Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Felicity Jones, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelsen
Director: Gareth Edwards
Genre: Action, Adventure
Running Time: 134 minutes
Synopsis: 'Rebellions are built on hope." - Jyn Erso
Lucasfilm presents 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," the first in a new series of Star Wars standalone films set in the universe fans know and love, but featuring new characters and storylines.
As the first of these compelling, creative stories, 'Rogue One" tells the story of a group of unlikely heroes, who in a time of conflict band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Release Date: December 15th, 2016
The All-New Star Wars Stories
The exciting, new series of standalone Star Wars stories ushers in a new era of filmmaking for Lucasfilm that will not only deepen and expand the universe but also provide a creative filmmaking platform.
It is particularly fitting that the idea for this series of stories came from George Lucas. When Lucasfilm president and Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy first sat down with George Lucas, he outlined his plans to continue with the Star Wars saga and to make Episodes VII, VIII and IX. Then he revealed another ambition. 'George Lucas was excited, not only about doing more Saga films, but also about the potential of doing standalone stories that lived and breathed inside the Star Wars universe," explains producer Kathleen Kennedy.
'The Star Wars episodes (I-VII) follow the Skywalker family and tell a continuing story. The standalone movies, which can occur anyplace on the timeline, will introduce new characters and explore a wide variety of genres," Kathleen Kennedy adds.
Although the size, scale, and scope of 'Rogue One" will feel like a tent-pole movie, Kathleen Kennedy points out that 'the interesting idea inherent in what we're trying to do with the standalone films is we're not trying to lock ourselves into something that's really specific. There's a huge opportunity to do smaller, slightly grittier films as well as films that get close to the size and scale of the Saga films. We're trying to have a wide diversity."
In the making of the original legacy Star Wars saga films, George Lucas was very influenced by many genres of filmmaking, including everything from John Ford Westerns to Kurosawa films to WWII movies. 'That's the wonderful thing about the standalone films," says Kathleen Kennedy. 'We're looking at these different genres and different directors with their own styles of storytelling. So, it gives us a very wide range and huge palette of opportunity."
When it came to finding the right story to lead off the standalone series, Kathleen Kennedy found it in her backyard. As luck would have it, one person who had been secretly harboring an idea of his own was ILM chief creative officer and senior visual effects supervisor John Knoll. Having been at ILM nearly 30 years and as visual effects supervisor on several of the Star Wars saga films"The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith" John Knoll is almost unequalled in his knowledge and passion for the films. But, it was this opening crawl from of A New Hope that really fired his imagination:
Episode IV, A New Hope It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….
Who were these rebel spies and how did they manage to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon? Armed with these simple questions, John Knoll began to formulate an idea based on the events. And then the opportunity came to take his story idea one step further.
'I'd known Kathleen Kennedy for about 20 years," says John Knoll, 'but it was still quite a unique experience to go up to the office of the president of Lucasfilm and pitch a story idea. I did about a seven-page treatment and went up to the office and pitched it to Kathleen Kennedy and Kiri Hart [SVP, Development]. I thought at least I'd done the pitch so I wouldn't always wonder -what if.'"
Fortunately for John Knoll and for Star Wars fans everywhere both Kathleen Kennedy and Kiri Hart shared his conviction and a week later John Knoll received an e-mail saying they were 'seriously thinking of putting my idea into production."
Kathleen Kennedy says, 'I've known John Knoll for many years and worked with him as a visual effects supervisor, and I knew how talented he was and how much he cared about Star Wars. It was the first time I'd been in a situation where someone had pitched a Star Wars idea. I didn't know what to expect. The story was so compelling that I immediately knew this could be great. And lo and behold, it's become the first standalone movie we're doing."
In addition to the films that inspired George Lucas, films such as 'The Dam Busters" and 'The Guns of Navarone" also proved inspiration to John Knoll, and together he, Hart and the story team began to flesh out the idea of a film set in a time of extreme conflict with the Empire"a time of impending war.
'This is a time after Episode III and the purge of the Jedi where all the remaining Jedi have gone into hiding," John Knoll informs. 'It's before Obi-Wan comes back and Yoda reappears. Ordinary citizens are the ones who have to step up and show their heroism."
The 'ordinary citizens" in this case turn out to be Jyn Erso and a band of unlikely rebels thrown together by circumstance, who find themselves faced with the impossible task of finding the architect of the Death Star and stealing the plans.
The end result is a story of hope and determination played out on a huge canvas but retaining the intimacy of a small film. It showcases the efforts of everyday people from very different walks of life who choose to do extraordinary things for the common good.
From the genesis of the standalone series idea, Lucasfilm felt it was important to the look and feel of these films that the chosen directors be empowered to tell the stories in their own way. As Kathleen Kennedy says, 'What really sets the standalone films apart are the genres we are exploring, the unique stories we are telling, and the types of directors we are choosing."
When their search led them to Gareth Edwards, whose unique shooting style utilises intimate, handheld camera work, they knew they had found the director they wanted for 'Rogue One." 'We were really excited when we met Gareth Edwards," Kathleen Kennedy says 'He had been on our radar for a long time, starting with the release of his first film -Monsters.' When he made -Godzilla' we knew that he'd taken the next step in big, tent-pole moviemaking."
Explaining Gareth Edwards' fit for 'Rogue One," Kathleen Kennedy says, 'Gareth Edwards has that wonderful combination that is uniquely suited to Star Wars films, which is an emotional understanding of the characters inside the Star Wars universe and a sense of what is a strong family-type film that appeals to all ages. Gareth Edwards has a unique ability to combine a sense of humour with thematic storytelling."
'Rogue One" is an action-adventure story in the genre of World War II movies and Kathleen Kennedy says that 'Gareth Edwards is bringing an authentic feel to the movie that is very different from any other Star Wars film. He is telling an intimate father/daughter story set on a huge canvas."
Once he signed on, Gareth Edwards knew that before he could focus on the important job of casting the film, he had to take a step back and think how he could give the film its own identity within the Star Wars universe and make it his own.
'We're the first one out, so knowing these films could be different was exciting, but how different was the big question and what does that mean," says the director. 'I love Star Wars. I grew up with the original trilogy and to me they're the ultimate movies. I feel that a massive upside to not being a part of the saga is we have a license to be different. And hopefully we took that license and ran with it."
Gareth Edwards continues, 'We're going for realism and naturalness to the environments and performances and characters we meet. It's also that we're part of the original films in terms of where our characters are. It had to marry to the films I grew up with. And, there's a classical style to those, which is very considered and stable. We were also excited about doing something more organic and more opportunistic that felt more real and immediate."
Kathleen Kennedy was very supportive of Gareth Edwards' desire to experiment and to give the film its own unique personality. 'Gareth Edwards is a filmmaker who appreciates the hands-on process of making a movie," the producer says. 'He wants that camera on his shoulder; he wants to see the image; he wants to have that connection with his actors. I think that is very much a part of his process, so this handheld feel, up close, inside the action, is something that's really important to him and it came across in the footage that we were seeing."
Gareth Edwards wanted to make his film feel more grounded in reality and to give 'Rogue One" a sense of gritty realism very reminiscent of his style of filming in 'Monsters." 'What I wanted to do was to make -Rogue One' more natural, more realistic and a little more organic; to make it feel like a real world. This is a time with no Jedi, no god to come and help the people who are under this massive threat," the director explains.
Producer Simon Emanuel comments, 'Gareth Edwards is all about intimacy and realism. He has a very documentary-led style, where he really wants the audience to be in there, but equally one of the things that was important to Gareth Edwards was that you should be able to watch -Rogue One' and then go straight into A New Hope. Aesthetically it should feel the same; it shouldn't jar."
