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After more than 40 years of films, the Skywalker story comes to an end.

Maybe you remember when and where it was that you first experienced Star Wars or maybe it was just always there, part of a bigger, shared universe that lives as much in our imaginations as it does on the big screen. Maybe you saw A New Hope before it was named that or maybe you started with The Phantom Menace or The Force Awakens. For people all over the world who fell in love with George Lucas' incredible science fiction fantasy, there's no absolute beginning. It looks, however, that when it comes to the story of the Skywalkers, Star Wars does have an ending.

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"I've just realized in the last few months something that I hadn't ever realized before," says Anthony Daniels, whose C-3PO has been at the heart of the overall saga. "Because I'd been in all of them and all the spinoffs and stuff, I am so close to it. It's rather like having your nose up against the planet. You can't see how big that planet is. Gradually now, I'm beginning to get a perspective on it. That comes from talking to fans and to people who say what 'Star Wars' has meant to them over the years. It's meant something completely different to me. It's a job. It's kind of fun. It's kind of awkward. Sometimes it's gay. We all know it's not a smooth ride. But, finally, I'm getting to see it almost from the other perspective and that's the perspective of the audience who have been there all this time."

Daniels isn't the only longtime Star Wars actor who will be returning for The Rise of Skywalker. The final film will also see the return of Billy Dee Williams, playing Lando Calrissian again on the big screen for the first time since Return of the Jedi.

"Coming back to do Lando [is something that] I didn't think would happen," says the star. " I just wrote it off and I said, 'Well, I did what I had to do and that was it' ...I have a lot of admiration for this young man called JJ Abrams. It was pretty much like when I worked with George [Lucas]. That was an opportunity to work with somebody who was really extraordinary."

Abrams returns to the director's chair after helming the first chapter of the new trilogy, 2015's The Force Awakens.

“I think that the difference is that the pressure shifted," Abrams says, comparing his first 'Star Wars' movie to the new chapter. "We didn't know at the beginning of ‘Force Awakens’ exactly what it would look like to have Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac and John Boyega. What would that cast be like? We had to figure it out and discover it. On the first day of 'Rise of Skywalker,' we sort of knew some of those things. We knew those things were working."

"One thing I know about 'Star Wars' and one thing I know about these kinds of tentpole movies is that [they need a] unique combination of dramatic storytelling, gravitas, and a great sense of humor," adds Lucasfilm President and producer Kathleen Kennedy. "I think that there's few filmmakers that really embody both of those things and also have the capability to really manage something this huge. JJ was my first choice."

Abrams is also responsible for the script of the new movie, working in tandem with Academy Award winning Argo scribe Chris Terrio.

"There was a moment in the process when [JJ and I] were agonizing over something in the third act," says Terrio. "We were in a room with Michelle Rejwan and Kathy. JJ and I, we couldn't seem to get it. We went outside the room and Rick Carter, the... sort of legendary production designer said, 'I think the reason you and JJ can't write this scene is because you don't want star Wars to end. I looked at JJ and we both knew [Rick] was right. Then we had to go and write it."

The precise plot of The Rise of Skywalker is a mystery and, hopefully, it will remain so until audiences all over the world have a chance to experience it for themselves. There was a screening for the cast and crew, however, and it led to Richard E. Grant posting an emotional (and spoiler free) response on social media.

"Having seen [‘Star Wars’] first when I was a theater student when I was 20 years old and before any of the younger cast were even born, it's an extraordinarily emotional thing to see just the passing of time that goes through all of these movies,” the actor recalls. “It felt really like a combination of everything that I've read in the Bible, Greek mythology, 'The Wizard of Oz,’ all rolled into one in this extraordinary summation of the whole story that delivers an emotional wall up at the end that I was totally unprepared for."

“It sounds so cheesy and so cliché and it is, but it truly feels like everyone is a family and we're all just there to have fun and be part of something that's so much bigger than us as individuals,” says Kelly Marie Tran, who returns as Rose Tico, following her debut in The Last Jedi, “ And that is a really cool thing to share with people.”

Naturally, Daisy Ridley is back as Rey, who still has a mysterious destiny to fulfill. For the actress, The Rise of Skywalker was particularly enjoyable to shoot because the film’s narrative means that she shares a lot of screen time with John Boyega’s Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron.

“It's just so strange,” she says, “Because I've gone from a film with a lot of me saying, ‘Please be my friend, Luke!’ and he's like, ‘Go away!’ and I'm like, ‘No! Please!’ …[In this one,] I'm basically bouncing off of Oscar and John and Jonas and Antony in such a joyous way that you just feel like you're having a chat with your pals.”

