HEAT VISION

'Star Wars' Star Dominic Monaghan Hopes for 'Rise of Skywalker' Director's Cut

In a wide-ranging interview, the actor does not address conspiracy theories that prompted the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut, but he does note that filmmaker J.J. Abrams shot a lot of material not in the final version: "Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”
'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' actor Dominic Monaghan   |   John Shearer/Getty Images
In a wide-ranging interview, the actor does not address conspiracy theories that prompted the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut, but he does note that filmmaker J.J. Abrams shot a lot of material not in the final version: "Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

[This story contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Lost.]

Fifteen years ago on the set of the pilot for ABC’s Lost, Dominic Monaghan bonded with his director J.J. Abrams over their mutual love of Star Wars. Fifteen years later, Monaghan found himself on the set of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise Skywalker, the concluding film in the nine-episode Skywalker saga, as Resistance fighters and Stormtroopers danced to Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” during a scene reset.

Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, viewers have been divided over their feelings about the film. This came to a head Thursday as an anonymous, unverified Reddit post suggested that the film was subject to a significant amount of studio meddling, prompting the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut to trend across social media. While Monaghan didn’t speak to these latest conspiracy theories, he does wish for the release of a director’s cut given the sheer volume of unused footage that Abrams shot.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version.... Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

Monaghan also alludes to a cut scene involving his character, Beaumont Kin, Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose and Billie Lourd’s Lieutenant Connix, which aligns with Tran’s own account of unused final battle footage.

“Another thing that we will hopefully see at some point in the future is that in the final battle, Connix injures her leg,” Monaghan reveals. “Obviously, myself, Rose and Connix are exiting the battle, and Rose has a weapon. While Rose is busy doing stuff, I grab Connix’s arm and put it over my shoulder to make sure that all of us come back as unscathed as possible.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Monaghan also discusses the World Cup bet that landed him his role in Episode IX, his intimate moment with R2-D2 and his memories of shooting Lost’s game-changing season three finale.

Without burying the lede, what was it like to hug an armless alien mechanic named Klaud?

(Laughs.) Yeah, that was fun. Obviously, growing up with the originals, they’re filled with so much kind of wonder. These interesting beasts, aliens and droids spark so much imagination…. Klaud was a great hit on set because he looked very funny. He always continued to create that lighthearted vibe that seems to be very important to J.J.

Are those creatures pretty fragile?

They’re a little delicate. Obviously, we did it a few times, and J.J. was saying to me, “Just be careful how you hug Klaud because if you hug him too tight, you’re going to see his body collapse under the pressure.” So, I had to slightly fake the hug a little bit, which proved to be the most effective. Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed. I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version.

You met J.J. during the casting process for Lost, and then you got to know him during the pilot, which he directed. Do you remember mentioning to him way back then that you were a Star Wars fan?

Yeah, I met J.J. when we were doing Lost, and we very quickly had a rapport. Although, you’d have to get that confirmed from J.J.; I don’t want to put words in his mouth. I remember making the pilot on Oahu [Hawaii] and in our downtime, J.J. and I would talk about Star Wars. He’s obviously a movie buff and a movie nerd like I am. At one point, we were talking about Star Wars, and it was just the normal stuff that you talk about as Star Wars fans: favorite character, favorite planet, favorite villain, where would you go if you had the Millennium Falcon, favorite moment…. All those kind of questions. To watch him and hear his stories about the adventures on The Force Awakens was brilliant. I’ve been lucky enough to be friends with J.J. for 15 years now, so I’m able to have fun with him and playfully try and convince him to put me in a movie, which he eventually did.

Did you lobby for a role once J.J. was hired to direct The Force Awakens in 2013?

