recounting of the unusual sequence of events leading to his rejoining the franchise and his feelings of concern, panic, stress, excitement and more around doing so.

There as a significant press push in the wake of Star Wars Celebration and the debut of the first teaser. That included Abrams revealing Lucas was involved in crafting at least part of the story and Boyega making it clear he didn’t know what the title referred to either.

Abrams and members of the cast appeared on “Good Morning America” shortly after Celebration to talk about the movie and explain (or not) some of what was going on.

Meanwhile, Hamill explained why he has so much fun poking at obsessive Star Wars fans.

As has been the case with every Star Wars movie since 1999’s The Phantom Menace, the publicity cycle included a Vanity Fair cover story featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes photos by Annie Leibovitz. That series of stories offered not only new looks at the cast and sets but also additional details about what the story entails and what fans can expect from the film.

Ridley was interviewed about the emotional moment that was the final day of filming.

Another interview with Abrams in the wake of D23 had the director clarifying that nothing about The Last Jedi was being discarded, nor had that movie upset any plans for the series’ story. So, despite the outcry of disgruntled or disappointed viewers, that movie is still canon. He later shared his thinking on why it was important for Palpatine to return for this movie and more.

EW debuted a first official look at Zorri Bliss, the mysterious character played by Keri Russell. At around the same time Abrams was interviewed about his assurance that the movie would provide a satisfying conclusion to the nine-film epic story and more details were revealed about the watery planet seen in the trailers. Ackie was profiled in an interview about her reaction to joining the Star Wars universe.

In late November EW offered a big cover feature that included a number of other interviews, photos and other inside looks at the movie, with comments from most of the cast and crew. At the same time Rolling Stone ran its own package that included an interview with Kennedy about this movie and the future of the Star Wars franchise as well as another interview with Abrams about the story of the movie.

Late night appearances by the cast and Abrams started in late November as well, with Driver and Russell showing up on “The Late Show” as did Abrams. Ridley and Boyega showed up on “The Tonight Show” while Isaac chatted on “Late Night.” Russell chatted on “The Tonight Show” as well while Tran appeared on “The Daily Show.”

An extended profile of Williams had him talking about the legacy of Lando he still holds tightly to as well as his overall career and coming out of semi-retirement to revisit the character one last time.

An interview with Ridley allowed her to talk about what her plans for self-care are following her involvement in a massive multi-year commitment. Tran finally joined the press effort with an interview making it clear Rose has evolved in the time since the last story. A profile of Daniels included him promising this wasn’t the last you’ve heard of him as C-3PO while a similar interview with McDiarmid allowed him to talk about his expectation that he was done with the character of Palpatine until he got the call.

Abrams talked about the behind the scenes drama that lead to him coming back to the franchise and lots more in this extended profile that included him throwing a little shade at Johnson’s middle installment for being too “meta.” One of the movie’s cowriters spoke about trying to craft a worthy final chapter for the story.

The same night as the movie’s premiere, the whole cast along with Abrams appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to engage in games and more. Lupita Nyong’o, who is always forgotten about when discussing the cast, talked about the movie on “The Daily Show.”

Tran was interviewed about her experiences with Star Wars and more here.


Picking Up the Spare

That mysterious message from the presumed-dead Palpatine that kicks off the events of the movie was revealed in Fortnite, likely because of the promotional tie-in with that game. The movie’s editor explained why that message was cut from the film as well.

Abrams has praised Johnson while trying to downplay any potential bad blood because of the different directions the two directors took.

An interview with Terrio allowed him to dig an even deeper hole regarding the way the story makes Rose Tico into a non-factor.

A new featurette from IMAX has the cast and crew talking about their experiences making the movie. Another video from IMAX has them all sharing their favorite moments from throughout the Star Wars movies while a third has Issac answering fan-submitted questions.

One more TV spot touting the movie’s box-office success.

Second unit director Victoria Mahoney has finally been getting some attention, in part because she’s the first woman to have any directorial duties on a Star Wars feature.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Marketing Recap

solo poster 6There’s a line in a TV spot released late in the campaign cycle for Solo: A Star Wars Story that encapsulates something about the character Disney/Lucasfilm is eager to convey to the audience. Off-camera, as we see shots of the Millennium Falcon racing through space, Han Solo simply says “I don’t think I’m ever going to learn.” That, to my mind, represents a fundamental part of the character as he’s appeared not just in movies but also across other books and comics: He’s always not learning the lessons he should, relying instead on his instincts and bluffing his way out any situation he finds himself in.

My recap of the highly-condensed marketing cycle can be found at The Hollywood Reporter, but I’m sharing below some aspects of the campaign not captured there. You can also read more from me about the movie in my earlier post about the way there’s a definite beat to the trailers and TV spots, my long-form thoughts on the reasons the Solo campaign didn’t start until February of this year, and an Adweek column from last month about some unusual choices Disney/Lucasfilm made while running the campaign.

