Monday, 30 May 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – everything you need to know

Shortly after the announcement in 2012 that George Lucas had sold Lucasfilm to Walt Disney Pictures, came news that the Star Wars episodes VII-IX, then in development, would alternate their release dates with standalone anthology movies. The first of those, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives this December, and as usual, advance information remains locked in the Death Star's most secret vaults. But once again, we have scoured the far corners of the galaxy for all the intelligence that is out there so far.


A visual effects artist by trade, Gareth Edwards made his startling directorial debut with the low budget Monsters (2012) and followed it up with studio behemoth Godzilla (2014).

"Ever since I saw Star Wars I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life – join the Rebel Alliance! I could not be more excited and honoured to go on this mission with Lucasfilm."

Edwards is the second British director to take the helm of a Star Wars movie, following in the footsteps of Richard Marquand (Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi).


Gary Whitta (After Earth) originally embarked on the screenplay, with the next draft changing hands to writer Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass). John Knoll, visual effects supervisor and chief creative officer at Industrial Light & Magic, also has a story credit, while Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) later undertook uncredited rewrites.

The broad concept for the film may originally have been envisioned by George Lucas. "It was really George's idea," says producer Kathleen Kennedy. "In fact one of the first things he sat down and talked to me about (following Disney's acquisition of LucasFilm) was not only picking up the saga again – which he never envisaged he would do, but was ready to do – but also exploring all the stories that might exist inside the Star Wars universe."


Felicity Jones (The Theory Of Everything), Diego Luna (Milk), Riz Ahmed (Ill Manors), Ben Mendelsohn (Killing Them Softly), Donnie Yen (Ip Man), Jiang Wen (Gone With The Bullets), Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels' The Butler), Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt), Alan Tudyk (Serenity), Jonathan Aris (Sherlock) and Eunice Olumide (World War Z).

Jones is in the lead, playing a rebellious solider named Jyn Erso. The first trailer (see below) tells us that she grew up on her own from the age of 15 and developed a reckless and rebellious streak. Her criminal record includes the forgery of Imperial documents, possession of stolen property, aggravated assault, and resisting arrest.

Ahmed is playing a character known as Bodhi Rook and Aris is filling the boots of one Senator Jebel. Pictures leaked from the set have revealed that Tudyk is playing a performance captured role. Mikkelsen recently revealed that he is playing Jyn Erso's father, and that he isn't a villain.

Genevieve O'Reilly reprises her role from Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith (2005) as the young Mon Mothma.

According to Kathleen Kennedy, the characters seen in the anthology movies will not appear in the new trilogy. But Han Solo is already an exception to that supposed role, since his standalone spin-off is already confirmed for the future and online scuttlebutt suggests he may even show up in Rogue One.

But our favourite rumour surrounding Rogue One is that Darth Vader will be putting in an appearance, which would certainly make sense with the film being set during his rein as the Emperor's chief enforcer – and it looks like that rumour is true.

Release date

Mark your diaries for 16 December 2016. A year to the day after the release of J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), and 364 days before the unveiling of Rian Johnson's (Looper) Star Wars Episode VIII.

The story (so far)

Set between Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith (2005) and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story follows a group of Rebel soldiers who set out on a dangerous mission to steal the plans for the original Death Star and bring hope to the galaxy.

Kennedy says that, "to a certain extent", it is a heist movie. But "it's really about pulling the beginning stages of the Rebel Alliance together".

A different kind of Star Wars

Edwards sees it as a war movie, drawing comparisons to Saving Private Ryan (1998), Black Hawk Down (2001) and Zero Dark Thirty (2013). Sidestepping the high fantasy of the franchise as we know it, he is aiming for a more grounded tone, exploring the moral grey areas rather than the more straightforward binary of The Force and its dark and light sides. Outside of the main trilogies he is grabbing the opportunity to push some boundaries.

"It's not going to be like a saga movie," says the director. "It's about the nature of war and what it takes to do something important for the greater good."

Of the anthology movies in general, Kennedy says "We want to make very different kinds of movies, in different genres, that live inside the Star Wars universe that each have a beginning, a middle and an end. They're not dependant on leaving you with a cliffhanger ending; they really do present a very straightforward and satisfying (self-contained) story."

Rogue One will also be the first Star Wars movie without any Jedi.


Another Star Wars first – Rogue One will not be scored by John Williams and will instead be composed by Alexandre Desplat. His is certainly a safe pair of hands though, with Academy Award® nominations for The Queen (2006), The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), The King's Speech (2010), Argo (2012), Philomena (2013) and The Imitation Game (2014), and won for The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).


Principal photography took place at Elstree Studios, with further locations in the UK, Iceland, Jordan, and on Laamu Atoll in the Maldives.


Putting his visual effects background to good use, Edwards has been working at Industrial Light & Magic using the ILMxLab VR system to pre-visualise and adjust the sets on which he would eventually be shooting. Sources at ILM say he referred to the technology as "real life" after using it for a mere couple of minutes.

Rogue One has been filmed on Ultra Panavision 70 lenses – the same as Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (2015) – with 65mm film stock used for at least some sequences.


The first teaser trailer arrived recently and offers AT-AT attacks, new look Stormtroopers, and – rather intriguingly – Canary Wharf tube station as one of the locations.

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