Gareth Edwards on ‘Rogue One’, Darth Vader, and What Happened to the Death Troopers
With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Download, I recently landed an exclusive interview with director Gareth Edwards to promote the home video release. During the wide-ranging conversation he talked about what elements from the original idea remained consistent from inception to finished film, pitching the film to Rian Johnson, the incredible Vader scene towards the end of the movie, and which VIP guests were in attendance while filming. Plus, why U-Wings or Death Troopers aren’t seen after Rogue One, why the Planet Jedha has such a high density of Kyber Crystals, and a lot more. In addition, Thomas Tull talked about releasing a Godzilla Extended Edition years ago that never happened, so I tried to find out if it would have included anything major. Check out what Edwards had to say below.
COLLIDER: Have you reached the point where you’re almost tired of talking about the movie?
GARETH EDWARDS: You are the last phone interview I’m ever doing with the film so… [Laughs] I’m gonna say no. Excited.
When your film crosses a billion dollars at the box office what’s the present that Disney buys you?
EDWARDS: They bought me the gift of making Star Wars. They sent it back in time two and a half years, and I already spent the voucher.
I was gonna see if you got a Disneyland passport for life.
EDWARDS: No, I might have to make some calls.
You really should, I’m just throwing that out there.
EDWARDS: Okay, I’m gonna send some emails after this interview.
In the last few weeks, everyone has talked so much about what’s changed in Rogue One and you’ve talked about deleted scenes and whatever else. But I’m curious, is there anything that was in the initial script or outline that when you signed on has remained consistent from then to what people saw on screen?
EDWARDS: Thank you for that question, you’re the first person to ask that. If we talk about John Knoll’s original treatment, when I signed on that’s what existed, it was this sort of treatment that John had written which was about two or three pages long. Jyn was in it, there was a female rebel character called Jyn, there was an ensemble, within that was a black protocol droid called K-2. There was a beginning, middle, and end that was kind of like learning that the Death Star existed, witnessing it being used, and then trying to steal the plans. It ended with getting the plans to Princess Leia, that was the very last moment in that treatment. So those elements stayed the same, and then everything else evolved from there.
Were there any notes that you got from let’s say J.J. [Abrams] or other Star Wars filmmakers that helped bring the thing together? I’m just curious because Pixar is like a brain trust, and I’m imagining with Star Wars maybe there’s more people talking
EDWARDS: Yeah, we were very lucky when we were developing the film. Rian Johnson was hanging around a lot working on his movie, and so I became very friendly with Rian and he was actually the first person we ever told the story to. I remember me and Gary [Whitta] got him to come down to our office and we pitched him the whole movie very early on. It obviously changed a lot since then, but I think somewhere on my phone I recorded that meeting, I’ve not listened to it back yet. But his reaction encouraged us and he gave us some thoughts and wherever he would be to produce we would make notes, “Okay, that didn’t come across” and that was really, really useful. Rian’s an amazing filmmaker and so I really listened to anything he had to say. I think he saw the film when it was closed to finished and I remember getting an email from him where he said how great that last scene with Vader was, and it made my day.
I think we can all agree that the ending of the movie with Vader is the thing that people have waited a long time to see.
EDWARDS: Yeah, and that was an enlightened idea, very late in the day, from one of the editors in the film, Jabez [Olssen], who pitched it. He said it a few times and I thought, “It’s a great idea but we’re not going to be able to do it now because we’re about 4 months at most away from release” and we were coming to the end of all the pick-up shooting that we were doing. Then he said it to Kathy [Kathleen Kennedy] and Kathy said, “I love that” and then suddenly before I knew it we were in Pinewood shooting that scene. So I’m so pleased we got to do that.
I heard through the grape vine that there were a lot of guests on set that day, important guests, other filmmakers and what not who wanted to watch that scene being filmed.
EDWARDS: Yeah. A lot of people showed up, people like Colin Trevorrow turned up obviously, I think he was nearby. Peter Jackson was very good to me after I made my first film, he was really one of the best things that happened after that movie. I was invited to New Zealand to go hang out with him on The Hobbit, and so for two weeks I got to sit next to him and watch him direct, and it was the most amazing experience you could ever have. And I felt like, “Oh God, I could never repay that favor” that there was nothing I could do that Peter Jackson would ever be interested in. Then I obviously was shooting that scene and I realized that he was in the U.K. and so I kept emailing him, and I didn’t want to give the game away, I wanted it to be a surprise, and I could never get a hold of him because he was so busy.
Then eventually I got him and I had to tell him because I didn’t want him to regret not coming, so I just sent an email saying, “Pete we’re filming Darth Vader right now. If you hurry you can see it, we’re at Pinewood” and I got an instant reply saying, “We’re in the car, we’re three minutes away.” Then we end up doing this shot –I can remember it–, he creeps over the back of the rebels in the dark and it’s the one where Vader’s lightsaber turns on. And it was all in camera ready to go, and just as we’re about to start filming, Peter Jackson walks in and he comes up and he’s like, “What are you shooting?” and it was just a beautiful moment, I couldn’t have timed it more perfect, and it was like, “Shhh, watch.” And we just go, “Action” and did that whole thing, Vader turned his lightsaber on and he started destroying everyone, all the sparks and explosions went off, and I felt like king of the world for those ten seconds.