Oh, yeah! Any time J.J. is doing a project, I’m always kind of asking him if there’s anything. I’ve worked with a lot of people, but certain people stand out much more than others. J.J. is certainly at the top of the list. He’s always been such a high-flyer and such a cool cat to spend time with. When The Force Awakens was announced, I’m sure he was inundated with phone calls, emails and text messages. I, shamefully, was another one of those people, and J.J. got back to me quite quickly and said, “We’re attempting to cast unknowns,” which became Daisy (Ridley), John (Boyega) and to a lesser degree, Oscar (Isaac), who’d worked a little bit. He wanted people to identify with characters that had no history. With me, I think he thought that people might think, “Oh, there’s that guy from Lost and Lord of the Rings,” which could be a little distracting. When I found out he was coming back for this third one, I’m sure J.J. would say I was even more obnoxious. I was going, “Oh, c’mon, man. I have a Star Wars tattoo. We’ve been talking about Star Wars for 15 years. Please let me do something.” And it worked out.

So, how did you ultimately put yourself over the top?

There was a playful bet. J.J. and I talk a lot by phone about music, movies, life, whatever…. You always have to be professional, playful and have tact. There were a few times where I just said, “You know how much I love those films; I’d love to be in it.” And J.J. was like, “Of course, I know. We’ll see what happens.” And then, England was in the soccer World Cup, which would’ve been 2018. We were in a knockout game with Colombia, and playfully, J.J. said, “If you guys win that game, you’ve got a part. If you don’t win it, then I’m going to have to give it to someone else.” I knew he was kind of joking and having fun with it. Thankfully, it all worked out because it was the first time in England’s history that we beat a team in a penalty shootout of a World Cup final. So, I was delighted with the result, and I was able to email him and say, “We did it!” And he wrote back and said, “You’re in.” Those two words: “You’re in.” It was a pretty memorable day. I call him “the dreammaker.” I always say that to him. He’s in an incredible position, which he handles with poise and grace, but he’s able to click his fingers and create magic for people. He’s done that for me quite a few times in my life.

Did you ask J.J. where the inspiration for the name Beaumont Kin came from?

No, I don’t think I asked him about the name. I’m sure every actor on the film would probably tell you that some parts of the work they did didn’t make it into the cut. One of the things about my character that was a little bit more established — in terms of everything that we filmed — was that he was a code-breaker, Beaumont. So, a lot of the information that had come to our heroes had come through Beaumont. So, we did talk a little bit about his ability to break code and what that means when someone has a brain like that. But, I didn’t ask him specifically about the name, although, Oscar, J.J. and I had fun with the name. We found the name to be a bit of a fun thing to say and play around with. To break the mood, which J.J. is always keen to do on such a high-functioning set, we would have some fun with his name. (Monaghan imitates a posh British accent.) “Beaumont, it’s time for your close-up.” That kind of thing.

Beaumont appeared in Star Wars Adventures 27, a comic book that was released in October. Apparently, he went on a mission with Chewie to defend the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk. While unlikely, was any of this backstory available to you before you filmed over a year ago?

No, that stuff wasn’t. Although, I did find out that as well, and I bought two copies of those comics. I think it’s part of a trilogy. They released two, and then I think the final one of that story came out Dec. 20. So, that’s going to be available to me when I get home, and it’s obviously something I’m going to read with great interest. The more backstory that you get with Beaumont, there’s potentially a chance that maybe we could continue to explore that story, especially since he seems to have a relationship with Chewie who’s one of the more beloved characters in the entire Star Wars canon. So, it’s exciting to me because I’m a Star Wars fan first and foremost. Reading backstory on any character — even one that doesn’t have anything to do with me — is really interesting.

When Chewie was upset over Leia, Beaumont approached him and said, “Come on, buddy. We need you.” So, the film does allude to their relationship.

