Vanity Fair has released the most extensive look yet at The Rise of Skywalker, the latest in the magazine's series of massive Star Wars movie articles. For months, the upcoming film has been shrouded in mystery, but now, through interviews with filmmaker J.J. Abrams to new official stills, the spotlight story has pulled back the curtain on a number previously unknown details about the eagerly anticipated sequel.
Here are all the biggest revelations and news from the magazine's cover story on Star Wars: Episode IX.
Return of the Jedi?
Despite dying from the strain of using the Force to project himself to Crait and buy the Resistance enough time to escape from Kylo Ren and the First Order in The Last Jedi, it has been known for some time that Luke Skywalker would reappear in The Rise of Skywalker, with Mark Hamill reprising his iconic role.
After narrating the film's first trailer, Hamill's appearance in the upcoming sequel has finally been revealed standing next to his faithful astromech droid R2-D2, looking ominously into the distance as a fire rages behind them. Though his appearance is virtually identical to his Episode VIII look, it is unknown what capacity Luke will return in the final film of the Skywalker Saga. It has been assumed by many that he will appear as a Force Ghost, though the photo appears to indicate his form is more corporeal than ethereal.
Last year, just prior to the start of principal photography, longtime Abrams collaborator Keri Russell was announced to be in talks for an action-oriented role in the film. Her character has now been revealed, along with a (masked) first-look.
Russell portrays a scoundrel known as Zorri Bliss, who is seen cavorting with thieves on a brand new-planet planet in the Star Wars franchise. Her true allegiance and motivations -- and whether she will remain masked the entire time like Boba Fett -- remain a mystery.
Zorri is seen in an official still on a snow-dusted world known as Kijimi, dimly lit at dusk in a part of a city known as the Thieves' Quarter. The planet had briefly been seen in the first trailer, but went unnamed at the time.
What role the planet has to play over the course of The Rise of Skywalker, other than to serve as the location where we meet Zorri Bliss, has yet to be revealed.
Kylo Ren on a Rampage
The first trailer included a brief clip of Kylo Ren leading First Order Stormtroopers in a snowy forest battle against unnamed forces, skewering one with his red lightsaber. It has since been revealed that Kylo is actually attacking members of the Knights of Ren.
The group had been formed when Kylo Ren left the Jedi Order and killed his fellow apprentices before burning the temple to the ground. The cause of the apparently violent schism between Kylo and the Knights of Ren is currently unknown, though a behind-the-scenes photo features the group on the new desert planet.
The opening shot of the first trailer revealed Rey confronting a TIE Fighter on her own, on a desert planet. It has since been revealed that this setting is neither Rey's old home of Jakku or the longtime Star Wars setting of Tatooine, but a new planet entirely named Pasaana.
Filmed in Jordan instead of the franchise's normal use of Tunisia for desert locations, the planet's native population are known as the Aki-Aki. They will be portrayed by local Jordanian actors wearing colorful costumes.
Another new addition to the film's cast is Jannah, portrayed by British actress Naomi Ackie. Little is known about the new character, though she has been rumored to be the daughter of returning character Lando Calrissian.
An official still from the film shows Jannah riding into battle alongside Finn. Both of them are mounted on tusked, furry equine creatures known as Orbaks as they battle against the First Order.
Allegiant General Pryde
The Resistance won't be the only faction to receive new characters, however, with Richard E. Grant joining the First Order as a new fearsome villain. The British actor had previously been theorized as portraying fan-favorite Expanded Universe character Grand Admiral Thrawn, though the actor denied these rumors.
Instead, Grant is portraying First Order Allegiant General Pryde, seen aboard a First Order vessel in a first-look still with Domnhall Gleeson, who is reprising his role as General Hux. What role Pryde has to play has yet to be revealed, along with whether he is a superior or subordinate to Hux in the organization.
As opposed to The Last Jedi which had begun just moments after the conclusion of The Force Awakens, Abrams had revealed that some time had passed since the characters were last seen retreating from the First Order on Crait at the end of Episode VIII.
Vanity Fair's piece gives us a specific timeframe; approximately one year has passed since the ending of The Last Jedi when The Rise of Skywalker begins.
Poe Dameron Ascendant
The best pilot in the Resistance and the commander of Black Squadron, Poe Dameron had been demoted early in The Last Jedi by General Leia Organa after leading an unauthorized attack on a First Order Dreadnaught threatening to annihilate the retreating Resistance fleet. Though successful in destroying its target, the attack cost the Resistance many of its pilots, and all of its bombers.
Over the course of the subsequent year, Poe has risen into an even higher leadership position in the Resistance, helping rally the rag-tag military after many of its leaders were killed during the events of The Last Jedi.
Rey, Jedi Knight
Poe isn't the only Resistance figure who has grown since the events of Episode VIII. Rey has continued her training through the use of the sacred Jedi text she recovered from the ancient tree on Ach-To before its cheeky destruction by Yoda's Force ghost.
Rey will appear at the start of The Rise of Skywalker much like Luke did at the beginning of Return of the Jedi. Having completed her training, Rey is the first new Jedi Knight in a generation.
The Return of Leia Organa
Appearing posthumously in the film is Carrie Fisher, reprising her role as General Leia Organa through unused footage from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Though the film was originally not going to use any footage of the late actress, Abrams explained the discovery of a plethora of deleted and alternate scenes helped him craft the story for The Rise of Skywalker.
The filmmaker used detailed lighting and staging to seamlessly incorporate Fisher's performance into the upcoming sequel. He even included scenes with Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd's character Connix at Lourd's request, reuniting the real-life mother and daughter on screen one last time.
Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stars Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Keri Russell, Matt Smith, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher, with Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant. The film arrives December 20.