That is such a great story. Was there any discussion about why we don’t see U-Wings or Death Troopers after Rogue One? Can you sort of talk about putting characters or types of characters in that might not be seen again, and was there any discussion about that?
EDWARDS: Yeah. I mean, you don’t see Snow Trooper or Speeder Bikes in A New Hope, so I think it’s fair to say that the Empire and Star Wars in general has different vehicles and different types of soldiers for particular areas or warfare. Being such a fan of Star Wars, the dream is to be able to add something to the equation and bring something to the table like Death Troopers and ships. But then you have to justify them not existing, you don’t want to be contradicting the canon of the movies, so you make sure –Whether it comes across or not, I’m not sure, but if you watch the movie, all the U-Wings are kind of like the helicopters of Star Wars and they all go in through the shield gate to Scarif, so they all get destroyed in the Battle of Scarif; and the Death Troopers, same thing happens to them. So we had to make sure anything significant like that which was new was gonna get eradicated through the events of that film.
There’s been a lot of talk obviously about other standalone movies, I’m just curious what your thoughts are on like an Obi-Wan standalone movie or a Jedha standalone movie, one that takes place on Jedha and explores the history.
EDWARDS: I honestly don’t know what they’re planning. I have no special insight into that beyond the films that were going on when I was there. But if there was an Obi-Wan Kenobi film, I would be first in line to go see that, I would love to see that.
Ewan [McGregor] has talked many times in every interview about him wanting to play the character again, and fans love him in that role.
EDWARDS: Absolutely. Yeah, I love Ewan McGregor, I think he’s phenomenal. That’s why I would find it hard to say “no” to that question.
What can you tell people about maybe the history of Jedha that wasn’t revealed in the movie? Do you have inside information on that?
EDWARDS: There’s some stuff we did in there that are visual clues to ideas that maybe no one would ever know. I’ll tell you one thing, and this is my last interview to do with Star Wars so this is a scoop [Laughs], but it’s probably not as interesting as some of the other things we talked about. If you look at the establishing shot of Jedha from above, the layout of it is this giant, circular rock formation around where Jedha is. And the idea was that there was a meteor impact that hit Jedha and it came at such a force that it was what created the Kyber Crystals at the center of that crate of impact. So Jedha is like this very unique place in the galaxy in that it’s got a very high density of Kyber Crystals, which is what the Jedi need for lightsabers. So it became this holy city as a result of that meteor impact. But that must’ve happened maybe millions of years ago. We tried to tell that story in the establishing shot, you see the circular formation and at the heart of it is Jedha city.
I definitely did not know that.
EDWARDS: That’s just for the geeks that made the film.
That’s actually great. That’s the kind of stuff that I’m more interested in than Midichlorians.
EDWARDS: Ok, alright [Laughs].
Just throwing that out there. I wanna ask about Godzilla, Thomas Tull talked a while ago about how we might see an extended cut. Do you think we’re ever gonna get that extended cut?
Are there a lot of deleted scenes or other stuff that could make an extended cut of Godzilla, or is it minor stuff what people wouldn’t really notice?
EDWARDS: I would have thought it’s minor stuff that you wouldn’t really notice. Like making any film, there are various things that hit the cutting room floor, but there was nothing that significant.
If I’m not mistaken, you spent your birthday on the set in Tunisia where they filmed A New Hope, and there’s even a picture of you drinking blue milk.
So basically, you’re living the dream, your real life is just a geek’s dream.
EDWARDS: Yeah, you would think so, wouldn’t you? [Laughs]. I know, I think I’m gonna take the virtual reality helmet off soon and have a break and stop playing this Star Wars director game and pick another level.
What’s great is that you are a geek and you were able to work on these two massive movies that are properties that you love. Now that you’ve done these two, I have to ask you, are you interested in the superhero genre, are you interested in doing a big action movie? What’s something that’s still on the bucket list as a filmmaker that you want to go after?
EDWARDS: There’s plenty of film I’d like to do. I think the second you rule anything out is the second you end up doing them and then you look like an idiot online. Honestly, I feel like I got my dream, I got to make Star Wars. There are lots of other films that I’d love to try and make now, so I’m gonna have a bit of a break and then start that process and see what happens.
With Rogue One, who ruined the most takes and why?
EDWARDS: I’m not 100% sure, but I think I would go with Princess Leia saying “hope.” I think we did 34 takes, because we wanted every single option because it would take them a year to do that VFX shot.
EDWARDS: 34. Yeah.
You’re almost pulling a [David] Fincher.
My last thing: Obviously the Blu-ray has a lot of cool features, but it doesn’t have any of the deleted scenes. So I’m curious, do you know if there’s a plan for like a box set where eventually it shows some of that stuff, or another edition down the road? Because you’ve talked about there being a lot of deleted scenes or changes, and Star Wars fans, as you know, love seeing that kind of stuff.
EDWARDS: I have people right in front of me and they’re shaking their heads. There’s no plans for that.