It’s clear that they know each other. You wouldn’t have shorthand with a massive Wookiee like that unless you knew you were safe. You’d probably avoid him as much as you could because Chewie, even though he’s a puppy dog at the end of the day, looks terrifying. So, I think that shorthand is a really cool thing to establish. I got along really well with Joonas (Suotam0), the guy who plays Chewie. One day when we were shooting, I asked, “Hey Joonas, I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but when we cut, can you keep Chewie’s head on for like 20 seconds and I’ll just come over and give you a hug?” It was important to me to have that Chewie moment, and he was like, “Of course, no problem. That’s cool.” So, I went over and did it, and he completely committed by giving a few Wookiee noises. (Monaghan proceeds to perfectly imitate Chewbacca.)

Was there a particular moment on set where you first felt the magic that only Star Wars can create?

I had a really fun and tender moment with R2-D2 when no one else was around. We were shooting a crowd scene, and we got the shot. So, we moved to the opposite side of the set so the entire crew and cast moved over to start the process of blocking. And they left R2 in the space that we had done the previous scene because he wasn’t going to feature in the next moment. So, it was just me and R2, and no one else was around. I went over and put my hand on top of R2’s dome and just silently whispered a few sentences in my brain as a way of paying tribute to how much of an influential, positive element he was in my childhood. That was a moment of emotion that was private and intimate and something that was for me. As I walked over to the set to shoot this other scene, I had a moment of feeling quite overwhelmed and grateful. It was beautiful and bizarre at the same time.

What was the vibe of the set on the day you shot Leia’s death?

Any time we did that stuff — it was always like…I don’t want to say somber, but it was delicate. Everyone kind of knew that it was heavy. We were also conscious of the fact that Billie Lourd, Carrie’s daughter, was on set a lot, and she’s very much loved by everyone because she’s such a sweet woman. We were all conscious of her being potentially triggered. J.J. had such great love for Carrie as well that everything was dealt with such grace and class. When we moved into that scene, the crew became just a little quieter and maybe there was a little less movement. J.J., who’s always so hilarious, fun and anarchic, was probably a little bit more serious in that moment to capture it. It happened quite quickly, and then we moved through it. Then, the mood lightened. Leia is such a strong character and element to the movies that it’s fair to feel that weight when you’re doing that scene.

Shooting on location in Hawaii (Lost) and New Zealand (The Lord of the Rings) is as immersive as it gets. Do you still feel the same immersion when you’re working at Pinewood?

Yeah, you are. Even more so on things like Star Wars because the sets are so extraordinary. Sometimes, when you work on big films where the final look of the set is fantastic, you might not be seeing any of that stuff. You might just be in the corner of a greenscreen stage, or you might see a tiny fraction of the set and then they add it later. With Star Wars being the biggest movie in the world and with the budget being generous to say the least, they built these sets. That set, which was basically happening underneath that massive Rebel ship, had the foundations of the ship. They had rocks, moss, trees and leaves everywhere. You could almost shoot in 360 degrees. That’s how J.J.’s brain works. He’s so quick, fast and sharp. He’s the type of director where if they have a spare 20 minutes, he’ll say, “Let’s grab this shot real quick.” The entire set needs to be there so they can get it. He’s just that type of director.

After the trailer premiered, some people thought that Beaumont and Billie’s character, Connix, were in a relationship since they didn’t have context for why he was holding her. But, after seeing the movie, it looks like she was wounded in a wide shot, and he was just helping her back to the lander. Is that correct?

Yeah, that’s right. Another thing that we will hopefully see at some point in the future is that in the final battle, Connix injures her leg. Obviously, myself, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Connix are exiting the battle, and Rose has a weapon. While Rose is busy doing stuff, I grab Connix’s arm and put it over my shoulder to make sure that all of us come back as unscathed as possible.

What else were you fond of that didn’t make the final cut?

Oh, man, there was so much stuff! (Laughs.) I think this is probably more of a question for J.J. because Star Wars is such a geek-fest, obsessive thing that you don’t want to start revealing Easter eggs too soon. But, I remember texting J.J. at the end of certain days and saying, “Oh my God, I can’t wait to see that.” It was just extraordinary to even just be involved in that scene, and unfortunately, with the time constraints, they didn’t make it or they changed things around. So, I’m hoping that if and when the DVD comes out that maybe they’ll add extras or they’ll have deleted, additional scenes.