“I remember JJ being excited about kind of dirtying up the squeaky flyboy image that [Poe has] had for a bit,” says Isaac, “Just revealing a bit more of his personality. I think that really comes out, because I've been taken away from my little box in space and I get to join my friends this time. You really get to see the interaction with the three and the hope that [Poe] in particular brings in this one. There's a kind of a relentless, almost aggressive optimism that he has.”

The Rise of Skywalker should also make very happy fans of Poe and Finn’s friendship.

"When Oscar first came in,” Boyega recalls, “There was some other actor that I read with and the chemistry was bland. Then there was a natural vibe between me and Oscar. I don't even know why, but I just liked the guy. I just walked into my dressing room and it was so sweet, like ‘You want to run the scene before?’ I was like, ’Yeah!’ Then we just like got in the dressing room and ran the scene together. From then on, we've been in that position.”

But Star Wars isn’t known solely for its heroes and, regardless of what happens in the film, it’s safe bet that the Sith will be playing a major role.

"From the beginning, the film being called 'The Force Awakens' was intentional in that it was the Force awakening for both sides, the light and the dark. JJ, even in those first meetings, was talking about someone who is unformed and not a quintessential [villain] in control of his faculties, who knows where he fits."

Sadly, there have been several real world goodbyes that Star Wars fans have been forced to make in the past few years. Both Kenny Baker and Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016, as did Peter Mayhew earlier this year.

“I was heartbroken,” Joonas Suotamo, who carries on Mayhew’s Wookiee legacy. “But I like to think that in this film, I attempted to do him justice while working with this incredible cast. I'm really happy that we're part of something that's so much bigger than ourselves, but that we still get to play and have fun. For that, I'm forever grateful to be a part of this."

Fortunately, the legacy of Star Wars is in no danger of dying out anytime soon.

"This was wrapping up not one film, not three films, but nine,” says Abrams. “The responsibility was significant and the movie is a pretty big picture. I mean that the scale of the movie is pretty enormous. We knew that none of that would matter and none of it would work if you didn't care deeply and track with these people... We knew we had this incredible cast, who I think have gone above and beyond anyone's expectations, and who are truly spectacular in the film.”

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Take a trip through the Legends and Lore of a galaxy far, far away…

When Disney bought Lucasfilm in late 2012, something interesting happened to what had been known, up until that point, as the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In order to clear the way for the new film trilogy, stories featured in books, comics and more where redefined as "Legends" and were no longer to be considered a part of the official canon. Any stories published from 2013 on, however, were overseen and approved by a special internal organization known as the Lucasfilm Story Group.

The Star Wars timeline can be divided into three distinct eras that more or less correspond to each of the three trilogies: The Age of Republic (the prequels), The Age of Rebellion (the original trilogy), and The Age of Resistance (the new trilogy). In celebration of The Rise of Skywalker and the culmination the nine film Skywalker Saga, Moviebill is taking a look back at some of the best legends and lore from throughout Star Wars history. If you’re looking to continue your journey through a galaxy far, far away, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in the selections below.

Keep in mind that fandom is a lot like the cave on Dagobah. You’re going to get out of it whatever you bring in with you. Just because one story might currently be considered canon and another isn’t doesn’t mean that any tale is more or less important than another. After all, as Han Solo says in The Force Awakens, "It's all true… All of it.”

EXPAND

THE AGE OF REPUBLIC CANON

Dooku: Jedi Lost
By Cavan Scott

Released earlier this year, Jedi Lost is currently the earliest story in the Star Wars canon, beginning decades before the events of The Phantom Menace and exploring the life of Count Dooku and a path that will lead him to betray the Jedi Order and became the Attack of the Clones antagonist Darth Tyranus.

Dooku: Jedi Lost was initially released as an audio adventure with a full voice cast. The script was subsequently published in printed form.

Dark Disciple

By Christie Golden

Originally planned as an unrealized arc of the animated Clone Wars series, Dark Disciple is set just prior to the events of Revenge of the Sith. The storyline finds Count Dooku’s former Sith apprentice, Asajj Ventress, reluctantly teaming with Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos to hunt down her former master.

There is also a short prequel story to Dark Disciple called Kindred Spirits. Also written by Christie Golden, it can be found in the paperback edition of the full novel.

Queen’s Shadow
By E.K. Johnston

Published earlier this year in honor of the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, Queen’s Shadow is a young adult novel that takes place a few years after Episode One. The story begins as Padmé Amidala steps down as Queen of Naboo and follows the young leader to Coruscant where she begins serving as part of the Galactic Senate.