Striking the balance between that which is familiar to fans and taking the universe in new direction, led Edwards to award-winning cinematographer Greig Fraser, famed for his work on 'Zero Dark Thirty" and 'Foxcatcher."
For Gareth Edwards, Greig Fraser turned out to be the perfect choice. 'We had similar tastes," the director says. 'What he loved about cinema I loved. It was a great relationship where we egged each other on, encouraging each other. Taking more of a risk. We tried to set a really high bar. We surrounded ourselves with images and photographs we thought were the best, and even had a rule that we'd not watch anything other than our favourite masterpiece movies in the months beforehand. We wanted to feel every film out there was brilliant. And, so, we had a lot to compete with."
Gareth Edwards and Greig Fraser soon discovered that they shared more than the same taste in films"they had a mutual love of operating the camera themselves. They also shared the same unusual approach to filmmaking, which is to light the background not the actors.
Gareth Edwards expands: 'We're not trying to light the actors; we're lighting the environments so that the actors can go where they want and we'll find the cinematic beauty in it. We're giving them freedom and it's inspiring as every day you get something you weren't expecting and that's exciting as it gives you something unique."
In order to create the look and feel they wanted for 'Rogue One," Gareth Edwards and Greig Fraser went back to the camera lenses of the 1970s and combined these with modern digital technology. Lucasfilm also has a history of breaking new technological ground, and the unique combination of these period lenses with their cinematic feel and epic quality, almost countering the cleanness and crispness of digital filmmaking, once again does just that.
Attempting to tell the story of how a small band of rebels were able to steal the plans to the ultimate trophy in the Empire's war cabinet would ultimately mean a story involving conflict.
'There are war-movie elements in 'Rogue One" and some moments that feel a little darker and grittier. I think we'd be doing the concept of the movie a disservice if we didn't suggest that getting the Death Star plans was an easy thing to do," says Kiri Hart, co-producer and senior vice president of development for Lucasfilm.
In order to achieve this sense of conflict and boots-on-the-ground, Gareth Edwards studied many historical war photographs. He shared this imagery with costume designers Dave Crossman and Glyn Dillon for ideas on the look of the costuming for the film.
In addition to costumes, Gareth Edwards' approach to creating an environment that would reflect the story he wanted to tell also applied to the art department and production designers Doug Chiang and Neil Lamont.
Doug Chiang had first worked with George Lucas in 1995 on the prequels. 'I remember George Lucas saying that for him Star Wars was a documentary, and that is what I loved and appreciated from Gareth's approach," Doug Chiang says. 'Gareth Edwards's style is very hands on, very handheld, as if you are just coming into the world and just discovering the shots."
For Doug Chiang and Neil Lamont 'just discovering the shots," meant building 360-degree environments, knowing that wherever Gareth Edwards found his moment, they would be ready. 'Working with Gareth Edwards is exciting as the camera has the potential to look anywhere on the set and our guys have to be ready with any wish that Gareth Edwards or Greig Fraser might come up with," says Neil Lamont. 'This means we had to cover every angle, which was a very exhilarating but rewarding challenge."
Neil Lamont continues, 'Ultimately what this is going to give you is a docu-war film, edgy and classy, a harder rougher version, a tougher version than the Star Wars everybody is used to."
Equally, the challenge to make 'Rogue One" feel real and grounded was welcomed by Academy Award®-winning special effects supervisor Neil Corbould and his team.
Gareth Edwards charged Neil Corbould with the task of making the action seem as real as any war footage. Neil Corbould explains, 'Gareth Edwards wanted a slightly more realistic look to all the battles, so rather than just a spark, you get lots of debris as well. We tried different materials giving different coloured sparks, so if it was hitting metal, you'd get a blue spark and hitting earth would be a yellowy-red orange.
'Our aim was that the characters would really look like they are in a battle, that the danger was real," he concludes.
The Cast Of Characters
'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" features an international cast with actors who hail from the U.K., Australia, China, Mexico, Denmark and the U.S. This talented ensemble brings a plethora of skills to the film"everything from comedic artistry to martial arts expertise.
To begin the casting process, filmmakers turned to one of the U.K.'s most talented young actors"Academy Award®-nominee Felicity Jones"to play the protagonist Jyn Erso, an impetuous, defiant young woman who lends her skills to the Rebel Alliance and undertakes a desperate mission.
In keeping with the Star Wars tradition, 'Rogue One" once again places a strong, loyal and fiercely determined woman as the main protagonist of the story. But Gareth Edwards wanted to take it one step further and create a character who could have been played by either a male or female actor, whose sexuality would be secondary.
'We talked about the fact that Jyn Erso isn't just a woman"she's a person," Gareth Edwards explains. 'She just happens to be female. We always tried to treat her like that. I wanted to make a character that I would want to be. Not to fancy her or want to marry her, but want to be her. It was just a cool person. We tried to make the film in such a way where the issue of boy or girl never came into it."
The casting of a woman in the lead was, of course, a tradition started by George Lucas with Princess Leia and then continued with J.J. Abrams with Rey, as Kennedy says, 'The Force Awakens and -Rogue One' having strong female characters is very indicative of what we're talking about doing going forward. We are finding diversity in our cast, whether it be ethnic diversity or male/female, representing the population. We need to make sure that the diversity in our society is reflected in the stories that we tell."
Felicity Jones comments on playing the female protagonist, 'The thing about Jyn Erso is that everyone should relate to her. It doesn't matter whether she's female or male. She's not just tough, like all human beings she can also be vulnerable."
Having been left on her own at a young age, Jyn Erso is raised by rebel outlaw Saw Gerrera but, once grown, she finds herself alone in the world again at one point. Describing her character, Felicity Jones says, 'At the beginning of the film, she's very much a maverick. She's her own person. She's someone who naturally doesn't know how to keep to the rules and is always pushing the boundaries."
On her approach to playing Jyn Erso, Felicity Jones offers, 'I wanted Jyn Erso to be as human as possible. She's strong when she needs to be, she's incredibly determined and she has to be tough when she doesn't feel it."
Felicity Jones underwent an intensive training session with stunt co-ordinator Rob Inch and his team to prepare her for the physical battle scenes in the film. With real explosions set by Neil Corbould and his special effects team and real battles, nothing was for show.
As Felicity Jones says: 'Gareth Edwards has made everything feel as real as possible. He wants authenticity and that's hard work with harsh conditions, continual rain, sand being kicked in your face, but he wants an audience to feel that they are actually there and that's so important."
Kathleen Kennedy concludes, 'Felicity Jones is such a brilliant actress and brings a sense of gravitas and importance to everything she does, yet there's a real whimsy to her too. She has a great smile, a wonderful sense of humour, and she's been fantastic. She shows the strength and empowerment that we're looking for in female characters in Star Wars. One day I hope we don't even have to talk about that because it will just be accepted that the female leads in Star Wars are as important as their male counterparts and recognized beyond gender for playing a great role."
Playing the role of Cassian Andor, a respected Alliance intelligence officer, required an actor of unparalleled talent and experience, one able to convey intelligence, strength and determination and yet vulnerability. That actor is Diego Luna.
For Diego Luna, an actor and accomplished director who has produced over 20 films and television shows and with over 50 acting credits to his name, the attraction to playing the role of Cassian Andor was simple: 'The film has many layers. There are moments that are deep and dramatic and deserve a lot of attention and rigor as actors. Then there are scenes that are just fun and it's like choreography. You're enjoying and having fun with the beat."