Online and Social

The section on devoted to the movie is filled with information, from a poster gallery to links to relevant posts made on the site’s blog to the Databank entries on the characters in the story. It’s pretty much everything you could want to know about the film and honestly I wish this kind of approach were taken with all movies.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

ESPN ran a co-branded TV spot featuring Chewbacca to promote both the movie and the network’s broadcast of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, a partnership that was extended when Chewbacca himself showed up at a Cavaliers/Celtics game.

Another IMAX spot played like some of the other commercials, complete with Lando tossing Han a pistol in the middle of a gunfight. IMAX also released a promo video that takes a fun, lighthearted look at how Star Wars – specifically the Falcon – has been a constant over the years for audiences of all ages.

With the exception of a photo of the cast in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, the first real publicity came from an Omaze charity campaign that offered fans a chance to visit the set of the movie.

In addition to the movie’s official promotional partners, the movie got a lot of unofficial help on this year’s May the Fourth, the day that’s now become an annual celebration of all things Star Wars. In that way, the movie was unique among the more recent Star Wars movies in that it’s the first one to come out so close to that date.

Of course there were a slew of consumer products offered for all audiences and age groups as well, including Hot Topic exclusive apparel, a Foot Locker collection of apparel and more. The Star Wars: Jedi Challenge mobile AR game got an update letting people play an augmented reality version of holochess right on their phones. There was also the Last Shot novel that expanded on the friendship between Han and Lando. The Battlefront II game got an update with a “Han Solo” season of the game that wasn’t tied specifically to the movie but was part of the overall promotion of the character.

A featurette released a few months out from release offered mini-interviews with Ehrenreich, Howard, Clarke, Glover and others and also showed off new footage. That included moments when Han really got to know Chewie as well as our first look at Han in his early days as an Imperial soldier, something that has to date been the subject of non-cinematic stories.

It also wasn’t surprising when the first clip that was released showed the moment Chewie first sat in the copilot’s seat of the Falcon alongside Han.

It’s unclear who the creator is, but a LEGO version of the (edited) trailer was officially released. Those things are usually confined to fan creations, but this one seems to have corporate approval, making me think it actually comes in some manner from LEGO Group.

Media and Publicity

Unfortunately the first real big news was both negative and very odd. Chris Miller and Phil Lord, who had been working on the project for years and were through months of principal photography left with just weeks of shooting remaining, citing creative differences. While directors drop out all the time, to do so this late in production is highly unusual, if not nearly unprecedented, especially for a high-profile like this.

After a day or so of speculation, it was announced Ron Howard would be taking over directorial duties. At that point Howard began a charm offensive, regularly sharing non-spoilery photos from the set and talking about how things were going just fine, thanks. Most of the cast weighed in over the next couple months as Harrelson and Glover in particular commented on the switch but kept emphasizing that it was all for the best and the movie was still firmly on track.

Eventually the name of the movie was revealed and it was just what people expected it to be, which didn’t stop many from reacting badly. But it’s the logical choice and there were lots more danger areas available if Disney or Lucasfilm had tried to get overly clever with the title. That was followed a few months later by a synopsis that offered no story details whatsoever.

Later on Miller and Lord shared some background on why they parted ways with the movie, saying there just wound up being too big a gap between their approach and that of the producers and studio. Glover spoke later about how his experience on the production wasn’t all that changed despite the turmoil and that he enjoyed one of his few recent pure-acting gigs.

Right after the trailer finally hit the movie was given a cover story package in Entertainment Weekly that included lots of new stills as well as an interview with Ehrenreich about what lead him to take on such an iconic role and what challenges he faced, details on how much Ford was involved in providing insights to both Ehrenreich, Howard and others. There were also finally details revealed about what role Waller-Bridge was playing as well as that played by Clarke, an interview with Glover, profiles of the various outlaws in the story and lots more. The story of Howard coming aboard was recounted once more including details of how the switch happened and how George Lucas himself got involved while visiting the set. And some insights were offered as to why the Falcon looks different here than it does when we see it on Tatooine in A New Hope. A special edition magazine collecting all of EW’s Solo-related coverage and more was released later on.

While it wasn’t just about Star Wars, this feature interview with Glover did touch on his taking on the role of Lando and what prompted him to do so. Michael K. Williams, whose role was essentially cut in the transition between directors, continued to speak occasionally about the film and how proud he was to have worked on it, even if that work won’t ultimately be seen.

Everyone was a bit taken aback – and a somewhat skeptical – when it was announced the movie was being scheduled for an out-of-competition at the Cannes Film Festival just days before it hit U.S. theaters, an appearance that included most all of the cast and other big events. More press revealed new images and other small details. Shortly after that Waller-Bridge was interviewed about how she got involved with a Star Wars movie and how she went about delivering a motion-capture performance.

There was a lot to unpack in a substantial Esquire feature profile of Ehrenreich. That included him talking about his own casting and how he worked to live up to the expectations inherent in taking on such an iconic character, the whole director shuffle kerfuffle, the realities behind the “acting coach” rumors and more. This was the actor’s first real big publicity beat in the whole campaign, though why that is can only be speculated on.

