Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair

August nerd publication Vanity Fair (?) has published a cover story it's calling the definitive preview of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Here's what you need to know about the terrifically written David Kamp piece, stunningly photographed by Annie Leibowitz.

WHAT'S NEW
Well, for starters, Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma sans helmet, above.

Writer/director Rian Johnson's creations for Episode VIII include: Benicio Del Toro's shady character, allegiance TBD, known only as DJ; Laura Dern's Vice Admiral Holdo, a "prominent officer in the Resistance"; a gunner called Paige (Veronica Ngo); and a maintenance worked called Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), Paige's sister and "the largest new part" overall.

Eight movies have worn the desert/forest/ice/floating city sceneries a little thin, so The Last Jedi will give us Canto Bight, a casino city Johnson says invokes the vibes of James Bond, Monte Carlo and To Catch a Thief. “It was an interesting challenge, portraying luxury and wealth in this universe. I was thinking, OK, let’s go ultra-glamour. Let’s create a playground, basically, for rich assholes," he tells VF.

Living on Ahch-To, the First Jedi Temple's home and Luke Skywalker's recent residence, are "an indigenous race of caretaker creatures whom Johnson is loath to describe in any more detail, except to say that they are 'not Ewoks.'"

WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Johnson began scripting The Last Jedi "by writing the names of each of the characters and thinking, What’s the hardest thing they could be faced with?”

Adam Driver, who plays Kylo Ren, echoes that: 

“I feel like almost everyone is in that rehabilitation state. You know, I don’t think that patricide is all that it’s cracked up to be. Maybe that’s where Kylo Ren is starting from. His external scar is probably as much an internal one.”

As for Rey and Luke on Ahch-To, don't expect an exact mirror of The Empire Strikes Back's section with Yoda training Luke. “There’s a training element to it, but it’s not exactly what you would expect," Johnson says.

Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair

CARRIE FISHER/GENERAL LEIA ORGANA
Fisher died at age 60 on Dec. 27. When she finished filming Episode VIII at end of summer '16—in which she had much more to do—“she was having a blast,” according to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “The minute she finished, she grabbed me and said, ‘I’d better be at the forefront of IX!’ Because Harrison was front and center on VII, and Mark is front and center on VIII. She thought IX would be her movie. And it would have been.”

Johnson connected more with the actress and Wishful Drinking author more than anyone else in the production:

“Out of everyone, Carrie was the one I really became friends with and expected to have in my life for years and years. I last saw her in November, at the birthday party that she threw at her house. In a way, it was the perfect final, encapsulating image of Carrie—receiving all her friends in the bedroom, with Debbie holding court in the living room.”

John Boyega remembers Fisher slaying the racists protesting his lead role:

“I remember—and forgive me, I’m going to drop the f-bomb, but that’s just Carrie—she said, ‘Ah, boohoo, who fuckin’ cares? You just do you.' Words like that give you strength. I bore witness in a million ways to her sharing her wisdom with Daisy too.”

While filming The Last Jedi, Fisher and Mark Hamill had a race to get to 1 million Twitter followers. “I told Carrie, ‘Part of your problem is you write in these impenetrable emojis.’ Her tweets looked like rebus puzzles,” said Hamill, who came out victorious. The two also had deep talks about mortality (Hamill is 65), including their love of the Tom Sawyer scene where Huck and Tom secretly watch their own funeral. "So then I said, ‘Look, if I go first, just promise me you’ll heckle my funeral.’ And she went, ‘Absolutely, if you’ll do the same for me.'"

AND, LASTLY, MARK HAMILL/LUKE SKYWALKER
The quote from Oscar Isaac, who is 38 and grew up idolizing Luke, beats all the rest when it comes to the prodigal son of Anakin Skywalker: 

“So to be there, and to watch Mark revisit Luke, particularly in these scenes we were shooting towards the end of the film, was bizarre and jaw-dropping. It’s like when you see an old band re-unite and go on the road, and they don’t quite hit those high notes anymore—though in this situation it’s completely the opposite. It’s the fulfillment of where your imagination would take you when you imagine where Luke would go, or what he’s become.”

Next, watch a New York Comic Con rookie and veteran try to make their way through the convention together: