On December 16th, fans will be transported back to “a galaxy far, far away” to a time before the original Star Wars film. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first in a new label of films for Lucasfilm that exist apart from the episodic saga. Directed by Gareth Edwards and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, this new film celebrates everything you love about Star Wars while also existing on its own terms apart from the previous films.
“We essentially got license to be different with this movie and take a risk,” explains Edwards. “The great thing about being a standalone film is that we don’t really have to exist in order for the other movies to exist. So we could be brave and that’s what we did.”
While Rogue One doesn’t have to adhere to the same formulas used in the seven previous episodes, there’s still the challenge of making it feel like part of the Star Wars universe. “There’s not an individual thing,” recalls Gareth Edwards. “It’s like, you’ve got to do 1,000 different things and mix them all together and get the balance just right. It’s a really tricky thing to emulate what we like about the original but feel like we’re telling a different story. But for me, we could have done a very specific genre film and slapped Star Wars on it and that’s our movie, but George [Lucas] was always really good about mixing genres together and creating this very emotional, sort of mythological story that just happened to have robots and spaceships. There’s meaning behind it, there’s meat on the bones. It took us a long time to crack that code and find all those different ingredients that make it work. It’s not something you just do in a week. It’s a 2 ½ year process.”
Within Lucasfilm, all things seem to tie back to George Lucas. Kathleen Kennedy shared the inspiration behind the Star Wars Story brand. “The interesting thing is that was inspired by George because he very much mixed genres and loved movies and drew from those examples when he created Star Wars to begin with. And even when George did A New Hope, he was actually cutting in planes from World War II to set up the dogfights, if you will. So that very much continues to inspire what we’re doing and it keeps the variety.”
Rogue One takes place shortly before the events of A New Hope, which means there’s not much story to tell immediately following these events that hasn’t already been told. “It’s absolutely a standalone,” producer Kathleen Kennedy shared. “I think the great thing is that this could be a real introduction to the whole franchise for many people who haven’t necessarily followed it.” After breaking the news that there are no plans for a sequel, Edwards shared “The sequel to Rogue One is actually Episode IV.”
Looking bewildered and asking as only he can, comedic actor Alan Tudyk responded with, “And we can’t be in that?” Tudyk has become Disney Animation’s lucky charm in recent years, most recently voicing the rooster Hei Hei in Moana. But for Rogue One, Tudyk brings to life a new droid who will have to live forever in the company of R2-D2, C-3PO and BB-8.
“What was amazing about what Alan did is that he had to find what that individual sense was so that he could create another robot in the family of robots in Star Wars and I think it’s going to be very memorable,” Kennedy enthusiastically shared. She also revealed that Tudyk was actually on set every day in a motion capture suit to bring K2SO to life.
“There’s a feeling on set that if we change our minds, we want to change the performance a bit, it’s in the computer and we can worry about that later,” explains Edwards. “And we shot the whole thing as if whatever Alan did on set was exactly what K2 did. And when Alan would screw up a few times, we’d do multiple takes... A lot of the humor in the film that’s really funny is just this guy improvising. He was given freedom to do whatever he wanted.”
From the opening shots of Rogue One, there’s a quality that instantly takes audiences back to 1977. Edwards advised his team to treat it as a period piece, using design aesthetics that would fit with the original version of A New Hope. This logic even extends to the cameras used during filming. “Nowadays in cinema, we’ve got these 4K projections and IMAX and this brand new camera came out from Arri and it’s incredible. We also want to go back to the 70’s with the analogue kind of look of the movie so (we) got ahold of this Panavision lens, it’s 70 mm, they shot Ben Hur with this actual lens, and for the first time in cinema Arri and Panavision came together to make one camera for Star Wars and it was incredible.”
“I think what’s really great about the fact that we’re now moving into these standalone movies is that we’re bringing in essentially auteur directors like Gareth,” explains Kennedy, who is also president of Lucasfilm. “And we’re really supporting those directors and their vision and we’re looking at each of these movies without a rulebook. We’re basically saying here’s a new movie, a new approach, what do we want to do? And we’re very open to that. I think it’s very much in the spirit of what George Lucas did to begin with. I mean he inspired ILM innovation and technological innovation, which was extremely important to him. And it’s very much a part of the culture of this company so that’s what we want to continue.”
“Two days ago we got to show George the movie,” Edwards recalls with a sense of awe in his eyes. “We all had a phone call and I got to speak with him yesterday. I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but I can honestly say that I can die happy now. He really liked the movie and that meant a lot. To be honest… it was the most important review to me, what George thought of it. He’s kind of god for Star Wars. And I will take that conversation to the grave. His opinion means the world to me.”
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is for all fans of Star Wars. George Lucas’ vision for the original film directly inspired these modern filmmakers, who are all lifelong fans of his masterpiece. And now a new generation of fans can learn of the heroic events to capture the plans to the Death Star that allowed Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia to save the galaxy in the original trilogy.