Initially, we believe Cassian Andor to be just another rebel officer dedicated and ruthless, but as the story progresses we learn that he too has a past. 'You sense that Cassian has had a relationship to the Empire in the past. He clearly has lost family members, so he's damaged in some way. He's following orders initially when he meets Jyn Erso, but as the story progresses they both discover that they have a lot more in common than they realised," Kathleen Kennedy offers.
On the relationship between Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, Gareth Edwards says, 'When Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso first meet, neither of them want to be doing what they're doing together. Cassian Andor would rather do it on his own, and so would Jyn Erso. They initially don't get along too well but they're both likable people. That antagonism can't last too long because these two are going to solve this massive problem in the world of our film."
Their mission is not an easy one and the odds of success seem slim, but for Cassian and Jyn Erso, their own personal journey has one unexpected upside as Felicity Jones informs, 'Jyn Erso is suspicious of Cassian Andor. She's put in this position of going on a mission with someone she's never met before in her life. She's naturally cautious about him. They're both similar in that they're both headstrong. They're not immediately best friends, which is fun to play. But they go through so much together. They can't help but create this bond. There's a true friendship, and true respect, by the end of the film. They really earn each other's affection."
In keeping with Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm's philosophy of making films to truly reflect the world of today, the filmmakers looked to China to cast two of its leading roles, Chirrut and Baze.
'We're incredibly fortunate to have Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen," Kathleen Kennedy comments. 'The two of them are very well respected in the Chinese film industry. When we created these characters, we wanted to reach inside this very, very diverse cast and find the yin and yang of what this dynamic was, and Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen were two of the first people that we spoke to."
Chirrut Îmwe is the blind monk whom Jyn Erso first encounters when she and Cassian arrive in Jedha. But, although without sight, Chirrut Imwe is anything but unseeing. He is a skilled and artful warrior who can see into the hearts of all those around. And who better to play the role other than martial arts expert and one of Asia's most popular actors, Donnie Yen.
'Donnie Yen has so much wisdom like his character and he's got great humour," says producer Allison Shearmur. 'He has a sense of artistry and performance that tells us so much about his character. There's an elegance, a heroism, a nobility about both Donnie Yen and Chirrut Imwe."
In a time when the Force is all but forgotten and the few remaining Jedi are in hiding, Chirrut Imwe is a lone voice who still believes. 'Chirrut Imwe is a true believer in the Force, and he preaches this," Yen says. 'Throughout the whole film, he encourages and motivates his team members to have faith and continue to believe in the Force."
Chirrut Imwe is not alone on Jedha when he meets Jyn and Cassian. He is with his faithful and longstanding friend, Baze Malbus.
Baze Malbus, a pragmatic soldier and a crack shot, has grown up with Chirrut and will follow his closest friend to the ends of the universe. Jiang Wen, one of China's biggest stars, was the perfect choice to play Baze Malbus.
Of his character, Jiang Wen says, 'Baze loves Chirrut, he believes him, he trusts him. They have a very close relationship from when they were kids, so even though they are very different personalities there is a real bond there and Baze will do anything for him. And Chirrut's friends are his friends."
Jiang Wen was the obvious complement to Donnie Yen, an actor he had known for many years. 'Jiang Wen is like Clint Eastwood; there is solidarity, a moral a code, which may be corrupt but he absolutely believes in it," Allison Shearmur says. 'And there is great chemistry between Donnie and Jiang Wen and a wonderfully warm humour. Theirs is one of the strongest fraternal bonds you'll see in the Star Wars history."
Bodhi Rook is a cargo pilot who works for the Empire but changes course when faced with a harsh truth. Riz Ahmed, who plays Bodhi, says of his character: 'Gareth Edwards described Bodhi as a guy in a war movie who isn't supposed to be there. Everyone on the team is a soldier or warrior in some way and there's this guy who is there by accident but realizes he has to step up and make himself valuable. He's an everyman, someone audiences can relate to."
Felicity Jones says of the relationship between Bodhi and Jyn, 'Subconsciously throughout the film, Jyn is putting together a team, and when she comes across Bodhi she doesn't realise straightaway that there is a connection between them. Jyn is very empathetic and doesn't like to see anyone suffering, so she instinctively wants to help him and that is the start of their bond and friendship."
On casting Riz Ahmed as Bodhi, Kathleen Kennedy says, 'Riz Ahmed is an extraordinary actor. He's an interesting character in this story"a bit like Rick in Casablanca. He goes wherever he wants; he doesn't really choose his side and it doesn't really bother him if he's working for the bad guys or the good guys. In our story, he finds himself in a moral dilemma where he eventually does need to choose sides. Getting there and making that choice is what makes it interesting to watch him. Riz Ahmed is one of those actors who also has this incredible ability to be funny and whimsical and yet extremely serious and dramatic at the same time. He's a very emotional actor to watch."
And was Riz Ahmed a Star Wars fan? 'I spoke to Gareth Edwards on the phone and he asked me to put something on tape for it, so I sent him about 500 takes of one little scene. And then I sent him more tapes. I was so excited!" he exclaims.
'Rogue One" has its own creative and uniquely designed droid"K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial security guard now loyal to the Alliance. The 7'1" K-2SO is played by Alan Tudyk, who brings his sense of comedic timing and presence to the task of bringing the droid to life via motion capture.
'Alan Tudyk is like all great comic actors in that, as funny as he is, he can pull at your heart strings as well," offers Gareth Edwards. 'We didn't want K-2 just to be the comic relief. There is something slightly tragic about him trying to find his place in the world. There are moments of fun, but Alan Tudyk gives him a soul."
Alan Tudyk explains the character's place in the story: 'K-2 was built by the Empire, but Cassian reprogrammed him. He had a memory wipe, but it wasn't totally effective so now he's more childlike and says socially inappropriate or offensive things without realising. He's like a child and speaks his mind."
K-2 belongs to Cassian and although it takes a while for Jyn to trust a droid that was once the property of the Empire, he eventually becomes an invaluable member of their small rebel team.
'The idea for K-2," John Knoll says, 'was that in the Star Wars universe, your small group of experts with complementary skills could extend to physical diversity. So having a member of your team who is a droid is a plus because they can do things that humans can't."
Tall and imposing, K-2 has all the capabilities of an Empire droid but as Alan Tudyk says, the mind of a child. And this leads to moments of hilarity. 'He doesn't think of himself as owned," Alan Tudyk comments. 'He and Cassian are a team and that allows for a lot of humour."
'Alan Tudyk is an incredible comic actor and has two advantages," says Emanuel. 'He's amazing at ad-libbing, is naturally incredibly funny and he knows CGI, so he knows he can throw in lines and they can take whatever they want. And Alan Tudyk takes it seriously. He wants to know about the character"the way it looks, the way it moves"and shapes his performance with that in mind."
And for the actors on set, Alan Tudyk's humour and his ability to improvise brought light relief. As Felicity Jones observes, 'Alan Tudyk is so brilliant. He's improvising all the time, throwing in different lines to crack us all up."
Saw Gerrera is perhaps the most complicated character in this story and certainly unlike any other we have seen in the Star Wars universe before. Saw is an outlaw rebel, a man who believes that the Empire must be defeated, but at what cost? Is it acceptable to sacrifice the innocent for the greater good or does that make him as guilty as those he opposes?
To play the role of Saw Gerrera, Edwards looked no further than Academy Award®-winner Forest Whitaker, who says of his character, 'Saw is very clear about what he believes. It's the clarity of what he believes to be the solution to win the war before his world, as he knows it, is destroyed, that makes others think of him as an extremist. He crosses lines, human rights lines. He's willing to do things he thinks are necessary in order to save the people and to free them from the bondage and slavery of the Empire."