In addition to telling Padmé’s story, Queen’s Shadow also offers a thrilling parallel adventure about one of her former handmaidens, Sabé, who is dispatched on a top secret mission to Tatooine.

THE AGE OF REPUBLIC LEGENDS

Dawn of the Jedi

Written by John Ostrander
Art by Jan Duursema

While the Canon timeline reaches back a few decades prior to the events of A New Hope, the Legends timeline stretches back a few dozen millennia. Beginning publication in 2012, Dark Horse Comics’ Dawn of the Jedi explores the ancient conflict between Jedi and Sith.

Dawn of the Jedi is divided into three chapters: Force Storm, The Prisoner of Bogan and Force War with an accompanying novel, Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void written by Tim Lebbon.

Knights of the Old Republic

A very popular chapter on the Legends side of things, 2003’s Knights of the Old Republic was a best selling video game set 4,000 years before the original Star Wars trilogy, revealing a galaxy that is at once familiar and new. Caught in the ongoing battle between Jedi and Sith, the player’s protagonist is forced to choose a path to either the Light or Dark Side, ultimately defending the galaxy or ruling it.

Knights of the Old Republic received a sequel, The Sith Lords, the following year before launching as a hugely successful massively multiplayer online role playing game in 2008.

The Darth Bane Trilogy

By Drew Karpyshyn

Set roughly 1,000 years before A New Hope, this trilogy of novels (Path of Destruction, Rule of Two, and Dynasty of Evil) explores the Star Wars galaxy during a time period when the Sith Order is thriving. It follows the life of the titular Dark Lord of the Sith as he sets in motion many of the traditions that will come to be associated with the Dark Side of the Force.

Although he is not mentioned in any of the films, Darth Bane was created by George Lucas as part of the background for the prequel trilogy. The character did officially make it into the current canon, nevertheless, appearing as a ghost in the final episode of The Clone Wars, voiced by none other than Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill.

AGE OF REBELLION CANON

A New Dawn
By John Jackson Miller

The very first novel published in the new canon, the appropriately titled A New Dawn picks up eight years after Revenge of the Sith, revealing a galaxy that is suffering under the rule of the Galactic Empire. The story serves as a prequel to the canon animated series Rebels, introducing former Jedi Padawan Kanan Jarrus and Twi'lek pilot Hera Syndulla.

A New Dawn was released in September 2014 with Rebels premiering on Disney XD the following month.

Star Wars (Marvel Comics)

In early 2015, Marvel Comics began publishing an ongoing Star Wars series that picks up immediately after the ending of A New Hope, continuing the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2.

Jason Aaron wrote much of the first half of series, working with several different artists, with Kieron Gillen and then Greg Pak taking over. The series also crosses over with a formerly ongoing Darth Vader title as well as a spinoff series about a newly introduced character, an unscrupulous archaeologist, Doctor Aphra.

Although the Star Wars comic book series concluded with its 75th issue just last month, a second volume, which will be set after The Empire Strikes Back, is set to make its debut in early 2020.

Lost Stars

By Claudia Gray

One of the first novels in the new canon, Lost Stars is a young adult romance that begins around the same time as A New Hope and continues past the ending of Return of the Jedi. The epic tale follows childhood friends Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree as they leave their quiet homeworld and begin to serve the Galactic Empire. Soon, the Rebellion leads to lines being drawn and fates being realized in the balance.

The ending of Lost Stars is set at the Battle of Jakku, the intergalactic standoff that leads to the debris that Rey scavenges at the beginning of The Force Awakens.

AGE OF REBELLION LEGENDS

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
By Alan Dean Foster

Released in 1978, less than a year after Star Wars’ big screen debut, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is a perfect example of a great story that just doesn’t quite gel with what Star Wars would become. A direct sequel to the events of the film, the story finds Luke and Leia crashed on the planet Mimban. In search of a Kaiburr crystal that can focus the energies of the Force, their quest will bring them face to face with Darth Vader himself.

Many elements of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye have found their way back into the canon. Kaiburr crystals are effectively what are now known as Kyber crystals and the planet Mimban made an appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story. The story’s narrative element that didn’t survive the passage of time quite so well is the romantic storyline between Luke and Leia.

Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell

By Brian Daley

“That bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell changed my mind,” says Han Solo in The Empire Strikes back. Three years after the film was released to theaters, fans were treated to one version of what that encounter entailed with a 30 minute audio adventure released on LP.