When you shot the final battle’s ground assault with Billie and Kelly, did the chaos feel completely organized?

Yeah, everything feels organized on J.J.’s set because you’re working on the biggest and best set in the world at that point. I was saying to friends who work in the business that it’s really intriguing because with J.J. being one of the best, if not the best, directors in the world, it means that his camera guy is the best camera guy in the world, his first assistant is the best first assistant in the world, the costume designers are the best in the world, the makeup artists are the best in the world. You’re dealing with the best of the best. So, none of it feels rushed, messy or hectic. It all just feels extremely calm and professional.

In fact, on that day, there was quite a big reset in that sequence because you had to reset squibs on the floor so they could explode, you needed dust, you needed fake rocks or fake pieces of the set to blow up around you, and you had to reset the camera, which is on a crane. At one point, there was an even longer reset, and J.J. carries around a microphone sometimes to talk to massive sets so that everyone can hear him at the same time. He said, “Hey, guys, it’s gonna be 15-20 minutes,” and when you’re on a film set, that usually means 35-40 minutes. So, we playfully groaned when he said it was gonna be a while, and again, to lighten the mood and have fun, he played “Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys really, really loud in the studio. All the Rebels and all the Stormtroopers were all dancing with each other. I don’t know if they captured that on film, but all of us were doing robot dances with Stormtroopers, Sith Troopers and Stormtroopers with jet packs. Again, that was another one of those moments that I thought, “Remember this, because this will be something that you tell your grandchildren when you’re older.”

Aside from the major beats in the celebration sequence, would J.J. roll camera for a while and just let you guys instinctively celebrate?

Again, that’s all J.J. He doesn’t miss anything. So, he would be directing certain sections of the crowd, and when it was you in a certain section, he would come over and try to keep it as natural as possible. J.J. is very specific with direction, but in that particular moment, he’ll give you a little bit of “you hug this person…you pat this person on the back….” He’ll say stuff in those moments because he wants to “roll it and see what happens.” You might accidentally bump into someone because everyone is jumping around and celebrating. Or, you’ll get surprised by seeing someone who you didn’t expect…. Or, someone arrives in the scene earlier or later than expected. J.J. loves all of that because it feels so natural. When I see John (Boyega) at the end, John had walked through a semi-corridor of people a few times, and once they’d done that two or three times, on that next one, J.J. said to me, “You get in that corridor,” because I think he wanted John to be surprised by me being there instead of seeing the same people. So, it just allowed John and I to have that moment of, “Hey, it’s you!” and he was like, “Oh, it’s you, too!” And that made it in the movie. In a galaxy far, far away with all these big, massive moments, J.J. is always looking for those intimate moments to keep things grounded.

During the Resistance pep talks at the base, did you actually get a rousing feeling from shooting those scenes? 

Yeah, you definitely do. You hope — or at least I hope — to have that be a driving motivation for yourself. In that sequence at the end where Oscar and John are laying out the plans as to how they’re going to deal with stuff, just watching Oscar and John talk through the plan and then having Greg Grunberg react, me react and 3PO, R2 and Chewie are there…. They had a lot more cutaways in that scene than actually featured in the theatrical version at the moment. But, yeah, it’s amazing to watch Billy Dee Williams in a scene. I was also watching John and Oscar do their thing. It’s one of those no-acting-required moments because all you do is just listen and it gets you excited. So, it really worked. It’s great writing by J.J. and Chris Terrio.

I love how Beaumont wanted more Holdo maneuvers.

Yeah, that was something that happened quite late in the shoot. Once J.J. was putting together the film, I think he probably thought, “Well, there’s an option there that has not been talked about, and surely, everyone would know about that option because it happened relatively recent.” Although what happened was tragic, it was effective in a way. So, I think he thought that we need to at least put that on the table. Otherwise, this rabid fan base will say, “Why not that as an option?” before it gets shut down by Finn. Any time J.J. threw me a line in a Star Wars film, I was like, “Oh my God, you just blessed me. You just helped me do another run on the convention circuit.” So, I was happy to say it. (Laughs.)

