Things We Learned About 'Rogue One' at Star Wars Celebration Europe

by IMDb-Editors | last updated - 10 months ago

IMDb attended Star Wars Celebration Europe in London to learn more about the upcoming standalone film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Read on for things we gathered from the Rogue One panel and from our interviews with the cast. — Bret Federigan

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Felicity Jones and Riz Ahmed at an event for Rogue One (2016)

New Generations Require New Heroes

Much like Rey in The Force Awakens, Jyn Erso is poised to set a new standard for female protagonists in the Star Wars firmament. She appears equal parts action hero, troublemaker, and Rebel soldier with a complicated family situation. And it's highly likely she'll be just as big a hit with female fans as Rey was earlier this winter. "Jyn Erso is a role model," Felicity Jones explains. "She has incredible courage, is fiercely independent and defiant. She's someone who can be tough when she needs to be. But there's a huge humanity to her. She's someone who turns out to be someone who can lead. She's an absolute leader."

It's a part that forced Jones to flex new acting muscles, literally. She confessed, "The action sequences were a challenge but something I loved doing. I haven't done a lot of that before. I was religiously practicing hitting Stormtroopers with a short stick for six months. It was hard work but great fun."

And as for those rumors that Jyn Erso is Rey's mother? Well, don't hold your breath. Jones was quick to retort with a loud chuckle, "In the words of Daisy Ridley, just because they have the same hair color, doesn't mean that they're related."

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Kathleen Kennedy and Gareth Edwards at an event for Rogue One (2016)

Different by Design

As is to be expected for a standalone film, Rogue One will look and feel immediately different from the other movies in the franchise. And this was by design. In hiring Gareth Edwards to direct the film, producer Kathleen Kennedy sought a different type of storytelling that she says viewers will immediately see as "more immersive" right from the first scenes. Part of this was accomplished by hand-held cameras and a "360-degree set," according to Edwards, where he was able to film "anything, anywhere he wanted." Edwards also noted the film's "organic realism," which he achieved by letting the "actors do their thing."

In addition to the completely different characters, Kennedy is quick to remind that we'll have "completely different settings," underscoring just how much of a standalone this film will be for viewers. At Celebration, she and the cast shared new stills from the movie, including shots of Stormtroopers wading through azure blue waters in scenes shot in the Maldives. For many in the audience, it was a truly jarring juxtaposition of the tropical with the icy Dark Side that elicited audible gasps. Expect to be similarly surprised in theaters.

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David Prowse in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)

No Dearth of Darth

One of the highlights of the Rogue One Panel at Celebration was certainly the extended tease of the movie's trailer that Kathleen Kennedy shared with attendees and implored them not to share just yet. Included at the end of the trailer was a silhouetted Darth Vader breathing just as heavily and as unforgettably as ever. That Darth Vader would be included in the movie has been well-known for some weeks. Explains Kennedy, "It would have been hard keeping that one a secret."

As for his scenes, don't expect tons of screen time, according to the producer. However, you can be sure what few scenes Darth does appear in will be substantial and certainly enough to please fans. Reveals director Gareth Edwards, "I don't want to ruin anything. But if it was just literally a scene where we just see Darth Vader, you'd be disappointed. There are some things here that you haven't seen before."

And yes, James Earl Jones is back to voice Vader once again. His involvement in the film has everyone excited, including the director, who admits to having more than a couple of "nerdgasms" in hearing the famed actor in the sound studio.

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Ben Mendelsohn at an event for Rogue One (2016)

Evil Never Looked Like So Much Fun

One standout of the Rogue One panel was certainly Ben Mendelsohn, who bestrode the stage in character as Director Orson Krennic. Attired in a conspicuously all-white costume and accompanied by troopers, he introduced himself as the new Star Wars villain with considerable flair. And it was apparent to all in attendance that this is a character that the actor truly relishes playing. In subsequent interactions with press and media, he couldn't help but smile and laugh about the role. "He's a different kind of villain," he often repeated. No doubt, this enthusiasm for the character is sure to translate on screen, as he was one of the more popular figures at Celebration.

As for who Krennic is, Mendelsohn explained the character's objective quite simply, "He's tasked with a very special project, and he delivers it par excellence." Just exactly what that project is and for whom it is delivered are things we can make pretty good guesses about, even though the actor is staying officially mum. When asked directly about any potential scenes with Darth Vader, Mendelsohn could only shut his lips and begin to mumble an "I don't know."

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Felicity Jones in Rogue One (2016)

Always the Force

Front and center in the teaser of the still unreleased trailer that the Rogue One panel attendees previewed is Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso, who is set to be very much the main heroic focus of the standalone film. In the teaser trailer, we see Jyn at various stages of her life: as a young girl running through the desert and also as a leader rallying her small band of rebels. The trailer begins with Jyn's voice, uttering, "There isn't much time. Every day we grow weaker, but they grow stronger. This is our chance to make a real difference." But some things remain the same. At end of a special behind-the-scenes video that director Gareth Edwards shared with attendees, we see Erso declaring plainly to the camera, "May the Force be with us." Indeed.

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Alan Tudyk at an event for Rogue One (2016)

The Droid You're Looking For?