It is Saw Gerrera who rescues Jyn and subsequently raises her as his own daughter. However, Saw is a lone figure in the rebel fight against the Empire, a man who has rejected the senate believing them to be ineffectual, and chosen to launch his own campaign against the Empire. Saw's methods are ruthless and he will not hesitate to kill the innocent for what he believes to be the greater good.
In Kathleen Kennedy's eyes, Saw Gerrera is a pillar character inside the story that Gareth Edwards wants to tell. 'He is kind of the moral center of the story and casting somebody like Forest Whitaker was hands down Gareth Edwards's only choice, right from the beginning," Kathleen Kennedy says. 'The interesting thing about Saw Gerrera is that he came to the Rebellion early on as he was an activist who believed in the Rebellion. He was anxious to see the Rebellion come together and fight for what was right and when we meet him in our story he's pretty disillusioned. It hasn't really come together in the way that he thought it would."
Saw is the one who ultimately empowers Jyn. 'So he becomes a very important figure," Kathleen Kennedy says, 'not only to the story that we're telling, but most importantly to her because most everybody recognises that it takes a mentor to recognise your strength and skills and give you courage to do brave things."
On the relationship between Jyn and Saw, Jones says, 'Saw Gerrera is the closest person that Jyn has to a parental figure. Not having her parents around, she's had to learn to be very self-reliant, and Saw Gerrera has shown her that not only does she have to rely on herself but she has to have strong convictions as well and defend those convictions. When Jyn and Saw meet, there's an incredible connection between them; a closeness and a bond. But, also, there's friction. You can see Jyn is trying to forge her own way."
For Felicity Jones, working closely with Forest Whitaker was a positive experience. As she says: 'Forest Whitaker is so brilliant technically, but also the most soulful human being I've ever met in my entire life. He brought such humanity to the character and such complexity. I feel speechless talking about him. I had a fantastic time with him."
Director Orson Krennic plays a pivotal role in Star Wars history. He is the man behind the creation of the Death Star, a weapon he knows will allow the Empire to take full control of the galaxy through means of fear. Ben Mendelsohn signed on to play the malevolent character.
Regarding casting Ben Mendelsohn, Kathleen Kennedy comments, 'Ben Mendelsohn was one of the first people Gareth Edwards started talking about for Krennic because Ben Mendelsohn is so unique in terms of what he does. He's unsettling if he chooses to be and at the same time there's a childlike quality about him that makes you feel that he could easily start laughing at any moment. So he's very, very unpredictable.
'Consequently, given the fact that we have Darth Vader in this movie, finding a villain that could be juxtaposed against Darth Vader was a real challenge, and I think Ben Mendelsohn has done an incredible job acting alongside one of the most iconic villains ever to be in movies," the producer concludes.
How do you compete with the ultimate villain, Darth Vader? The answer is: you don't. For Ben Mendelsohn, going toe-to-toe with Darth Vader on screen led him to only one conclusion: 'When you've got Darth Vader on the playing field, no one is taking his spot. He is one of the greatest villains of all time; no one's going to top Darth so you can relax and do what you need to do."
And so Ben Mendelsohn and the filmmakers decided to take Star Wars' new villain in a different direction, but in his own way, equally as menacing. 'Krennic believes in the Empire very thoroughly," says Ben Mendelsohn. 'He sees it as a way of maintaining order and that the Empire is essentially correct in what it does. But he is someone from the outer colonies, a guy who has worked his way up. He's not officer class, but he's gotten to where he is because he's driven and can just do it, and he knows that."
Galen Erso, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is Jyn's father and a brilliant scientist. One of the galaxy's most renowned polymaths, Galen is a gifted theoretician, mathematician, and experimental physicist who is working on a top-secret research project for the Empire under the watchful eye of Director Krennic.
Mads Mikkelsen, describing the relationship between Galen and Krennic, says, 'Krennic is a man of power who is convinced that there is one solution to the problem that the entire galaxy is facing. And that solution happens to be the project he needs Galen's expertise to deliver. Galen is caught up not only in his work but in Krennic's ambitions as well."
Kathleen Kennedy adds, 'Galen is somebody who we want to feel compassion for, but we're conflicted because he's working for the Empire. I think that's the beauty of having somebody like Mads Mikkelsen. He's such an extraordinary actor, and you completely believe that his commitment is a moral commitment."
On becoming part of the Star Wars family, Mads Mikkelsen says, 'It's a big honor to be part of this legendary film universe. Something very interesting to me about Star Wars is that it's quite human, even though we have droids and different kinds of creatures that look very different from the human race."
The Familiar Faces
Of course, Jyn is not the only strong woman in this story. 'Rogue One" welcomes back many characters familiar to fans, not least the head of the rebel senate Mon Mothma, played once again by Genevieve O'Reilly.
Mon Mothma is facing a time of dissent within the senate. Although unified in their fear and loathing of the Empire's aggressive expansion, the rebel leaders differ greatly in their belief as to a solution, many thinking they should continue to negotiate whereas others believe direct action is the only hope for peace.
'Jyn and Cassian have come back from a very important mission and with information about the brutality of the Death Star," says Genevieve O'Reilly. 'It's a very low point in morale. Mon Mothma is very defeated by the Empire, but she believes in hope and she believes in Jyn. She sees the fight in her."
'Rogue One" also welcomes back Jimmy Smits who reprises his role as Bail Organa. He and Mon Mothma are among the lone voices who believe that the senate must act if it is to defeat the Empire and that the time has passed for negotiation.
Jimmy Smits describes his role: 'One of the key themes in Star Wars is how we achieve our goals in a political situation and there are a lot of parallels with the world today. Sometimes the best intentions get lost because of the vying back and forth between countries and factions, in this case planets and galaxies. Bail is a politician but he also tries to be a man of action."
Observant fans will notice the change in Bail Organa's look. Reflecting his desire to act rather than attempt to placate the Empire, Organa is seen in more of a military role than in the prequels, with a khaki costume replacing the regal purple hues.
The Sets And Locations
The filming of 'Rogue One" primarily took place at Pinewood Studios in London, but where possible Edwards had his production teams build sets in actual locations both in England and as far afield as Iceland, Jordan and the Maldives.
The task of designing the sets fell to production designers Doug Chiang and Neil Lamont. 'For us, I think the magic of -Rogue One' was that we were carrying the design philosophy of The Force Awakens to the next level," Chiang says. 'In meeting with Gareth Edwards, I really liked his sensibility and approach. He wanted a handheld look where it looks like you were really coming into this world. As production designers, we have to create a very immersive world in order for a director to do that."
Taking that challenge, Doug Chiang and Neil Lamont succeeded in creating sets that evoke the gritty realism of conflict and marrying them with design elements that have become part of the life of Star Wars.
One set familiar to fans will be the rebel base on Yavin 4, first seen in A New Hope. But whereas, for budgetary reasons, Lucas was only able to build a part of the rebel base, relying on a matte painting to give the illusion of size, the 'Rogue One" production was able to go all-out on its construction. And furthermore, the team was able to revisit the exact location of the original Yavin 4 set, Cardington Airfield in the county of Bedfordshire.
Cardington Airfield was originally built to build airships, with a history dating back to 1915. The enormous 800 ft. long and equally wide hangars with a roof height of similar dimensions, offered Doug Chiang and Neil Lamont the opportunity to really build Yavin 4 to scale.
'We have actually been able to build a set of enormous proportions," explains Neil Lamont. 'At the front you see it as a massive temple with a long aperture, which is the entrance to the Yavin hangar and then inside the set measures about 350 feet in length by 200 feet in width."
