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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker producer talks fan feedback and career highlights

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, produced by Kathleen Kennedy, is hotly anticipated. Images: The Walt Disney Company

In a morning where Angelina Jolie, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt and the entire cast of Star Wars graced the stage, there was one moment at Disney’s fan expo where screams of delight descended into primal gasps and shouts of shock.

Lucasfilm had aired a special look at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and a scene at the end of the segment showed [spoilers] heroine Rey looking distinctly, well, evil.

It’s moments like those that stick with producer and head of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy, the moments where it’s clear just how much the hordes of Star Wars fans care.

In a career that has spanned from ET to Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park, Kennedy’s experiences producing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in addition to Solo: A Star Wars Story and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, have been the most impactful, she said at Disney’s D23 fan expo in California this week.

Kennedy took on the role of Lucasfilm co-chair in June 2012, before being promoted to president when Lucasfilm was sold to Disney.

Asked what her favourite career memory was, Kennedy said: “When George [Lucas] asked me to take over the company, we had to very quickly assess what this next Star Wars movie was going to be.

“The fact that I was able to bring JJ Abrams into the family and start talking about the story and it came together so quickly, and there are so many people that care so much and had so much to offer, and then we put The Force Awakens up in front of fans and the audience, and reignited this incredible joy for this franchise and there was this thunderous applause wherever we went.

“I don't think any of us were quite prepared for that and I do think about that and I also respect the fact that that just doesn't happen all the time.

“You really do cherish those moments because you recognise how special it is.”

But that doesn’t mean all fans are adoring.

As Kennedy said, the passion fans have for the story means they will also have strong opinions, beliefs, and connections with the characters.

However, while the negative feedback can be “frustrating”, the fact that fans actually care so much is what’s really special.

“I frankly love the feedback and frankly the criticism,” she said.

“You develop a little bit of an armour, but you learn from that. It's kind of like having a continual focus group that's out there telling you things, whether it's what you want to hear or you don't want to hear.”

And, she added, the people at Lucasfilm don’t think they know it all.

“We're just like the fans out there, we're just trying to find what's cool, what's heartfelt, what's strong storytelling and so I have to say - within reason - I love the feedback.”

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