Not My Job: We Quiz 'Star Wars' Director Rian Johnson On 'Storage Wars'

Jan 13, 2018
Originally published on January 13, 2018 9:40 am

Like most people, Rian Johnson was a huge Star Wars fan as a kid. Unlike most people, he grew up to make a Star Wars movie — he wrote and directed The Last Jedi.

The man behind the latest Star Wars feature film plays a game called Storage Wars -- about the reality show where people guess what's in repossessed storage lockers before they're auctioned off.

Click the listen link above to see how he does.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where people who do great things get a chance to see what it's like to do something normal. It's called Not My Job. Rian Johnson was a huge "Star Wars" fan as a kid, just like most people. But unlike most people, he grew up to get a job making a "Star Wars" movie. The writer and director of "The Last Jedi" joins us now. Rian Johnson, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So is that your - I mean, you were really a complete film geek growing up, right?

RIAN JOHNSON: I was. Yeah, I grew up. I was one of those annoying kids who grew up with, you know, the family video camera in their hand all the time. And when I was a little kid, "Star Wars," you know, was my whole world, which makes this whole thing extra surreal.

SAGAL: So you're growing up, and you - like you said, you were one of those kids making films. What were your early films like when you were in, like, high school or younger?

JOHNSON: Well, they're mostly just - you know, your friends get together on a weekend. And you're bored. And you got a camera and you say, why don't we try making a James Bond movie? Why don't we try making - they're mostly just doing, like, weird little takes on different genres. And they also usually, ironically, involved blowing up old action figures.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah, really?

JOHNSON: Yeah. You know, because you're like, what would this look like if we tied a firecracker to this Jawa?

(LAUGHTER)

HELEN HONG: So you were blowing up "Star Wars" action figures?

SAGAL: Yeah, it's - it would amazing if you're, like, sitting there, blowing up a Jawa - little Jawa, you know, creature from the first "Star Wars" movie and like...

ADAM FELBER: OTD.

SAGAL: ...And a time traveler shows up and says, Rian, you are not going to believe this.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So fast forward. You make a number of movies. Your first movie, "Brick," was hugely acclaimed, and you made some more films that were just tremendously admired. Tell me about how you got this job. What is it like to be hired to direct the next "Star Wars" movie?

JOHNSON: This came entirely out of the blue. It was for something that was an incredibly surprising thing. It was presented to me in the most surprising way possible, which is Kathleen Kennedy, who runs Lucasfilm - she called me into her office for what I thought was just a general meeting. I had no idea what I was stepping into. And she basically shut the door behind me and asked me - just dropped this bomb, asked me if I'd be interested in doing this. And I had literally no clue that I was in the running, would ever be in the running for something like this. So it was - I don't remember much about that meeting.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So did they explain why? I mean, because your films - you made a science-fiction film called "Looper" with Bruce Willis. It was a fairly big movie with some science fiction.

FELBER: Great movie.

SAGAL: You never did, like, an...

HONG: Very good.

SAGAL: ...An action epic or anything on the scale of "Star Wars" before. Did they explain what it was about you that they said, yes, you're the guy we've picked?

JOHNSON: I had no idea. And to be quite honest, I didn't push them on it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And when you got to the set, and you're working with the late Carrie Fisher, and you're working with Mark Hamill, and you're working with the actor playing Chewbacca and C-3PO, were you ever like - did you ever say, could you do this? - and afraid they'd say no? And then you'd be like, I can't tell Luke Skywalker what to do.

JOHNSON: (Laughter) Yeah, every single moment of every single day.

SAGAL: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

FELBER: Rian, Adam Felber here. I've got to ask one question. I loved your movie. One thing I really loved about the script is, twice in the movie, one of the good guys and the bad guys - Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren - float the idea that maybe this whole Jedi thing is a terrible idea that leads to a lot of death. Aren't they right?

(LAUGHTER)

HONG: Hey.

JOHNSON: They're not entirely wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I've got one. If we're going to do nerd questions, I...

(LAUGHTER)

HONG: You guys broke the seal, and now...

SAGAL: All right.

BILL KURTIS: ...We're going to be here all night.

SAGAL: I could not - all right. There's this rather infamous scene in "The Last Jedi" in which Luke, as he goes about his day on his remote island, milks this creature.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And I just want to ask you, was that the answer to the 40-year-old question, where the heck does Aunt Beru's blue milk come from?

JOHNSON: (Laughter) Well, if you want to get technical, no, because it would be a different creature because that's an aquatic creature. And there's not much water on Tatooine. Also, our...

HONG: Nice.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

JOHNSON: ...Our milk is slightly green.

SAGAL: Oh.

HONG: Wow.

SAGAL: I see.

JOHNSON: Kaboom (ph).

SAGAL: Yeah, damn it. I thought - I was entertaining the hell out of my friends on Facebook with that theory.

(LAUGHTER)

ROY BLOUNT JR.: Well, I'm not a nerd myself, but I know nerds.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOUNT JR.: And a friend of mine - I asked people, knowing you were going to be on. I, said what question would you ask Rian? And one of them said, why doesn't John Williams ever get a little cameo role, walking by, playing on a pitch pipe?

HONG: Oh, that's a great question.

SAGAL: That is a good question. He has scored all of the "Star Wars" movies...

HONG: And so well.

