Earlier this week, we reported that the biggest bad in Star Wars history (without Emperor status, at least) would be making his return to the big screen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. More details were promised, and now we have them for you, courtesy of Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who finally agreed to talk about Darth Vader’s return at long last.
EW continues to trickle their Rogue One coverage out knowing that anticipation is running high for director Gareth Edwards’ upcoming anthology film, and their latest release centers on all things Vader. The biggest news, other than the character’s confirmed return, is that James Earl Jones will once again be lending his voice to the character. However, the report also has some insight into just how Vader will find his way into the plot, though no major spoilers are given away here, obviously. The most interesting bit of news to come out of their interviews is how Vader interacts with the other villain of the film, played by Ben Mendelsohn.
But first thing’s first! The 85-year-old James Earl Jones will indeed be reprising his vocal role as the raspy-breathing Vader, a role he’s performed recently on the animated series, Star Wars Rebels. But just how much of Vader will we see on screen? As Kennedy put it:
“He will be in the movie sparingly. But at a key, strategic moment, he’s going to loom large.”
That makes sense considering that the film is about the Rebellion’s theft of the Death Star plans instead of directly concerning the ongoing saga of the Skywalker family.
Almost 20 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, which left Anakin Skywalker disabled, horrifically burned, and confined to the life-support suit he has become famous for, Vader is still a background player in the galactic scheme of things. He’s basically a powerful henchman in a political plot that sees the Emperor banking on the Death Star as a final solution to stamping out planetary rebellion. The rebels are more concerned with that destructive weapon than Vader, who is more legend than substance at this point. Edwards describes him as follows:
Within the Rebellion, it’s not commonly spoken about. Within the Empire, there is the culture of knowing of the existence of Darth Vader. There’s definitely an underlying feeling that there is a power – a dark power – available to the Empire and that if you overstep your mark, you will suffer the consequences.
So if Vader has yet to rise to the height of villainy, perhaps Mendelsohn’s imposing officer will take up that banner.
Director Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn), is the main antagonist of the piece, “an ambitious Imperial officer with Machiavellian tendencies who is eager to secure a place at the Emperor’s side.” Producer Jon Knoll says:
There is a lot of palace intrigue going on in the Empire, with people conspiring to move up the ranks and sabotaging each other. There’s not a lot of loyalty there.
In contrast, as chief of story development Kiri Hart puts it:
Vader doesn’t really play by the rules. He’s present in the military structure, but he’s not beholden to it. He’s not accountable to anybody, really, except Palpatine.
When Tarkin says to Vader to ‘release him’ when he’s choking that guy, Vader does it, but not because he has to. He’s just willing to give Tarkin one in that moment,” she says, with a nervous laugh. “That’s part of what makes the reveal of the Emperor, even in a hologram inEpisode V, so cool because you’re like, ‘Oh, wow. Here is the guy that Vader literally bends his knee to. What’s that all about?’
So not only is Krennic trying to do his job and crush the rebellion, he’s trying to do it while staying one step ahead of Vader and within the good graces of the Emperor. I’m going to go ahead and guess that doesn’t work out well for the man in white.
In a cool moment of nostalgia for Edwards-the envy of any fan of Vader at any age-the director got a chance to reflect on the moment the iconic villain first stepped onto the set of Rogue One:
He’s got more in common with lighting a car than a person, so we wanted to get it exactly right. We had the breathing sound just to inspire everyone. I just got massive goosebumps. I was so nervous to turn the corner and see him. You have to pinch yourself. Everyone became children again, so easy. You just go straight back to being a 4-year-old, like, in a heartbeat.
There’s all these rules about security on set, but I couldn’t help it. I got my phone out and started taking pictures of him, and pictures of me with him, because I felt like no one would ever believe that I’d met Darth Vader.
Audiences will surely believe once the film hits theaters on December 16th. In the meantime, get caught up with more of our recent coverage of Rogue One with the following articles:
- ‘Rogue One’: 16 New Images from the Latest ‘Star Wars’ Plus Character Info
- Star Wars Celebration Europe Announces ‘Rogue One’ Panel, ‘Rebels’ Season 3 Screening, and More
- ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’: Forest Whitaker’s Character is a ‘Clone Wars’ Crossover
- ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Character Descriptions, Names Reveal New Details
- Darth Vader Confirmed to Return in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’