Rian Johnson ''leaned forward'' in his chair with excitement when he learned he had a female hero to direct in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'.

The 43-year-old filmmaker has helmed the eighth instalment of the sci-fi saga following on from J.J. Abrams' 'The Force Awakens' and when he discovered that Rey (Daisy Ridley) and her journey with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) was to be a central part of the plot he was thrilled.

Johnson believes that 'Star Wars' movies must always be ''applicable to what's going on now'' and Rey's story is the right one to tell.

Speaking to Time Out London magazine, Johnson said: '''Star Wars movies always end up being applicable to what's going on now. When they told me I was going to have a female protagonist, I leaned forward in my chair. That was exciting. Having grown up watching dudes be the heroes, it felt like scratching a place you haven't been able to scratch for a while. And you can apply Darth Vader to whoever you don't like in politics now. It's the stuff under the stuff.''

As well as the return of Hamill as Jedi Master Luke his on-screen sister General Leia Organa is back with the late Carrie Fisher making her final appearance in the role as the Skywalker family saga continues.

Johnson admits his movie goes ''to some more intense places'' because it is the second film in the new trilogy.

He said: ''The job of any middle chapter is to put the characters through hell. It's where everything goes wrong. They have to go through the valley and see how they handle it. It's where character comes from. So by necessity, we knew we were going to go to some more intense places. At the same time, though, I wanted to be a 'Star Wars' movie. For me, that means it's fun, it's funny, it's a ride. I got the juicy middle part.''