Excitement was HEAVY at the beginning of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe. We begin with the crawl from A New Hope on the screen. Halfway through, the transmission starts to break up and we’re treated to sounds of the battle discussed in said crawl, revealing the title for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The biggest thrill came right after when the moderator was announced: Gwendoline Christie! Yes, she’s going to spend more time on stage talking about Star Wars than she did through all of The Force Awakens. After a touching moment of silence for the victims in Nice, France, the French members of the audience began singing their national anthem. I choked up, I admit it.
Christie then brought out producer and President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy, Director Gareth Edwards, Head of Story Kiri Hart, and Executive Producer John Knoll. Kennedy asks for a round of applause for it being the 40th anniversary of when the first film was made in London, England. She then began discussing the reasons for the Star Wars Stories, sort of like extended universe movies that are official and within canon. You have the characters and stories to tell, so why not?
Edwards, when asked what being involved in the Star Wars universe means to him, said it felt like it was happening to someone else. His most memorable moment on set (that he can talk about) is meeting Mark Hamill on set, but realizing he couldn’t tell anyone about it.
Knoll, who is also credited with story on the movie, says the idea of Rogue One came from the aborted Star Wars television series, a sort of spy narrative of how the Death Star plans were stolen, but it wouldn’t have been right for that show. Luckily, he made a pitch to “Kathy and Kiri” and they loved it. He showed some original artwork from the early concept (below) and talked about loving spy and clandestine war movies.
Hart talked about the difficulty and fun of bringing a new story element to a period of Star Wars history we all know about it. Edwards says one of his favorite locations was the Maldives, which gave us that beautiful image of Stormtroopers on the beach. Scarif is the name of that planet.
He showed us the new poster, which is badass AF. It depicts the Rebels and the Empire fighting on Scarif with the ghostly visage of the Death Star above.
Christie then brought out the cast: Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelsen, and Forest Whitaker… and what movie would be complete without a villain? Ben Mendelsohn came out in full Director Krennick garb, with Deathtroopers in tow. Then he left.
But THEN, we got a clip! A making-of piece, not unlike what happened in San Diego last summer. Warwick Davis is included! It looks very real, with real locations, using actual props and stuff… but then it cut off… technical difficulty. Cool. Gotta love these things. But luckily, you don’t have to wait, because it’s on the internet already!
While they fixed that, Christie asked Felicity Jones what it’s like to have her own action figure, giving it to her on stage. It looks pretty badass. Jones says Jyn is different in that she doesn’t ask who she is or where she’s coming from. She knows already and that’s why she’s involved and what brings her in to the story. Luna then told us about Cassian Andor, who is a Rebel intelligence officer, and the mission starts with just him and Jyn, and K-2SO (the reprogrammed Imperial droid) is his best and only friend. Tudyk added to that, saying his inner person is 7-foot-1 and black. He continued that the character is honest in the way an old person is. He doesn’t serve, and won’t be carrying people’s bags, as we saw in a brief clip. He also told a story about meeting Anthony Daniels, who asked if he was “in a suit or CGI.” When Tudyk said it was CGI, Daniels called him a shit. That sounds about right.
Edwards discusses shooting in a London tube station, which they really did at the Canary Wharf station. It was filmed in the middle of the night between midnight and 4 am with none of the early morning businesspeople were the wiser.
Ahmed thought being in a Star Wars movie is a good way to get people to see him in a film (he makes a ton of indie films) and it’s a good chance to work with tons of great actors… “and Alan Tudyk.” Bodhi used to be an Imperial who defected because he didn’t agree with what they were doing, as his home planet is now occupied. It’s the same planet where we meed Baze and Chirrut. Both of them are from Jedha, and are followers of the Force and Jedi arts but not Jedi themselves. Yen’s character uses the force to see and Wen’s character is there to help him. Baze has a “huge gun” and doesn’t believe in the Force but helps. Wen doesn’t speak English all that well and accidentally gave a big spoiler, which I won’t put here, but it’s there if you want to hear it.
Whitaker discussed Saw Gerrera, who has been leading a group of Rebels for a long time, and trained both as a Guerrilla and in the Jedi arts. A character who was created by George Lucas, by the way. Edwards then talked about how scared he was when he found out George Lucas was coming to the set, and how nice Lucas was and how every time they’d show him something, Lucas would criticize it, but actually be joking. Edwards had us all give it up for Lucas.
Next, Mikkelsen spoke up… barely. He is Galen Erso is the father of Jyn…what else could he say? Nothing. But he’s a scientist who at one point invented something so beautiful that it might change the universe…
Finally, Mendelsohn came back to the stage in normal person clothes to talk about his character. He’s a different kind of Imperial villain…an Australian one. He’s more intelligent, more invented, sexier than some, not as sexy as others (he offered a wink to Christie after that last crack).
Confirmed (though we knew it already), Darth Vader is in Rogue One. Edwards flew to New York right before Christmas to do a voice over record with James Earl Jones. Edwards and sound designer Matthew Wood had a nerdgasm when Mr. Jones said the word “Power.”
As the cast and crew left the stage, Kennedy showed us something that won’t be online…well, after they played the sizzle reel again…then we got a new trailer! That you won’t get to see. It contained Jyn as a child running on her home planet and then cutting to her as an adult. It’s very clear the Empire invaded and occupied Jyn’s planet. We then get shots of things like all the characters, many new ships, a lot of handheld battle action with creatures we’ve never seen before waging a battle against the Empire. It looks incredibly intense. We get a lot of variation on things we’ve already seen, but then…oh then…we get a shot, reflected on the shiny surface of the Star Destroyer bridge floor, of Darth Vader himself. I wish I could watch it again to be more accurate, but those are my memories, and it is AWESOME. I can’t wait for this movie!
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Images: Disney, Lucasfilm
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and will be at Star Wars Celebration all weekend long!Follow him on Twitter!