star wars: the last jedi

Honestly, How Dare Star Wars Not Show Us Laura Dern in Space

A CGI rendering of Laura Dern on Tatooine. Photo-Illustration: Vulture

Imagine, for a moment, that you possess footage of Laura Dern in space. Would you keep it to yourself? Or would you do the right thing and share it with the whole world?

Until today, I thought we could count on director Rian Johnson to do the right thing. He is, after all, the man who cast Dern in the highly anticipated new sequel Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi. To place the muse of Alexander Payne and David Lynch in a galaxy far, far away felt like a creative masterstroke. Would she fire laser guns at alien creatures? Engage in a passive-aggressive war of words with General Leia? Or might we find Dern’s character cradling a Napa red as she stared past the expanse of her Tatooine summer home, a feeling of discontent gnawing at her despite all the outward trappings of space success?

Reader, I still don’t know. Today at Star Wars Celebration, an annual fan experience that gives straight men permission to write “I’m crying” on Twitter, Johnson brought out most of the cast of The Last Jedi, discussed the film’s new characters and plot points, and utterly neglected his Dern-related responsibilities. Was the star of HBO sensation Big Little Lies there in the flesh? She was not. Did they so much as mention her? No, sir. Could they spare even a second of Space Dern in the trailer? I can’t answer that, it’s too painful.

It’s not as though they lacked opportunity. Every time Johnson and panel moderator Josh Gad teased the arrival of another cast member, I was certain he would bring out three-time Golden Globe winner Laura Dern. “A new face who has now become part of the iconic Star Wars lexicon”? That sounded like Laura Dern, yet turned out to be Daisy Ridley. “Please welcome everyone’s favorite former Stormtrooper”? My head told me this would be John Boyega, but my heart protested that maybe Laura Dern had once dressed in white plastic for Halloween. Even when they wheeled out BB-8, I couldn’t help but imagine Laura Dern on a Segway instead. (I imagine that a lot, but still!)

As the panel went on with nary a mention of Space Dern, I started to become surly. When Johnson testified that Luke Skywalker was proof that anyone can be pulled from anywhere and become an unlikely hero, I shouted at my laptop, “No, Luke Skywalker is proof of space nepotism. He’s a freaking legacy admission! Now where is Laura Dern?” Near the end of the panel, Johnson got the crowd riled up for an exciting new reveal, then faked them out with a Last Jedi teaser poster. He could see the disappointment in their eyes. He could see what they really wanted was Space Dern.

But did he give it to them? No! Instead, he played a trailer full of floating pebbles, moody silhouettes, and Luke Skywalker intoning “Breathe” like the galaxy’s most expensive Lamaze coach. Laura Dern was nowhere to be found. I realize that there are reveals yet to come; we didn’t learn anything about Benicio Del Toro’s new villain, for example, or get even an approximate count of how many times Poe might slap Finn on the back and then just leave his hand there for a moment, testing the waters. Still, once in a while, you’ve got to throw the fans a bone. We could all die in a nuclear war next week, never having glimpsed Laura Dern’s space look. Is that fair?

So don’t mind me, I’ll just be over here imagining an alternate universe — non-canon, if you will — where today was Dern Day, and GIFs of the Rambling Rose star in space reigned supreme on social media. Just think of the supportive Reese Witherspoon Instagram post we missed out on! (Or think of Reese on Facebook Live, riffing on Star Wars names and locations for a half-hour. “Oh hey Padme from Naboo, you loved Sweet Home Alabama? I love that you loved that!”) I hold out hope that someday, hopefully before Christmas, we’ll get the glimpse of Space Dern we deserve. I mean, what more could the woman do? Is “Amabella” not enough of a Star Wars name for you?

Honestly, How Dare Star Wars Not Show Us Laura Dern in Space