'You really get the sense of a fully operational hangar once inside," adds Doug Chiang. 'There are various crew and creatures rushing around mobilising against the Empire and we had enough space to feature full-size X-wings."
In the middle of the huge hangar, production built the bunker set, adding a ceiling to, as senior art director Al Bullock says, 'make it feel a little more intimate." It is in the bunker set where Mon Mothma first gives Jyn her orders.
Taking centerstage in the bunker is the Yavin briefing table"a table painstakingly recreated by Academy Award®-nominated set decorator Lee Sandales. The table first appears in A New Hope but unfortunately there were no drawings or blueprints to assist with the recreation. So Lee Sandales and art director Lydia Fry had to resort to a detailed study of photography and film footage.
Lee Sandales describes the process: 'We set about doing a forensic study of the table, down to millimeters. It took about four to six weeks of drawings to get the table right. We used production photos of Carrie Fisher standing next to the table to get the height and to work out the scaling of the ribs on the inside of the table and also to work out how many ribs there were."
The same applied to the screens behind the table. He adds: 'We couldn't work out the graphics, so Lydia forensically went through working out each of the graphics so they exactly match A New Hope."
As well as the X-wings, the film welcomes a new ship created especially for 'Rogue One," namely the U-wing. In addition to creating a new breed of stormtroopers for fans to enjoy, Edwards also wanted to design them a new craft.
As Doug Chiang explains, 'Gareth Edwards is such a huge Star Wars fan that he wanted to design a ship as iconic as the X-wing. He wanted to create a Huey helicopter version of an X-wing so it had all the design and iconic features, but that could carry 12 people."
For Gareth Edwards, the look of the vehicle had to be perfect, and thus the design of the new U-wing took months and about 1000 separate designs to perfect. But as Doug Chiang says: 'We had to get it just right. We needed a ship that would stand next to the X-wing."
For the inspiration behind the creation of the Holy city of Jedha, production designers Neil Lamont and Doug Chiang looked to the ancient city of Jerusalem and the desert fortress of Madasa in Israel.
Neil Lamont informs, 'One of the special things about Star Wars is that even though we're creating new universes, it's still very much grounded in reality. Doug Chiang and I started with a lot of research and looked at real locations. In the case of Jedha, it's a very ancient city, but with little bits of tech to turn it into Star Wars."
Doug Chiang continues: 'George Lucas, who is a really history buff, would tell people when he started Star Wars to go back into history to find different elements, then take things that are from disparate times and merge them together. What you get is a design that is timeless, but seems very real because 80-90% of it is real."
Another key influence in the creation of Jedha was occupied Paris in World War II. 'Jedha is a holy city but occupied by the Empire and policed by stormtroopers," adds supervising art director Al Bullock. 'These are peaceful pilgrims held at gunpoint until finally they fight back."
The -fight back' in Jedha involved major preparation by Neil Corbould and his special effects team with around 500-600 -bullets' exploding in the walls. 'Gareth Edwards wanted to film it almost like a documentary, like the -Hurt Locker' or -Black Hawk Down' with handheld cameras within the firefight so you actually feel as if you're there," says Neil Corbould.
During this fight, the stormtroopers drive straight through the middle of the streets scattering the innocent pilgrims. For this, Neil Corbould sourced a tractor tank, which could spin on the spot. 'We made one side in fiberglass and the other in a biscuit-foam material, so that when we blew it up it wouldn't hurt anybody," Neil Corbould says.
Having fled the crumbling ruin that was Jedha, Jyn and the rebels head off to the cold and wet mountains of Eadu. This environment couldn't be more of a contrast to the dry and desert lands of the holy city.
'Gareth Edwards really liked the idea of a secret base, almost hidden," explains Doug Chiang. 'So we built a set that we then needed to find a way to hide. It's a dark mysterious planet, constantly raining and, in fact, always enshrouded in mist, which helped to cloud the design."
Neil Lamont continues, 'The biggest challenge was how to achieve a set of this size within a stage. Normally, something this big you would build outside, but with the continuous rain needed over a ten-day period of shooting, the effects, explosions, etc., it was easier to control on a stage."
The art department thus decided to build the set in an enormous purpose-built tank on the Richard Attenborough stage at Pinewood. And with the painted backing and the special effects department throwing continual wind, rain and the worst conditions imaginable at the cast, it is easy to imagine that they were experiencing the very inhospitable weather of Eadu.
The Death Star
One set that needs very little introduction is the Death Star. However, for art director Alex Baily charged with its recreation, there was very little information to go on.
'We worked out the size from working out the size of one wall panel and just going from photographs," Alex Baily explains. 'The original set was just cobbled together and they only built the screen and one wall. Then when the day came to film on it, George Lucas decided he couldn't cover the scene with such a small set and so over lunch they built the rest of it!"
After weeks of careful research and forensic examination of photographs, Alex Baily and the team recreated the full set measuring 58 feet in width by 21 feet in height.
One new addition or change to how the set originally looked was the use of a giant LED display screen. Rear projection was used in A New Hope and the filmmakers in 'Rogue One" were planning to use blue screen but at the eleventh hour discovered the existence of a state of the art LED display. This meant that the visual effects team could provide live, in-camera footage to run outside the iconic Death Star window while the cameras were turning.
Jyn's search for the Death Star plans finally takes her and her rebel team to the beatific plant of Scarif.
'Gareth Edwards had always wanted this area to be a beautiful place"a desert island with blue emerald water"so we have the contract of the Empire ruining something idyllic in order to make something destructive," Neil Lamont explains.
Doug Chiang adds, 'Gareth Edwards wanted to set up the third act in paradise, where the Empire is there to mine and strip the planet, to destroy it. He visualised somewhere like the Maldives, but obviously we couldn't go to the Maldives and blow it up!"
Having looked at beaches and locations as far flung as South Africa, the filmmakers finally decided to bring the Maldives to England and found the perfect spot"Bovingdon Airfield, an old RAF base unused for nearly half a century, ideal for the purpose of recreating the Maldives with its clear horizons and accessibility. All it needed was a bit of sand and some palm trees.
'We shipped in 2000 tons of sand in about 200 truckloads," Neil Lamont relates, 'and imported over 60 palm trees from Spain and various greenery from the U.K. We also needed to build a beach and the special effects team had the great idea of recycling water from the tank at Pinewood so it wouldn't be wasted."
In fact, the art department recycled 800,000 liters of water, about 5,000 baths full, into a giant tank measuring 200 feet by 100 feet. All told, the final set measured a staggering 700 feet by 500 feet, or about eight acres, and perfectly mirrored the locale of the Maldives where a reduced unit would later film.
Much of the action of the third act takes place on the beautiful planet of Scarif, and thus at Bovingdon, including huge battles between the rebels and the Empire as Krennic endeavors to thwart their attempts to steal the Death Star plans.
As well as going through around 2000 bullet hits a day, SFX supervisor Neil Corbould's biggest challenge was to build an explosion of gigantic proportions as the Imperial Shuttle, stolen by the rebels, is blown up.
'Gareth Edwards wanted a big explosion, so we showed him some tests that were about a fifth of what the full explosion would look like. And so when we came to shoot it, we had a 40-foot container, which we basically cut into bits, loaded with mortar parts, and then we covered it in a lightweight breakaway material. I told Gareth it was going to be a bit bigger than he'd seen," Neil Corbould says.
And being Gareth Edwards and wanting to be hands on, he asked Neil Corbould if he could be within 50 or so feet of the explosion, not a really safe place for anyone to stand. 'Gareth Edwards wanted to get really close, and so I said it would be fine but he would have to dress up in a full fire Nomex suit, balaclava, gloves, etc. Everyone around him was also dressed up and wore fire suits, and we had stuntmen with shields around as well to protect him."