Have you gotten any other Star Wars tattoos since the “luminous beings” one, and will you get one to commemorate this experience?

I haven’t gotten any other Star Wars tattoos. I don’t know if I would. It’s a “never say never” type thing. I usually wait with my tattoos to see if the thought still sticks with me two or three years later. I do like the Resistance insignia — that kind of symbol that you see to show that you’re part of the Resistance. I wouldn’t be opposed to that. We’ll just see how things go. If the story of Beaumont continues to be told, then it wouldn’t surprise me if I get inked up again at some point.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was shot all at the same time. This latest Star Wars trilogy shot each film separately and changed directors in between. This ultimately led to some revisions and inconsistencies. If Star Wars opts to make another trilogy someday, would you recommend the Rings approach for the sake of continuity? Or, did that undertaking have some downside from your vantage point?

I don’t know, really. It’s probably more of a directorial question than anything else. I think if you were to ask any director who comes on for the first movie in a trilogy if they would like to see it through to do episodes two and three, I think they would say there’s great benefits to that because it’s ultimately much more your story. It’s a personal story. Obviously, you’ll have to deal with fatigue, tiredness and exhaustion. Pete Jackson is an incredible director who really performed some film wizardry on Lord of the Rings, but when he was probably two-third of the way through the trilogy, I’m sure he thought, “Oof, it would be nice to have someone shouldering the burden.” But, then, also, he enjoys the spoils on his own. So, there’s pros and cons to both. I loved The Force Awakens, the reboot that J.J. did. And there’s huge elements of The Last Jedi that I just thought were amazing and really gave me shivers up my spine. Luke Skywalker being so strong with the Force that he can meditate himself to a different place in the galaxy just really, really amazed me and thrilled me. And then, J.J. doing this one was extraordinary, and I always would text him at the end of the day to say, “You’re making magic,” and that’s what he’s done. He is that magic.

Rings, Lost, Star Wars… what's next on your genre property hit list?

(Laughs.) Yeah, you forgot X-Men Origins: Wolverine as well, which is another good one for the movie fanatic. I don’t know, man. I’m not really too sure. I obviously really appreciate being in the position where you get the opportunity to tell people about things that you’re passionate about. Obviously, I’m a huge animals fan. I’m a big, vocal supporter of conservation ideas, recycling and supporting scientists trying to change the way that a lot of people seem to feel about climate change. I’ve made some nature-based, travel-based TV shows over the years, and there’s a chance that I might continue to do those things in the next 12 to 18 months or so. In terms of acting, I’m just not sure. It’s Christmas time, and I came over to Europe to see my parents. I’m going to go to Italy, and then I’m going to go to Manchester to watch a Manchester United game. I’m quite picky, which sometimes irritates my agent. I’d rather work 300 days of the year, but unfortunately, there’s not enough projects that I like to keep me that busy. I’d like to do three or four things every year, but I end up doing one or two if I’m lucky. Nothing’s as good as Star Wars or Lost. So, you have to try and look for the needle in the haystack.

Who do you get stopped for the most these days: Merry or Charlie?

It depends. I’m in Spain right now where Lost was a smash-hit TV show. So, certainly in Spain, it’s Lost. In other parts of the world like New Zealand or Australia, it’s The Lord of the Rings. The one that I’m most happy about and proud of is if people stop me about my nature show, Wild Things, especially if it’s parents with their kids and their kids know the show. I made that show for kids under the age of 12 because if kids under that age get passionate about animals, then they’ll spend their entire life protecting them and educating people to do the same. For me, that’s super important.

Lost’s season three finale, “Through the Looking Glass,” is widely considered to be one of the greatest season finales of any show. What do you remember most from filming Charlie’s grand exit?

