Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 is in the books, but the shockwaves are still resonating like an ion cannon. Lucasfilm shared their latest news with fans from around the world who congregated in London July 15-17, 2016 for a Celebration to be remembered.

Star Wars Celebration Europe after Rogue One Panel

Rogue One was certainly THE highly-anticipated panel, and Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilm and Rogue One Producer) did not disappoint. Accompanied by Gareth Edwards (Director), Kiri Hart (Head of Story, LFL), and John Knoll (Executive Producer), Kathy welcomed us to the new world of stand-alone Star Wars films.

Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma, and our host for this panel) opened with a moment of silence for the lives lost the night before in the terror attack in Nice, France.

Rogue One — The First Stand-alone Star Wars Film.

The production team was initially concerned about whether there needed to be more introduction for Rogue One. It is the first of the planned “stand-alone” Star Wars stories (not part of the saga trilogies Episodes IV-VI, Episodes I-III, Episodes VII-IX).

From early screenings, Lucasfilm realized that fans understood immediately where Rogue One fit into the Star Wars timeline. This is the story of how the first Death Star plans were stolen; many lives were lost to get this intel to the Rebel base, to set up Luke Skywalker’s mission in Episode IV.

John Knoll (Executive Producer) developed the idea for Rogue One as a Mission Impossible-style story during the filming of Episode III in Sydney. While this story did not fit in with the live action Star Wars TV series planned back then, an opportunity arose when Disney announced a whole new set of Star Wars films.

Gareth Edwards closeup

Gareth Edwards as Director

Kathleen Kennedy described her visits to the set during the filming process of Rogue One. When she looked for director Gareth Edwards, she consistently found him with “a camera on his shoulder” trying to capture “different angles.” His style creates an “immersive” experience for the viewer unlike any other.

Gareth Edwards wanted a filming location vastly different from every other Star Wars film. He chose the tropical atolls of the Maldives to build his story (standing in for planet Scarif). The aquamarine waters and fine white sands made a striking contrast to the cold construction of Imperial Starships and darkness of outer space.

As they were filming, a storm rolled in, and production halted. But not before they were able to capture stunning images of dark broiling clouds with Storm Troopers trudging through the knee-high waters. When you see this in the film: it was mother nature, and not CG.

Storm Troopers on Scarif

I loved Gareth’s story about talking with the Storm Troopers (actually, soldiers of the Maldivian army) after filming. When asked ‘so, how did it feel being a Storm Trooper?’ – he found that they really had not heard of Star Wars, and didn’t know what Storm Troopers were. Their lives are about to be radically changed.

Note: There are new “Shore Troopers” in Rogue One but they look entirely different from the traditional Imperial Storm Troopers shown in the trailer. Gareth referred to these as Storm Troopers.

Storm Troopers filming at Canary Wharf Tube Station Edwards described filming overnight at the Canary Wharf Tube station in London. The production crew arrived as the Tube shut for the night. They had just four hours to film at the station until the Tube reopened in the morning. They wrapped, hid all the Storm Trooper armor, and nonchalantly greeted the early London commuters as the Tube reopened to the public.

Rogue One Poster

The Rogue One Poster

The reveal of the Rogue One film poster was met with thunderous applause. Tropical with palm trees and aquamarine waters, it is still undeniably Star Wars with the giant Death Star looming in the sky. A decidedly different aesthetic for this film will take Star Wars fans to new worlds.

Rogue One Cast

Rogue One Cast and Characters Revealed

To everyone’s delight, the panel brought out principal actors from Rogue One. Here are the actors, and some insight into characters they play:

Diego Luna – Captain Cassian Andor, accomplished Rebel Alliance intelligence officer

Riz Ahmed – Bodhi Rook, former Imperial pilot, now a pilot for the Rebellion

Felicity Jones – Jyn Erso, skilled heroine with a “checkered past” who joins with the Rebel Alliance

Donnie Yen – Chirrut Imwe, a blind samurai-like warrior monk

Jiang Wen – Baze Malbus, soldier with the big gun, best friend to Chirrut

Alan Tudyk – K-2S0, a reprogrammed Imperial droid working with the Rebel Alliance…but he’s not all there.

Mads Mikkelsen – Galen Erso, confirmed to be Jyn Erso’s father. He has “invented something to change the universe.”

Forest Whitaker – Saw Gererra, Rebel Fighter who appeared in the Clone Wars in the battle of Onderan. Known for his extreme tactics that got the job done, Gererra led the Partisans resistance group of the Rebels. His late sister was named Steela Gerrera (after Dave Filoni’s favorite football team, the Steelers).

Ben Mendelson marched in with quite an entrance – Director Orson Krennic commanding Imperial Death Troopers. He is “director of Advanced Weapons Research” in charge of building the Death Star.

Imperial Death Troopers – elite bodyguards for Krennic.

Director Krennic

Jyn Erso – A New Type of Hero

Kathleen Kennedy describes how Jyn Erso is unlike Luke Skywalker and Rey (what’s her last name again?). “She is not asking who she is and where she comes from.” Jyn is not searching for an identity. Rather, she is compared with Joan of Arc: a strong leader with a cause.

Gwendolyn Christie congratulated Felicity Jones on being an action figure, presenting her with the new Hasbro Black Series Jyn Erso figure dressed in Jedha garb. This was the first Rogue One action figure announced.

In a grand finale, Storm Troopers and Death Troopers posed with the Rogue One cast and production team for a giant photo.

Rogue One Cast Finale

One last thing…

The Rogue One Trailer

We watched on the Celebration Stage, as the Rogue One trailer was simultaneously released online to the world. In case you haven’t caught it, here it is….

After that, Star Wars Celebration fans were treated to exclusive bonus footage.

That bonus content showed more scenes from the film: Death Troopers on Scarif, Director Krennic marching through, battle action scenes with Chirrut and Baze, storm troopers battling through palm-tree lined beaches.

Jyn Erso speaks with the pulse of the Rebellion: “There isn’t much time. Every day we grow weaker…while they grow stronger. This is our chance to make a real difference.”

The final scene featured Darth Vader’s reflection, with heavy breathing piercing the darkness. Vader is confirmed to be in Rogue One, with James Earl Jones reprising his role as the Dark Lord’s voice.

It was like drinking from a firehose while on a rollercoaster ride.

Lucasfilm has flooded us with images and information from Rogue One at Star Wars Celebration Europe. Mind blown. Still processing. There are still so many unanswered questions…I can’t wait until Rogue One releases on December 16, 2016. How about you?

A huge “Thank You” to Kathleen Kennedy, Gareth Edwards, Mary Franklin (Director of SWCE) and all of Lucasfilm for your dedication to Star Wars, and a wonderful Star Wars Celebration 2016!