After three months of planning and testing, the special effects team finally had a day to rig the explosion, which was pre-rigged and then craned in. The final explosion could be seen for miles around as the 2,500 liters of fuel created a fireball about 200- feet high with a 50 to 60 foot radius.
The interior of the Empire base on Scarif was filmed at a very unusual location" Canary Wharf tube station in East London. The towering modern platform perfectly mirrored the environment of the Empire, with its clean glass and chrome lines. But fearing that the people passing by on the tubes would notice, it had to be a fast build.
'It was a very complicated logistical operation," explains art director Alex Baily. 'We had no time to pre-install any elements. Everything had to be pre-built and constructed in one evening when the tubes had stopped running."
Having completed a dry run on Thursday and Friday night, at the stroke of 1:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, when the tubes stopped running, the art department raced into action, laying a rubber floor, covering signage, adding greebles and graphics and a 'sort of Harry Lang design with LEDs."
By 5:30 a.m. in the morning the unit wrapped and began to remove all traces of the set, so by the time the public started arriving at 7:00 a.m., it was as if the production was never there.
The Creatures and A New Droid
Neal Scanlan, who won a BAFTA Award and was nominated for an Academy Award® for his work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is once again responsible for creating the creatures that inhabit the world of 'Rogue One."
Working with Neal Scanlan marked Gareth Edwards first time dealing with the iconic creature-maker and he admits that he was a bit overwhelmed. 'They did all these different creature designs," comments Gareth Edwards. 'It was an embarrassment of riches. But when the first decision day came, we had to pick five and we only had an hour. I had dreamt of making a creature for Star Wars and doing anything I wanted but when I had to say which ones it would be, I didn't want it to end."
Collaborating with the director and getting in touch with his vision for the film gave Neal Scanlan and his team creative freedom and a chance to develop the characters in a new way. 'I've never worked with a director like Gareth Edwards before," explains Neal Scanlan. 'He wants the characters to be spontaneous and so you don't come onto the set with a preconception of what you are doing. The performers have no idea when the camera will find them, whether they're in the front or the background. And that has a brilliance to it as it allows the characters to really evolve naturally. It's about Gareth Edwards finding those moments."
The end result is that the creatures are treated the same as the other actors on set, even to the extent that Neal Scanlan asked the hair and makeup team to add dust, grime, sweat and grease to the creatures, just as they would any of the other cast.
With his crew of 130 people, Neal Scanlan designed and created 30 creatures for the film that can move and articulate. In addition to the numerous background creatures and aliens, there are four creatures that play parts in the film, namely Pao, Bistan, Moroff and Bor Gullet.
Pao was one of the first creatures Edwards really responded to, a sort of reptile with a hinged mouth of gigantic proportions. Describing him, Neal Scanlan says, 'Pao has very tiny eyes which he squints through and he spends most of the time with his mouth shut, but when he opens it, when he screams in battle, his mouth opens to an extraordinary extent."
When you look into Pao's throat, you see right down inside the performer Derek Arnold's throat. When performing Pao, Arnold is rendered almost blind and relies on choreographer Paul Kasey, who looks after the characters on set, and drives Arnold through an earpiece.
'A lot of the time Pao is running, ducking and diving amongst explosions on set and it's a challenge as he totally has to trust in the directions he's been given. Then there is a third person, Phil Woodvine, who is performing the physical expressions on Pao's face through radio-controlled animatronics," Neal Scanlan explains.
Bistan was another design immediately favoured by Edwards, who was amused by the play on the idea of putting an actual monkey in a space suit. Performed by Nick Kellington, Neal Scanlan believes the attraction of the character lies in the fact that it's actually Nick Kellington's own eyes fronting the character.
'It's Nick Kellington's eyes we see, not lenses," says Neal Scanlan. 'The reason I think Chewbacca works so well is that you actually see Chewie's eyes. It's a real person's eyes and that makes all the difference."
The third key character is Moroff, a sort of giant white Yeti with the soft, brown eyes of a dog. It's a creature we haven't seen before. 'There haven't been many versions of big, furry characters other than Chewie, and so we thought what can we introduce that would live alongside a Wookie?" Neal Scanlan says.
He adds, 'Gareth Edwards liked the idea that this is a new breed of aliens; characters that are a bit put upon because they are powerful and can do a lot of lifting. Moroff is a bit disgruntled about his life, but would never cross the line. So Ian Whyte, who plays him, used that as an understanding of how Moroff might move. He's a little bit lazy, as if he feels he really shouldn't be doing this all the time, but he's a good guy, so he's there to support."
Perhaps Neal Scanlan's biggest and proudest achievement is the creature that literally broke the mould, or at least records of the mould. The design for Bor Gullet resulted in Neal Scanlan's team sculpting him at full size, something never before attempted, and this involved a staggering two and a half tons of silicone.
Gullet is Gerrera's henchman, a merciless interrogator who can read the minds of prisoners with or without their co-operation. 'Bor Gullet was a home run as far as character design," Neal Scanlan explains. 'Normally there are many drawings and designs but Ivan Manzella drew this blobulous, octopus-type thing and Gareth immediately responded -that's it.' Bor has this incredible mind but is hampered by body, so we used that design as inspiration. He's a bit like Jabba the Hutt."
Gullet measured about ten feet in length, by six feet in width and the same again in height. It took 15 puppeteers to operate Bor from a hollow mould beneath the floor, moving his body, tentacles and eyes, and making him breathe.
The creation of K-2SO took the combined skills of Knoll and the team at ILM, and Neal Scanlan and his team of creature and droid experts. K-2 was first created as a full-scale maquette by Neal Scanlan's team and then realized by visual effects.
Neal Scanlan describes the design of the character: 'Gareth Edwards described K-2 as like a lazy sprinter; he's quick and incredibly powerful and it's almost as if he doesn't class himself in the same bracket as other droids. The Empire version of a droid would be something you could take into battle. So, he's tall, very stealth-like and has long limbs to cover ground. Luke Fisher was the designer and we made a full-scale model, which will then become a visual effect."
And the artistry didn't end there. For Alan Tudyk to be able to perform as a character over seven-feet tall, Neal Scanlan and his team contacted a company that made artificial limbs and asked them to design legs for Alan Tudyk that would enable him to walk without assistance.
He continues: 'Robotic limbs have developed amazingly and allowed us to make Alan Tudyk much taller. His leg extensions were built specifically for him, as were his hand extensions with robotic hands. So as an actor he can live out the scene and be as strong as the other cast."
Commenting on K-2SO's hands, Alan Tudyk says, 'I have mechanical hands to make K-2's hands work. His hands are much longer than my own. The hands are animatronic and they're amazing. They can even grip things. I have one scene where I grab a guy by the shoulder, bring him over to another droid, and tell it that he's a spy and to process him. And, I just use my hands. They have a little power to them. They're very lightweight and are hollowed out. Everything was considered."
The Groundbreaking Visual Effects
Being the world's leading authority on visual effects, John Knoll was able to introduce new and exciting technologies to the production of 'Rogue One."
John Knoll brought real-time visual effects to the set, making it possible for the director to be able to gauge what the final world would look like while he was actually shooting the film. The real-time visual effects would literally create the environment on the screen for Gareth Edwards to watch as the cast performed the scene.
Describing the process, John Knoll says, 'SolidTrak is a technology that allows us to reach in real time where the camera is, then use that to drive computer graphic representation of what the part of the set is we don't have. It gives you a preview on the monitor of what the final result will be."