Glover later appeared on an episode of “Saturday Night Live” not only taking on the duties of host (including a skit with him as Lando at a conference about black people in space) but also working as the musical guest, dropping not one but two incredible new songs as Childish Gambino. Part of the promotion for that appearance included a reworking of his movie poster to replace “Solo” with “SNL.”

Given the rough start the film got on the publicity front, it was a bit surprising when, a few weeks out from release, tracking numbers indicated it was likely to open with about $160 million in box-office, a start that would mark the highest Memorial Day opening of all time.

In the weeks before the movie came out both Ehrenreich, Glover, Harrelson and other members of the cast hit the talk show circuit to talk about taking on such iconic characters, their history with the franchise, not spoiling story elements and more. There was a cool moment during a bigger “meet the cast” media day where Ford surprised Ehrenreich in the middle of an interview, pulling his “grumpy but really sweet” routine.

Ehrenreich and Glover sat down for a joint interview where they talked about stepping into such iconic roles, their overall experiences in Hollywood and more. There were also additional profiles of Waller-Bridges as well as of Joonas Suotamo, the man inside the Chewbacca costume. Clarke was also interviewed and given the chance to talk about the directorial shakeup and more.

Another interview with Howard had the director talked effusively about the sequence of events that lead up to him taking on the project mid-production and heaping praise upon Miller and Lord, saying they were gracious in working with him to help him ramp up and that if given the opportunity he’d work with them without hesitation. Another later profile touched on many of the same topics and themes.

There were also comments made by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, the movie’s screenwriters, about how they considered Lando to be pansexual, open to any experience. That’s all well and good, but this is the latest in a current trend of writers talking about how “they consider” characters to be LGBTQ or something without that ever actualy being represented on-screen. Glover, of course, basically said “Well yeah…it’s space” in response to this and talked some more about the production issues. Those issues were summarized in a few pieces like this and took the reader through all the rumors, reports and changes that happened over the last couple years.

Clarke made a couple late night appearances to show off her terrible Wookie voice and so on. She also got a feature spotlight of her own. Marvel announced a comic series focusing on Beckett, the criminal mentor played by Harrelson. A number of marketing sites also put the spotlight on the Solo Cup cross-promotion, adding some nice earned media to the paid media, which was entirely the point of something too-clever-by-half like this campaign.

han dancing


ILM’s Rob Bredow spoke about a number of technology issues, including the use of virtual reality in the making of the movie.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year because Matt Singer at ScreenCrush chronicled his day spent eating the entire movie-themed menu at Denny’s, as did Heather Mason at SyfyWire.

The Chicago Tribune profiles local native Bradford Young about how his upbringing in the city influenced the style and attitude he brought to his work as cinematographer on the movie.  

While it’s not specific to the movie, both The Hollywood Reporter and Film School Rejects use the occasion to talk with Perry King, who gave voice to Han Solo in the NPR-produced radio drama adaptations of all three of the Original Trilogy movies.

A substantial profile of Harrelson here that touches on why he decided to get involved in a big movie like this and how it fits into his overall career.

Screenwriters Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan talk about working together and how they wanted to stay true to what audiences knew about the title character while also adding new elements to his background.

There’s a lot of Solo-related content coming to various Star Wars video games.

To the surprise of [looks around quickly] literally no one, a Wall Street analyst has blamed the marketing for the movie’s lackluster box-office results. He’s like 27% right, in that the marketing campaign was dictated largely by the release schedule, which was dictated by the other Star Wars movies coming out before and after it.

There’s a trailer for the Solo-related material coming to Star Wars: Battlefront II.

Borys Kit at THR does some digging and gets to the heart of the matter regarding Lucasfilm’s reaction to Solo’s underperformance, offering that while yes, the people there are taking fresh looks at everything there are still non-Saga projects moving forward.

It’s not a big push, but Disney/Lucasfilm are including a life-size replica of the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit as seen in the movie to the Star Wars booth at San Diego Comic-Con.

Star Thandie Newton talked more here about the dress she wore to the premiere featuring the faces of the characters of color in the franchise to date.

The “Arrested Development” themed promotional video narrated by Ron Howard won an Emmy.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Marketing Recap

star wars last jedi poster 9For the third time in as many years, Disney/Lucasfilm are bringing Star Wars to theaters just in time for the holidays. After successfully reintroducing the franchise with 2015’s The Force Awakens, we took a detour away from the core “Saga” that has been the focus of the movies to date in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Now we’re back to the story of the Jedi and the fight against the powers of darkness in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The story picks up right where The Force Awakens left off, as Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds the self-exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who she hopes will help her learn who she is and what her destiny might be. Meanwhile, The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) continues its fight against the ascendant First Order, ruled by the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) and Finn (John Boyega) along with Chewbacca and a bunch of porgs keep fighting the good fight while Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) continues to emote across the entire galaxy while trying not to be the Diet Coke of evil.

With so much Star Wars hype and promotion over the last three years, the franchise lately has never seemed far out of reach. To sell The Last Jedi effectively and forcefully, Disney has worked hard to make sure the campaign sells a compelling and unique product to the audience.

Continue reading “Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Marketing Recap”