‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Writers Reveal the Heartbreaking Reason They Couldn’t Finish the Script

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now in theaters. If director J.J. Abrams is telling the truth, it is the end of the Skywalker saga that began with 1977’s Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope). Wrapping up one film is challenging enough. Creating the definitive ending for nine is a doozy, and they almost couldn’t finish the script.

Rey and Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) | Lucasfilm/Disney

Abrams co-wrote The Rise of Skywalker with Chris Terrio. At the press conference for the film on December 4, Terrio and Abrams discussed the problems they were having finishing the screenplay and the heartbreaking reason they discovered they were blocked. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now. 

Getting the job writing ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ was no picnic either

Starting from the beginning, Chris Terrio shared the story of how J.J. Abrams hired him to write the screenplay with him.

“J.J. had been calling and leaving messages,” Terrio said. “I was in a screening. I didn’t have J.J.’s cell phone number in my cell phone so it was sort of a random 310 number and I thought, ‘Why is this random person in Los Angeles calling me? Finally I listened to the message. I called back and he said, ‘Hey, do you want to write Episode IX with me?’ Didn’t say the word Star or War.”

Terrio celebrated on the streets of New York, but quickly realized what he’d gotten himself into. 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) | Lucasfilm/Disney

“So for a good eight minutes I find myself sort of leaping through the air and then realize oh my God, we have to land this vehicle somehow. We have to land the biggest star destroyer in the world. We got to work. I came out to L.A. and J.J. and I just started in a room with these blank whiteboards and we just started putting dry erase marker on whiteboards and then eventually the boards became a Word document that was 10 pages then 50 pages then 121 pages and that became the script.”

Chris Terrio, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ press conference, 12/4/19

The one moment in ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ they couldn’t figure out

It was only near the end of writing that Terrio and Abrams ran into a problem.

“There was a moment in the process when J.J. and I were agonizing over something in the third act,” Terrio said.” We were in a room with Michelle Rejwan and Kathy [Kennedy], J.J. and I. We couldn’t seem to get it and we went outside the room.”

This crew member figured out the reason they were stumped

It took another member of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker crew to diagnose Terrio and Abrams’ writers block.

“Rick Carter, a legendary production designer, said, ‘I think the reason you and J.J. can’t write this scene is because you don’t want Star Wars to end,’” Terrio said. “I took one look at J.J. and we knew he was right and that we had to go and write it.”

Coming to the conclusion remained bittersweet.

Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) | Disney/Lucasfilm

“I think both of us mourned the moment when we typed the characters’ names for the last time,” Terrio said. “The moment of joy you have when you type Lando, type some words underneath Lando, is something that is indescribable but also the moment of sadness typing it for the last time is memorable.”

Why J.J. Abrams needed Chris Terrio by his side

Terrio and Abrams may have had the hardest job deciding how the Star Wars saga would end. That’s why Abrams needed someone like Terrio in his corner.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Daisy Ridley is Rey | Disney/Lucasfilm

“I needed to have someone writing this with me who would, from the very beginning, remind me about how much Star Wars meant having been inside of it before the way that I had,” Abrams said. “We were together throughout production, throughout post, in the trenches with Michelle and Kathy, kicking every tire, shaking every tree, doing everything we could to make sure we were telling the best possible story we could. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this gentleman.”