He continues, 'Gareth Edwards had concerns about the use of green screen and I get it. Cinematographers train their whole life to light what's in front of them, so if you can see a preview of what that final image will be, you can make different choices."
John Knoll also introduced new techniques when shooting the interiors of the ships as they battled through attacks by the Empire. Historically, although a craft may be placed on a gimbal to simulate movement, the exterior would often be blue or green screen.
'One of the challenges is cockpit work and we have X-wings, a U-wing and Empire shuttle cockpits," explains John Knoll. 'Traditionally you do these on sound stages and light it for daytime exterior. But we wanted to take this up a notch. So we've made this giant wraparound LED screen that's 50 feet in diameter with a central band 20- feet high, and we have imagery we play on these screens. By taking this approach we can add lasers that fly by in the space battle and you can see the reflections in the shiny surface of the helmet the pilot is wearing. And that creates a very real look."
The design of the ship belonging to Admiral Raddus also brought with it advances in the way visual effects can marry with production design to find solutions. Working closely with Neil Lamont and Doug Chiang in the art department, John Knoll came up with the groundbreaking idea of building a 3D visual effects set that would be painted by computer in post.
John Knoll walks us through the idea. 'There wasn't a big budget for something that was going to be on screen for less than 30 seconds, so we elected to do a virtual set. We stuck to the idea of building the basic forms of the set to cast shadows to provide the lighting environment for Greig Fraser. The idea is that we then replace them with computer graphics. We haven't really done something like this before."
And finally, John Knoll created a 21st century alternative to an art form created by Lucas and his team nearly 40 years previously. 'An important part of the original Star War films was the way miniatures were built," says John Knoll. 'The Millennium Falcon, the Death Star and Star Destroyers were all made by -kit bashing.'"
This simply involved breaking down multiple off-the-shelf plastic kits that were intended to produce small replicas of aircraft, ships and vehicles, and stripping these kits of their component parts, which would then be repurposed to create these phenomenally detailed models. The idea was simple, but the process took hours and hours, involving thousands of kit elements.
John Knoll explains, 'They used tiny pieces of model kits for artillery, tanks and race car engines and then fixed them onto a Star Wars model. Since we're going to be building a great many assets of various kinds, spaceships, etc., we wanted to make a digital version of the model kit library so we could take a similar process and hopefully the aesthetic would be the same across the films."
For costume designers Glyn Dillon and David Crossman, it was a 'dream-come-true" to work on a standalone film that was so connected to A New Hope, the first of the trilogy of Star Wars films that they grew up with and loved.
Although they were faithful to the original designs, the costume designers took Gareth Edwards' mandate and added more realism and detail to the 'Rogue One" costumes. 'It was very important to us to keep the original aesthetic of the film," says David Crossman. 'We wouldn't want to alter it; it's just about enhancing and making certain improvements."
Glyn Dillon adds, 'We wanted the costumes to feel real. They're worn by real people and have a real purpose."
One example is the costuming for the pilots. Instead of an orange boilersuit, they now have a proper flight suit. This realism also extended to the flak vests and helmets as well.
To create the soldier-look of Jyn Erso, Glyn Dillon and David Crossman worked closely with Felicity Jones over the course of several months. 'The costume was one of my favourite parts of Jyn," says Felicity Jones. 'We looked at a lot of different references. We liked Japanese influences, so Jyn's undershirt was based on a Japanese design."
Felicity Jones adds, 'What was important was that Jyn had a toughness and strength but rooted in femininity. We didn't want her to be just dressing like a guy. She had to have her own identity and her own way of doing things that came through her clothes."
David Crossman and Glyn Dillon decided upon one main look for Jyn, a military look that could be paired back as the story progressed. David Crossman explains, 'She starts off laden in Special Forces gear, but we continually strip this back to reveal her more human side, so by the end of the film you get a simple silhouette."
Glyn Dillon continues, 'She's got just the one main look but we also added a -Concho' for the Eadu Mountain mission, which we named because it's like a coat mixed with a poncho. The only other look is the disguise she wears on the Imperial Landing pad. This is a really cool outfit with an Imperial gunner's helmet with a moveable visor and under bite."
In designing the look for Saw Gerrera, who is played by Forest Whitaker, it was important to Gareth Edwards that Saw have nobility about him, almost as if a fallen king refusing to accept defeat, and this gave costume designers Dillon and Crossman an interesting challenge.
'Saw felt like a war-weary vet," David Crossman says, 'and we started talking with Gareth Edwards about him in terms of him being a king, an old king. So we tried to do a version of a medieval suit of armor with a flag on the back, as if a cape, and a guard over his shoulder, which gives him that silhouette of a fading king. But, underneath it's still a Star Wars space suit."
Creating the look of Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, Dillon and David Crossman looked closely at the influence of military costumes through the ages and, of course, at the Star Wars film themselves. 'Cassian starts out as a regular rebel intelligence officer, so we've given him the classic jacket with striped sleeves with his rank," says Crossman. 'Then we thought it would be cool to add a parka for the Eadu mountain mission, which was influenced by the one Han Solo wore in The Empire Strikes Back."
Glyn Dillon adds, 'And he has the classic Star Wars shirt that flaps open like the one Luke wore in Return of the Jedi. And at the end of the film, like Jyn, we see him disguised as an imperial officer."
For Diego Luna, finding out the rules about costumes in the Star Wars universe was an experience unto itself. 'For example," Diego Luna offers, 'buttons aren't allowed in Star Wars. You don't think about it, but then no one has a button. How do you attach stuff? It's a mystery."
When it came to a look for Bodhi, played by Riz Ahmed, Gareth Edwards initially envisaged him wearing glasses, but this developed into Bodhi wearing goggles, complete with boilersuit and, as described by Glyn Dillon 'a sort of battle harness vest, giving him an overall look reminiscent of Dennis Hopper in 'Apocalypse Now.'"
Commenting on his look, Riz Ahmed says, 'The costume is interesting because Bodhi is someone who starts off working for the Empire, then defects. But, he never changes his clothes. He never puts on Rebel clothes. He keeps that on. That partly speaks to the action-packed nature of this film. We don't have time for wardrobe changes."
To create the look of Galen Erso, played by Mads Mikkelsen, Gareth Edwards asked David Crossman and Glyn Dillon to look at A New Hope and the character of Luke when audiences first meet him while he is working on his uncle's farm.
Glyn Dillon explains, 'We first meet Galen at the very beginning of the film and Gareth Edwards wanted him to feel like this was a cool Star Wars land. He wanted everyone seeing the film to immediately feel that they are in a Star Wars that they love and they know. So Gareth Edwards said, -Look at Luke's costume and do a darker version of that.'"
David Crossman continues: 'It's similar from the point of view of farming and the homestead and the Star Wars mythology. So, in the end Mads ended up with a silhouette similar to Luke's but with a quilted crossover jacket in darker tones as we didn't want to replicate it exactly."
For the look of Chirrut, Gareth Edwards wanted him to be a skilled bowman, wielding a range of impressive weaponry, including a crossbow that more resembles a rifle in its capabilities and a cane that becomes a weapon when needed.
Chirrut's weaponry is concealed beneath his samurai-influenced robe, which can be thrown back when in battle, and completing the outfit are blue contact lenses with small holes giving Yen limited vision. 'We decided that the lenses would be blue. It's something different," says Yen, 'and contrasts with the black hair."
To create the look of Baze, Crossman and Dillon took 'their favourite Star Wars elements like the partial armour and the boilersuit," a look which was then completed with a giant arsenal involving an enormous gun and backpack of ammunition.