Designed to bridge the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell follows everyone’s favorite Star Wars heroes as they try to divert the Empire’s attention from the Rebel’s newest base on the ice planet Hoth.

Shadows of the Empire

In 1996, Lucasfilm came up with an interesting way to revitalize interest in the Star Wars franchise. Shadows of the Empire was multi-faceted story set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. At a time period when Han Solo was still frozen in Carbonite, Luke, Leia, Lando and a new rogue hero named Dash Rendar faced off against a powerful alien prince, Xizor, who had his own plans to rule the galaxy.

Shadows of the Empire was simultaneously released as a novel by Steve Perry, a comic book miniseries scripted by John Wagner with art by Kilian Plunkett, a Nintendo 64 video game and a toy line. Although Shadows of the Empire isn’t officially canon these days, some elements of the story have made canon appearances, such as the Outrider, Dash Rendar’s ship, being digitally added to Mos Eisley spaceport in 1997’s Special Edition of A New Hope.

AGE OF RESISTANCE CANON

Aftermath

By Chuck Wendig

The first part released in 2015 as part of the buildup to The Force Awakens, Aftermath is the first in a novel trilogy that picks up after the events of Return of the Jedi. Continuing in 2016’s Aftermath: Life Debt and 2017’s Aftermath: Empire’s End, the storyline reveals the fallout from the Battle of Endor, the birth of Ben Solo and the origin what will become the First Order.

Many of the new characters introduced in the Aftermath trilogy return in the most recent Star Wars novel, Resistance Reborn. Written by Rebecca Roanhorse, it serves as a direct prequel to the events of The Rise of Skywalker.

Bloodline

By Claudia Gray

Former Princess, now Senator Leia Organa takes center stage in Bloodline, a 2016 novel set some years before The Force Awakens. In it, Leia is already having a hard enough time trying to negotiate peace for the galaxy within the New Republic when a dangerous secret comes out: She’s the daughter of Darth Vader.

A clever political thriller that makes use of Star Wars lore to explore real world politics, Bloodline also reveals the beginnings of the Resistance.

Galaxy’s Edge

The only part of the Star Wars canon that you can actually visit, Galaxy’s Edge is a massive Disney Parks attraction that transports visitors to the outer rim planet Batuu. Although still within the reach of the First Order, Batuu’s Black Spire Outpost is also a place where hope can secretly thrive.

Not only does the theme park fully embrace Star Wars continuity, several stories have been released tying back to the lore within, such as Delilah Dawson’s recent novel Black Spire, the young adult adventure A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Cordova and the Marvel Comics miniseries scripted by Ethan Sacks with art by Will Sliney.

AGE OF RESISTANCE LEGENDS

Heir to the Empire

By Timothy Zahn

For many years, Heir to the Empire and it’s two direct sequels, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command were the big screen sequel trilogy we never got. First published in 1991, the story picks up five years after the ending of Return of the Jedi with a New Republic now thriving. That is, until a new threat is revealed from a brilliant military strategist, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Despite having the shaped the trajectory of the Expanded Universe for two decades, Timothy Zahn’s trilogy was erased from the canon. A key element survived, though, as Thrawn was reintroduced for the animated series Rebels. There is even a new trilogy of canon Thrawn books with Zahn returning to write the character that he created.

Dark Empire

Written by Tom Veitch

Art by  Cam Kennedy

Set in the aftermath of the Heir to the Empire trilogy, Dark Empire was initially a six issue miniseries published by Dark Horse Comics beginning in late 1991. The story sees the return of Emperor Palpatine, who has found a way to reincarnate himself in a cloned body. Luke Skywalker, tormented by the Dark Side, finally succumbs to the power of the Sith, leaving his sister to embrace her Jedi roots and save him.

Dark Empire received a direct sequel with the six-issue Dark Empire II in 1994 before concluding with the two-issue Empire’s End in 1995.

Star Wars Legacy

By John Ostrander

  

Although the Skywalker Saga may be poised to canonically end with The Rise of Skywalker, Dark Horse comics once imagined the story continuing into the distant future. Star Wars Legacy, which ran for 50 issues beginning in 2006, takes place more than a century after any other Legends stories. It follows the adventures of Luke’s descendant, Kol Skywalker and his own son, Cade Skywalker.

Dark Horse Comics had plans to return to the future of Star Wars Legacy two years after the initial series ended with a new ongoing title that was to follow the adventures of a young woman that would have been revealed to be Han and Leia’s great granddaughter. When the EU went away that same year, however, plans for another volume of Star Wars Legacy were cancelled and the book never saw the light of day.