In honor of May the Fourth (Be With You) this year, Lucasfilm cracked open the vault and gave fans a behind-the-scenes peek at a small story change that happened in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, director Rian Johnson revealed he called in a favor to JJ Abrams while the latter was filming The Force Awakens. Johnson had a request. Just a tiny one. He needed a character swapped out in a critical scene in order for The Last Jedi to hit the ground running.
Rian Johnson needed R2-D2.
“Yes … The big [favor] was, I asked if R2 could come with Rey, and if BB-8 could stay behind with the Resistance,” Johnson says. “Originally it was BB-8 who went with Rey, which makes sense for the story in a way. But I asked, ‘Can you do me this solid and switch the droids?’”
Swapping BB-8 for R2-D2 at the end of The Force Awakens may seem like a small thing. But Artoo has always been at the heart of the Star Wars franchise. One could even argue he’s the true protagonist of the series, as he (and Threepio) are the only characters to appear in every single film. While BB-8 is cute as heck, he hasn’t been hanging around the instrumental players in the Resistance/Rebellion for the last half century. But why would Johnson make such a request? My guess is because Artoo has a close connection to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
Whatever caused Luke to retreat from civilization and go into hiding, he left clues to his whereabouts in Artoo. It would make sense the little droid would once again have have information vital to the survival of the Rebellion placed into his memory systems. The Last Jedi trailer — as well as The Force Awakens flashbacks — indicate Artoo was present when Ben Organa went 100% emo and turned to the Dark Side. R2-D2 has seen some shit, and it only makes sense Johnson would want the scrappy droid around for another chapter in “By the Maker, I swear the Skywalker lineage would be but dust if not for my infinite patience.”
All I know is, Artoo better make it out of Episode IX alive. You hear me, Trevorrow!?