Then hair designer Lisa Tomblin gave what Jiang Wen describes as 'a Bob Marley haircut," which was topped off by makeup designer Amanda Knight and her team, with a 'a very dirty face," befitting a soldier who is never off-guard.
The task of recreating the most famous movie villain of all time sounds easier said than done. After all Darth Vader is one of the most recognisable figures in contemporary film history across the globe. However, for costume designers Glyn Dillon and David Crossman, the task wasn't as straightforward as one would first imagine.
Glyn Dillon explains: 'There's more than one look for Vader in the original films because in each film, his helmet or something on him would change. The hard-core fans will know there are the New Hope helmet and the Empire helmet, and they're slightly different."
As it turns out, the helmet worn by Vader in The Empire Strikes Back is shinier than its predecessor, but after much discussion Edwards decided that he preferred the less shiny version as first appears in A New Hope.
David Crossman says, 'There are also differences in the neck cowl and if you look closely at Vader's face in A New Hope you will see a slight C-shaped scar. So, we've kept the scar and tidied up the pipes a bit on his face."
The rest of the costume David Crossman describes as 'quite a faithful reproduction" with the boxes on Vader's belt matching exactly those in A New Hope, even down to the little scratches. And the chest box is again painted wood with buttons on it.
Equally, David Crossman and Glyn Dillon knew they needed to create a unique look for Director Krennic, a look that would distinguish him from Vader.
Glyn Dillon relates, 'There's a character in the Death Star in A New Hope, blink and you'll miss him, but he was later named Yularen. He is wearing a white tunic, and so we thought it was a great look for a villain."
'We did some research," adds David Crossman, 'and found out that these were supposed to be intelligence officers. When the script came in and Director Krennic was described as an Intelligence officer, we thought it would be great to put him in this white tunic. It would be the perfect contrast to Vader."
Completing the look is Director Krennic's pistol. Director Krennic is the only character in the film to carry a pistol. But, as Ben Mendelsohn explains, when you are Director Krennic you don't really need to have a weapon. 'I figured the pistol has likely been passed down through generations," comments Ben Mendelsohn. 'It's a powerful three-shooter. But Director Krennic doesn't draw it very often, he doesn't need to."
The only challenge with recreating something exactly as it was nearly 40 years ago, is whether it will stand up to modern-day digital technology. And that is why Gareth Edwards gave the direction to his creative team to 'do it as you remember it, not how it was."
This was very true in the case of the stormtroopers. 'If you look closely at the stormtroopers you will see they used stickers for detail. That wouldn't work today," explains Crossman. 'So, we've made the helmets and costumes as fans remember them but we've used three-dimensional vents and detail. You won't notice the difference unless you know."
But, the costume designers were also keen to keep the authenticity of the original helmets. 'When we redid the stormtrooper helmet we made and sculpted it in a computer, but based on a scan of the original," Glyn Dillon explains. 'And then we noticed the helmet had quite a big squint because originally they were made out of clay and you're not going to get it perfectly symmetrical. So we tidied it up a bit on the computer, but still kept that slight squint as we wanted to honour that organic feel."
In addition to the stormtrooper, Gareth Edwards also wanted to give fans something new and intimidating. And so were born the Death Troopers. The Death Troopers are a completely new design specially created for 'Rogue One." They are an elite group of fighters who accompany Director Krennic wherever he goes. Whereas stormtrooper costumes were made for anyone over five-foot-nine inches, Death Troopers each loom at well over six feet tall.
'They're much taller and skinnier, and the costumes much tighter than the regular stormtrooper," says Dillon. 'Gareth Edwards wanted them to have a real sense of fear and as they are entirely black, their silhouette really is intimidating."
The 'Rogue One" Gallery Of Fans
It is no secret that on the 'Rogue One" production Star Wars fans were happily in force"from catering and security to cast and crew, to filmmakers and accountants.
And perhaps the biggest fan of all is Gareth Edwards, who Kathleen Kennedy says 'went back to Tunisia, where the movies were shot. He drank blue milk. He posed in a way that Luke Skywalker did next to the hut on Tatooine with the two suns. He took a picture so he could remember what he felt like when he saw the movie for the first time."
Kathleen Kennedy adds, 'The great thing about Gareth Edwards, and the great thing about the filmmakers we're bringing in, is they're all fans. They all have a deep, emotional connection to Star Wars. That's something that's really important as we look around and identify the people who will direct these films. We're looking for caretakers"people who genuinely care and accept a responsibility around the franchise."
Recalling his earliest memory of Star Wars, über-fan Gareth Edwards says, 'I was just two when Star Wars came out, so I don't remember seeing it in the cinema. But I do remember sitting in the back of a car after having a falling out with my mom and dad. They went somewhere and came back with a box. And, it was a Betamax player that played films. I remember instantly asking if we could get Star Wars. They were already ahead of me because my next door neighbor had it on Betamax. We went round their house to borrow it, and I don't think I ever gave it back. We went home, put it in, and I felt like I knew what I was doing for the rest of my life: I'm watching this over and over on a loop. Every morning I'd put it in, eating breakfast, then I'd have to go to school."
Gareth Edwards is not the only fan on 'Rogue One" eager to share early memories and feelings. Here are some anecdotes from the cast:
Felicity Jones: 'I grew up with my older brother and lots of boy cousins. I remember them all sitting around watching it earnestly as I came in through the door. I remember that incredible title sequence from A New Hope going up the screen. But, I have to say, my affection for Star Wars came from watching it in preparation for -Rogue One' and going back to watch those early films and becoming rather obsessed with it."
Ben Mendelsohn: 'I loved everything about Star Wars. I still remember the bubble gum cards that you would get, and I still remember there was a card with Chewbacca and Han sort of like going, 'pew-pew"! And it was like number 77, I think, in the series. It was very hard to get, and I wound up getting two of them. It took a lot of chewing gum, but I was very glad I got two. Star Wars was a very big deal."
Donnie Yen: 'I saw the first Star Wars back in 1977. At the time I was living in Boston and like everybody else, I was overwhelmed by Star Wars. Here it is years later and I never expected to be a part of Star Wars. It's an experience and all these memories from when I was a teenager and saw Star Wars for the first time started rolling back."
Riz Ahmed: 'I was quite young when the first films came out. It was my older brother who was more into it and could follow the stories. For me, it was a series of incredible images I never forgot: the Ewoks, the AT-ATs, Jabba the Hutt, Han Solo being frozen in carbonite. All these images stayed with me and inspired me. And, very soon after seeing those films with my brother, we'd run around the house and create our own movie worlds. Then, we would write down the title after we acted them out."
Forest Whitaker: 'I've seen all the Star Wars films. I was really excited by them. I liked the concept of duality and the concept of what was the potentiality of a human being. What we're capable of when we tap into our own sense, our own Force, and see what we can do. It's very powerful. It explored not just the unknown, good and evil, dark and light, but potential"the potentiality of being a universal being; a human being."
Alan Tudyk: 'I'm forty-four so I have memory of the first three. They were a part of my childhood. I had the action figures and the Darth Vader with the lightsaber that came out of his arm and bent. We had lightsabers that were flashlights on a plastic tube that my brother and I hit each other with. It would buckle in the middle and leave a white mark. We played Star Wars. It informed our childhood and ignited our imagination. Those first three movies are held close to my heart."
Gareth Edwards sums up, with a hint of wistfulness, 'I don't think I'm lying when I say Star Wars still means the world to me. My biggest regret is that someone didn't tell me when I was four that I was going to make a Star Wars film someday. I'd have spent the last thirty-six years planning it out."
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Release Date: December 15th, 2016