Notable among the cast in attendance at the Rogue One panel was Alan Tudyk, who plays K-2SO, a Rebel-owned Imperial Enforcer droid, and who also never missed a chance to deliver a quip or needle one of his castmates. It's clear Tudyk and his character will deliver plenty of humor in a movie that looks to be far grittier than past Star Wars films. And this seems right in line with past droids in the franchise. Tudyk explains, "There's always some comic relief in these movies. C-3PO has that. They say that he and R2-D2 are like Laurel and Hardy. The droids have a history of being funny."

As for K-2S0's backstory? This droid's master, Cassian Andor, is played by Diego Luna. Tudyk provides a little background: "I like Cassian very much. He's my father in a lot of ways. Because K-2SO was formerly with the Empire, and then Cassian reprogrammed him. Who was he when he was with the Empire? The other K-2s in the movie who are still with the Empire are all very rigid. Cassian freed him into his own being and person. He loves Cassian. He's pretty casual."

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Forest Whitaker at an event for Rogue One (2016)

Rebel With a Cause

One of the more well-received cast members at the panel was Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, who took the stage to wild applause from the audience. In Rogue One, Whitaker plays Saw Gerrara, a character who has appeared in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and "Star Wars Rebels." Gerrara is a veteran of the Clone Wars. And unlike most Rebel soldiers we've seen in previous movies, Saw is more overtly political in his intentions and decisions.

Whitaker reveals the complexity of Gerrara: "He has a duality about him. He's a freedom fighter, but he's made the decision to stop the Empire. He will do that by any means possible. As a result, a lot of the other Rebel fighters think he's too extreme. He's impassioned and war-torn. He's beat down by war but continues to go forward."

It's a role that the accomplished actor jumped at portraying. Whitaker reveals, "It's exciting to be a part of Star Wars and to play this particular character. He's got so much history, and he's such an interesting guy."

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Wen Jiang at an event for Rogue One (2016)

Even More Diverse, With a Big Gun

As we saw in The Force Awakens, there's a real commitment by the powers that be in Star Wars land to produce films with casts that look more diverse and representative of the world we currently inhabit. This commitment was on full display at the Rogue One panel, which featured two stars with Chinese acting backgrounds. Donnie Yen plays Chirrut Imwe, a spiritual warrior who is particularly interested in all things related to the Force, even despite his blindness. Wen Jiang plays Baze Malbus, a freelance assassin and foil to his best friend Imwe.

Jiang Wen endeared himself to the audience at Celebration, all the while acknowledging that his English wasn't very good. He kept repeating about his character Baze, "He has a gun. He has a huge gun!"

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Felicity Jones and Riz Ahmed at an event for Rogue One (2016)

Quipster in Waiting

One actor who's enjoying tremendous attention these days is Riz Ahmed, who currently stars in HBO's "The Night Of." In Rogue One, the young actor plays Bodhi Rook, a Rebel character who has appeared in recent publicity stills with an Imperial patch on his uniform. When pressed to explain this apparent discrepancy at the Rogue One panel, Ahmed was careful not to reveal too much, though he did take the opportunity to get in a laugh. He started, "Bodhi is a pilot, and he works for the Empire to earn a living." Then came the wit, as he looked directly at Kathleen Kennedy: "People work at big organizations; they don't agree with everything they do."

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Mads Mikkelsen at an event for Rogue One (2016)

Mad(s) Scientist

Mads Mikkelsen plays Galen Erso, Jyn's father. But the veteran actor didn't have much to share with attendees about the role. It may be, however, that he couldn't share much without giving away key plot lines. In fact, when asked to explain who his character was beyond being Jyns' dad, he stated, "That's it." After a bit of a pause, he offered just a tad more, "He's a person of interest. He's a scientist who's invented something so beautiful and fantastic that it will change the world."

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Gareth Edwards at an event for Rogue One (2016)

Devotion to Lucas

In spite of the fact that Rogue One is a stylistic and tonal departure from its Star Wars forebears, director Gareth Edwards remains steadfast in his admiration and respect for George Lucas. It was a sentiment the young director was all too eager to reiterate to whomever he met.

During the panel, Edwards shared a story about how excited he was for Lucas to visit the set. And in discussions with the press, Edwards was ebullient about the indirect impact Lucas had on his career. He gushed: "I owe my whole career to George Lucas because he inspired me to make films. Not only that, he pushed technology forward: We can edit films on computers and can shoot digitally. We don't need to have film in our cameras. I got my big break by making something digital, without millions of dollars from a big company. He's inspired a whole generation to make film and gave them the tools to go make them. There's no one like him in cinema. He's very underrated in terms of what he's given to cinema."

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Diego Luna at an event for Rogue One (2016)

Luna-Struck

Diego Luna, who plays Captain Cassian Andor, gave audiences a little more about his character. Andor is Rebel intelligence, with a bearing that is comparatively more calm than his more volatile compatriots. According to Luna, the character is a much needed peacekeeper among a group that sees tensions rise quickly and often.

During Celebration, Luna garnered some of the wildest cheers, from fans from all countries. But the most fervent responses may have come from his fellow cast members, who couldn't stop raving about the Mexican actor. In fact, his co-stars referred to him as a "legend" and "genius" when asked about his work in the film.