Earlier in the day on Friday (much, much earlier if you’re in London), attendees of Star Wars Celebration Europe were treated to a panel about the upcoming first non-saga film in the Star Wars Universe, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I wrote up what happened at the panel right here and we got a lot of information about all aspects of the film, but afterwards, Nerdist and other media outlets were treated to a brief chat with director Gareth Edwards to give us a deeper look at what happens in Rogue One.
One of the coolest parts of the panel was the introduction (in name) of one of the key planets—Jedha—which is home to several main characters including Bodhi (Riz Ahmed), Chirrut (Donnie Yen), and Baze (Jiang Wen). It was mentioned that this is the planet where the Jedi arts are kept alive despite the order being finished. We asked Edwards to elaborate on that and explain how Jedha plays into his vision for the film. “If you look at what George [Lucas] did so brilliantly,” Edwards said, “you’ve only got a story about one thing, but he’s implying a million other things in the background and ideas much wider than the film and using that and telling a story within it.” And this, he said, is where the idea for Jedha began. “Jedi were the leaders of this spiritual belief system, and so there’s gotta be Mecca or Jerusalem or places like that in the Star Wars universe.”
Edwards also elaborated at what the Empire might do to a planet of people whose culture is to believe the Jedi ways. “It felt very contemporary,” he continued, “to have a situation where the Empire were imposing themselves and what means a lot to them and the spiritual side of Star Wars for their own reasons, their own goals. And within that area, there’s a resistance that’s building that’s trying to fight back, but there are characters that end up having to go to Jedha and we basically end up getting pulled into their story a bit.”
Much has already been made of how Edwards is trying to make a very different Star Wars film, right down to the way it’s filmed—much more handheld and immediate. He told us this extended to the way sets were built and even where the cameramen were positioned. “We built this set at Pinewood that was 360 degrees so you can look wherever you wanted,” Edwards beamed. “We’d say to the extras, ‘Ok, for the next hour you’re going to be this character and you’re cooking food or you’re going and you’re working on this car thing.’ This was all just to keep the realness of the scene as it was being shot. “And the crew were wearing costumes,” continued Edwards, “so if the camera turned around on them, it wouldn’t ruin the shot.” So IMDb’s gaffe section where they talk about crew members visible just got that much more interesting, because very likely, you’ll be seeing crew members and not even know it.
Edwards maintained it’s all part of the verisimilitude that Rogue One is attempting to strike. “We tried to keep it all flowing and the actors were given the freedom to go where they wanted and do the scene in a way that felt right and things like this,” he said. “And so there’s a lot of freedom and had this organic sort of different vibe than you might normally associate with Star Wars. And so that felt really exciting.”
The director—no stranger to joining a franchise, having previously made Godzilla—knows that, in order to make a new version of a beloved thing work, you have to strike a balance. “If you go a little to the left,” Edwards explained, “it’s not Star Wars; it’s some other sci-fi movie and it just doesn’t feel right. If you go slightly to the right, you’re just copying what George did. And so trying to navigate this thing where it’s new, but feels fresh was the dance that was the process of making this film.” He equated it to making a new song in the same musical space rather than simply doing a karaoke version.
“But the film should exist on its own terms,” Edwards concluded. “If all these films are ever just, ‘And here’s that character you love, hooray!’ then you’re not really doing what George did which is try to find stories that were about something, that said something that you keep in your pocket, and 40 years later it’s in the back of your head and it’s still having an effect on you.”
The more we see of it, the more Rogue One: A Star Wars Story definitely seems like it’ll have that effect on us. Let us know your thoughts on the movie in the comments below!
And here’s all the Rogue One details we have so far!
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and will be at Star Wars Celebration all weekend long!Follow him on Twitter!