John Williams’ Brother (Accidentally?) Revealed the Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker Runtime

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BY August 14, 2019

Since Lucasfilm returned to the business of making Star Wars films, their productions often stay shrouded in secrecy. Yet, for old-school Hollywood types, that secrecy is for the birds. Case in point: Don Williams, brother of legendary composer John Williams, inadvertently revealed the Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker runtime. This is a big deal, because it lets fans know just how many more hours and minutes they have left with the Skywalker saga. Lucasfilm seems eager to move on to the next phase of Star Wars after the fan-contentiousness of The Last Jedi release. So, they offer no hesitation when they say that the Star Wars saga that kicked off the franchise is about to be over, for good. Fans have plenty of questions, especially regarding which Skywalker will “rise.”  A new trailer is still a couple of weeks away, expected to land at D23 in late-August.

An Evening with Don Williams Reveals Some Star Wars Secrets

Earlier this month, the Academy of Scoring Arts hosted a celebration of the Jurassic Park score with David Das, Miriam Mayer, and Don Williams, a percussionist and brother of John. During the panel, Das asked him about an update on Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, because it’s the end. Not just of the Skywalker saga, but also it marks the end of John Williams’ time putting the music to Star Warts. At 87 years old, John Williams is ready to retire it seems. Still, Don revealed that scoring work on the film is underway.

He said:

“John started up with another Star Wars. We started on it last week. He’s got about 135 minutes’ worth of music to write. So that kind of tells you how long the film is. It is top to bottom music. We’ve done four days and we’ve just scratched the surface. We’ve got something like the 34 minutes in the can at this point. But I can tell you that every theme you’ve ever heard is going to be compiled into the last effort.”

He went on to talk about how while he’s playing the music, a few bars of a familiar theme will play and draw his attention away from his work. Don also said that his brother keeps writing more and more difficult things for him to play. He also offered some insight about how his brother is able to keep up with his work.

Don described that the 87-year-old composer of iconic scores, from Star Wars to Jaws to E.T. to Jurassic Park, still stands and furiously conducts for six-hour stretches. Don did say that conductor Bill Ross stepped in to help John “get a breather,” especially during fast-paced action pieces. Recording is on break while John Williams travels for the end of summer, but recording will resume in September and take about six more weeks.

What This Means for the Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker Runtime

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker Runtime 1

Image via screengrab

In the video below, you can see Don Williams realizing he’s let some important info slip while talking about working on the new installment of the franchise. Let’s parse what he said. He told the audience that John Williams has about two hours and fifteen minutes of music to write. That does include opening titles and credits, but that doesn’t mean this will be the official run-time of the film. Once the score gets added, scenes can be shortened or cut entirely. There also may be significant parts of the film that don’t feature any scoring. Still, this puts the movie at a smaller run-time than the rumored three-hour runtime that circulated on the internet some time ago. We’ll probably end up with a film around two and a half hours in length, probably a little shorter than The Last Jedi.

In a way, it feels like that is too little of a time to spend with our heroes wrapping up a saga over 40 years in the making. Yet, a longer film might not be what the story itself needs. As much work as Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker has to do, it’s first job is to tell a well-paced, interesting story. We’ll likely soon know more once J.J. Abrams and company take the stage at D23.

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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