All the stuff that we did up to the big moment was on this set that they built. That was a very Charlie-centric couple of episodes, and I was working a lot toward the end of that season. We didn’t do the stunt until it was my last day of filming. We do that a lot to make sure you’ve filmed everything in case you get hurt. I’m a big fan of water; it’s always been really kind to me over the years. I surf, scuba dive and swim; I love the ocean. So, I was not intimidated by that massive water scene. They rebuilt that chamber — the chamber that gets flooded — and above it, they had a crane and the crane bucket was holding a ton, literally, a ton of water. They told me that they were going to roll camera, and as they call action, the bucket is going to tip, and the chamber is going to fill up very quickly. I was supposed to have 15-20 seconds of air time to be able to write the thing on my hand and go up to the window. I knew that in these types of situations that it’s tough on the body and it’s stressful. So, the best thing that you can do is try and get it done as well and as quickly as you can. So, I thought the first three or four takes would really be the ones that work. And we got there quite quickly. It was emotional. I was also very conscious of saying goodbye to a crew that I loved and saying goodbye to an island that I really enjoyed living on. To a certain extent, it was saying goodbye to a life because a lot of that show was tied up in my life and in a lot of ways, I had to say bye to it. I was moving back to L.A. It was going to change certain relationships with people. It was going to change my relationship with the show. It was going to change the way that I was thinking the next few years were going to go. It was a lot of complexities, but ultimately, what I loved about that exit, as you said, is that it’s one of the exits that people talk about on TV instead of just being another cast member that dies along the way. People actually talk about it being a big moment for them in watching TV.

Under those conditions, it seems unlikely that you would’ve been able to write “Not Penny’s Boat’ in that fashion. Did they add the message in post?

It was a long time ago when we did it, but as far as I know, we faked the writing and got it on a separate shot. We used a Sharpie because a Sharpie is waterproof. Obviously, they needed it to be in my writing because they featured my writing quite heavily in the show because Charlie makes that list. Jack Bender, who directed that episode, just said to write it as fast as you would in a panicky situation. So, I didn’t really think about it too much; I just wrote it and swam over to the circular window.

Lastly, have you been watching The Mandalorian?

Yeah, I am, although I’m not caught up. I’m on episode five…I’ve gotten into light-hearted debates on Instagram where I’ve said to people that we can’t keep calling The Child “Baby Yoda.” This story happens five years after the Battle of Endor, which means that Yoda has obviously passed on, and there’s no reason for him to come back in physical form as a child. It doesn’t benefit him in any way. It’s a creature like Yoda, and I understand that they have to call it something, and it looks like Yoda, but it’s not Yoda. I think it’s important to have that conversation because everything is so specific in Star Wars, and we’re missing a trick if we consistently keep calling that character Baby Yoda. Maybe, that’s what [Jon] Favreau and his team wants us to do is get distracted or complacent calling the character Baby Yoda so that they can shock us with another revelation. But, for me, I’m always trying to work out why they want us to call this character Baby Yoda. How does that benefit the makers of The Mandalorian? I saw Favreau at the Star Wars premiere, and we talked very briefly about it. I said, “It’s ‘The Child,’ right? That’s what you guys call it?” And he said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we call it The Child, but we’re totally fine with everyone calling that character Baby Yoda. It works because it creates a conversation.” And that’s what’s happening online. There’s some pretty passionate conversations online about Baby Yoda.

Given the “luminous beings are we...” tattoo on your arm, it’s quite fitting that you’re protective of the real Yoda.

(Laughs.) He’s probably my favorite at the end of the day. As a kid, I very much identified with Han Solo because he’s very easy to identify with. Who doesn’t love an intergalactic gunslinger that shoots from the hip? But, as I’ve gotten older, the wisdom, patience and playfulness of Yoda…. I just think he’s certainly my favorite good guy. He’s just brilliant. You want him to be your best friend — him and Chewie.

 
  • Brian Davids
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