SAGAL: ...Exception of "Rogue One."

BLOUNT JR.: Yeah.

SAGAL: Yeah, do you ever...

JOHNSON: Yeah, I think that's a fantastic question.

HONG: Yeah.

JOHNSON: Yeah, I think he deserves a cameo.

BLOUNT JR.: Tell him I suggested it. And...

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: Also, though - I mean, of the entire - my entire experience over the past few years of meeting heroes and just having incredible experiences - I got to say John Williams was the top of the top. If you imagine the best version in your head of what John Williams would be like...

HONG: Wow.

JOHNSON: ...And then add 300 percent more - just rainbows and joy.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOUNT JR.: You're just trying to make up for not giving him a cameo.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: OK. Rian, before we go into the game, I have to ask you about Kylo Ren's pants in the movie. Are you familiar with the Kylo Ren challenge?

JOHNSON: Oh, I am indeed.

SAGAL: Yes.

JOHNSON: So there's a scene where the incredibly toned and buff and beautiful Adam Driver is shirtless.

(LAUGHTER)

HONG: Yes.

JOHNSON: He had been training at this point for doing intense fighting training for like six months. And so he just looked incredible. And he's wearing these slightly high-waisted pants. It's a very distinct look. He looks rad. And who was it who started it online? Somebody famous started a meme where they basically went shirtless with kind of high-waisted black pants and took a selfie. And they call it the Kylo Ren challenge.

SAGAL: Yes. Are you buff enough to wear these pants? I have to ask you a question - were you not allowed to show Adam Driver's navel to the movie viewers of America? Because those are some pretty funny-looking pants.

JOHNSON: Yeah, the naval rider? No.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: I think - those are just the pants in the costume, I think.

SAGAL: All right. Take off the shirt. That's what you got. Rian...

FELBER: What - do you expect a galaxy far away to have low-riders here?

SAGAL: I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But I was like - I mean, Kylo Ren is, like, a terrifying villain. He kills people.

HONG: It doesn't mean he can't have a shy navel.

SAGAL: No. And it turns out he wears his pants like my grandfather. They're pulled up...

(LAUGHTER)

FELBER: It was a long time ago.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It's like - you know, and there's Kylo Ren with his pants pulled up past his pupik.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Rian Johnson, it is a joy to talk to you. And as you could tell, some of us could do it all day.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But we have business to do. We've asked you to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: "Storage Wars."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You are now a "Star Wars" director, so we thought we'd ask you about "Storage Wars." That's the reality show where people guess what's in storage lockers. Now, we have made our own version of that game for you here. So we're going to ask you three questions about storage units. And you will win our prize for one of our listeners if you get two of them right. So, Bill, who is Rian Johnson playing for?

KURTIS: Sarah Anderson of Salt Lake City, Utah.

SAGAL: All right. Here we go. You ready to play, Rian?

JOHNSON: Let's do it.

SAGAL: All right. First "Storage Wars" challenge. If you were like one woman in Alabama a few years ago, you could make a cool $100,000 from a storage locker, if you just do what? A, rent it out as a waterfront condominium to blind people...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, get locked in it for 63 days and win a lawsuit or C, discover it was sitting on a huge deposit of coal?

JOHNSON: Oh, boy. I would guess C.

SAGAL: You're going to go with C. No, it was actually B, get locked in a...

JOHNSON: Oh.

SAGAL: ...No, this woman - she says that she was locked in there for 63 days, and no one let her out. So she won a settlement from the storage locker owner.

HONG: What did she eat or drink?

SAGAL: She - happily for her, she was locked in there with lots of canned goods and juice.

HONG: Wow.

SAGAL: The storage locker owner thinks this whole thing was a scam but still had to pay up $100,000. All right. Next question. If you get the next two, you still win. A storage locker in Michigan was opened in 2009. Now, if you had been on that storage locker and won it, would you have found A, the world's largest hairball coughed up by a Detroit cat in 1933; B, four years of mail a particular mailman did not feel like delivering...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, President Barack Obama's missing college transcripts?

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: Well, B made me laugh so I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: You're figuring this out. That's the right one. Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

HONG: Wow.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: It turns out that this letter carrier in the Detroit area just, like, couldn't handle all the letters that he was supposed to deliver every day. So he would just stuff them into this storage locker he rented. And he did that for four years.

HONG: For four years?

SAGAL: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Last storage challenge. In 2015, you could've bought a particular storage locker in California for $80 - just $80. And it ended up containing, which of these? A, a fully functioning meth lab; B, $79 in pennies...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, a woman who had been trapped in there for 63 days, eating nothing...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...But juice and canned food?

JOHNSON: Oh, God. I'm tempted by the irony of B, but I'm going to go with A.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: It was, in fact, a fully functioning meth lab.

HONG: Wow.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Top tip - if you're going to run a meth lab in a rented storage locker, pay your rent.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Bill, how did Rian Johnson do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Well, part of the force was with him. You got 2 out of 3. And that means you're a winner, Rian.

SAGAL: Again. Again, he's a winner.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Rian Johnson is the writer, director of "The Last Jedi," the latest in the "Star Wars" saga. Rian, thank you so much for the movie, and thank you for being with us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

JOHNSON: Thank you so much, guys.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "STAR WARS (MAIN TITLE)")

SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill complains about my swimming suit in the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAITWAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.