In addition to revealing the Star Wars: Episode VIII release date, Disney has also announced that the first Star Wars spinoff will be titled Star Wars: Rogue One, and that Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) is the first actress to be cast. In their press release, StarWars.com also notes that the idea for the film take from John Knoll, an Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor and chief creative officer at Industrial Light & Magic. Gareth Edwards will direct Chris Weitz‘s script.
Now that we have a title, let’s play the speculation game! Let’s start off by recapping rumors.
The first rumor was that the plot was a Dirty Dozen-style heist mission where a group of bounty hunters went to retrieve the plans for the Death Star. That premise sounded amazing because it went to an unknown corner of the mythology, it sounded like a story worth telling, and it didn’t leech off the main characters. It expanded the Star Wars universe, which is the best thing these spinoffs can do.
But then in December we got the disheartening rumor that the spinoff would focus on a young Han Solo as if A) anyone but Harrison Ford could play Han Solo (even looking ahead at Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I’m not even sure Ford can still play the Han Solo we all know and love); and B) we care what Han Solo was up to when he was younger.
Now let’s to read tealeaves from this new title. I’m going to go ahead and assume that “Rogue One” refers to a spaceship. Even though it’s not canon, the 1998 video game Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was about a group of X-Wing fighters. Additionally, in the Star Wars universe, spaceships usually have numbers tacked on to words (e.g. “Red Five” for Luke’s X-Wing in A New Hope; “Slave I” is the name of Boba Fett’s ship).
[Update: Mike Ryan over at Uproxx and his superior Star Wars knowledge reminded me that Luke and his fellow pilots take on the designation “Rogue” in Empire Strikes Back, and Luke was “Rogue Leader”, which could be “Rogue One”. Then Wedge took over the position of “Rogue Leader” in Return of the Jedi.
Wedge–being Luke’s friend from A New Hope, being the only pilot other than Luke and Han to survive the assault on the Death Star, and his participation in all three original trilogy movies–is a fan favorite character.]
So where does Jones’ character fit in? Also, is she even the main character? The press release states that she’s the first actress cast, not that she’s the lead. We previously reported that although Jones was being eyed for a role, Aaron Paul and Edgar Ramirez were on a wish list to co-star. I’ll at least take comfort in the fact that the first person cast for a Star Wars movie was a woman. Progress!
Here’s the pertinent section of the press release:
Rogue One is the title for the first film in a unique series of big-screen adventures that explores the characters and events beyond the core Star Wars saga. Rogue One will be directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) and written by Oscar nominee Chris Weitz (Cinderella, About a Boy, Antz). The first actress cast is Felicity Jones, who garnered an Academy Award nomination and critical acclaim for her performance in The Theory of Everything. The idea for the story of Rogue One came from John Knoll, an Academy Award-winning visual effects supervisor and chief creative officer at Industrial Light & Magic. He will executive produce along with Simon Emanuel (The Dark Knight Rises, Fast & Furious 6) and Jason McGatlin (Tintin, War of the Worlds). Kathleen Kennedy and Tony To (Band of Brothers, The Pacific) are on board to produce and John Swartz (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) will co-produce. The film starts shooting this summer in London and is due for release on December 16, 2016.