The post-mortem of Star Wars: The Last Jedi continues, with writer-director Rian Johnson facing questions as to why Lando Calrissian – played by Billy Dee Williams in Episodes V and VI – does not make an appearance in the new installment, despite scenes being set in an exclusive casino resort.
The filmmaker recently explained his quandary to The Playlist, saying the following:
“Of course I’d love to see Lando. In terms of Lando, I briefly considered – would he work in the Benicio [del Toro] part, [named ‘DJ’]? I don’t think you would ever buy that Lando would just completely betray the characters like that and have that level of ambiguity. ‘Cause we love Lando, and you’d come to it with that [expectation].
And also, DJ, the character that they met, for the purposes of Finn’s character, had to be a morally ambiguous character that you’re not sure about – that you’re guessing about – and we already know that we love the character of Lando, so it wouldn’t have played in that part, story wise.”
The casino sequence would indeed have been the obvious place to have Lando Calrissian crop up again, as his character is renowned for gambling and playing the odds. The reason Han Solo flies the Millennium Falcon, for example, is because he won it from Lando in a bet. In addition, it soon becomes clear in the film that the casino is a favourite haunt for those individuals who have a tendency to play both sides in the galactic conflict between the Resistance and the First Order – and that’s the kind of place we would expect to find the Lando Calrissian that appeared in The Empire Strikes Back.
But, Rian Johnson is quite right. Though Lando was initially a traitor to his friend in Episode V, he was redeemed over the course of his two-movie character arc, and by the end of Episode VI, he had taken an honoured place among the band of heroes that are Star Wars fan favourites. This is the fact that Johnson refers to when he asserts that having Lando in the role of DJ (now played by Benicio del Toro) would not have worked.
Of course, there’s also the fact that the role of DJ essentially provides the plot device that Lando originally provided in The Empire Strikes Back, which is another reason why bringing him back onto the screen in that capacity would not have worked – it would be like taking the character backward.
It’s very possible though that Lando may appear in Episode IX – which is currently under development, with J.J Abrams having taken the helm. That film was originally intended to revolve around General Leia Organa, but with the death of Carrie Fisher, those plans have had to change. Han Solo is out of the running, and any appearance by Luke Skywalker will be minimal in nature – which leaves only Chewbacca of the original trilogy cast.
Of course, Episode IX is set for release after Solo: A Star Wars Story – which includes a younger Lando Calrissian, played by Donald Glover. It could be speculated that reintroducing the character the franchise in this way will pave the way for his return in Episode IX – which would make much more sense than squeezing him in to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, just for the sake of it. Only time will tell, though.