Star Wars Celebration is underway in London, and during the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story panel a few fascinating tidbits about the project’s inception and production slipped out. As you may well know, the film marks the first standalone Star Wars movie set apart from the proper saga, as the story chronicles the mission to steal the plans for the Death Star just before the events of A New Hope. Godzilla and Monsters director Gareth Edwards is at the helm, and while we previously learned the names and a few details for some of the characters, the Rogue One panel offered up some rather interesting revelations.
Curiously, Rogue One’s origin story goes back to the prequels. The idea for the film originated with Industrial Light & Magic Chief Creative Officer John Knoll, and during the Star Wars Celebration panel today, he revealed how the idea first came to him on the set of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith:
“This started about 13 years ago when we were shooting Episode III in Sydney, and I’d heard that George [Lucas] and [producer] Rick [McCallum] were developing this live-action TV series and I got to thinking about what sort of fun stories we might be able to tell in that episodic format. I started playing around with this idea drawn from the opening crawl of [A New Hope], this sort of Mission: Impossible-style spy mission to steal the Death Star plans.”
However, when Knoll pitched the idea to Rick McCallum, he realized the live-action Star Wars TV series he and Lucas were developing (which, sadly, never came to fruition) wasn’t the right fit for a prequel-type story:
“And so I started tinkering around with what the plot structure of something like that might be, and then a day or two later I was chatting with Rick and I asked him about the show and he told me about the era and what the general subject matter was and I realized, ‘Well this idea has no place in that concept.’”
But he never stopped thinking about this particular story idea, and when Disney purchased Lucasfilm and began developing a new slate of Star Wars movies, the time was ripe for him to pitch his idea once again:
“So I dropped it, and it wasn’t until when the new slate of films was announced a few years back that beyond the saga films we were also doing these standalone stories. I was thinking, ‘You know that original idea could make a pretty good standalone film,’ and I was chatting just informally with friends at work and I’d give ‘em the informal pitch, and I got such enthusiastic responses when I would describe this that I couldn’t help but continue to make it a little more elaborate and think through some of the character arcs of who these people are and how this might end. Finally I made this sort of informal pitch to a friend of mine who said, ‘You need to make an appointment right now with Kathy [Kennedy] and Kiri [Hart] and you need to pitch this,’ and I realized well actually he’s right because if I don’t I’ll always wonder what would’ve happened if I hadn’t.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is now a mere five months away from release, and anticipation is high for the picture. But actualizing the first standalone Star Wars film was no easy task, and during the Celebration panel when Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was asked why she chose Gareth Edwards to direct, she said she knew he’d bring something entirely different to the Star Wars universe:
“[Cinematographer] Greg [Frasier] and Gareth were actually amazing to watch because Gareth made this decision based on a style that he uses with the movies he makes where he puts the camera on his shoulder for just about every shot, and that really gave us the sense of what the style of the movie might be, and more importantly it’s a style that is unlike any other Star Wars movie. And the whole time we were making the movie I would often walk onto the set and be like ‘Where’s Gareth?’ and then I’d see him with this huge camera on his shoulder off in the middle of the shot, doing another angle, finding some incredible way to immerse us inside the movie, and I think that’s what’s so amazing about his style. This is going to be an incredibly immersive experience when you see Rogue One.”
As a huge fan of what Edwards brought to the blockbuster genre with Godzilla and of Frasier’s incredible work on films like Zero Dark Thirty and Foxcatcher, I am mighty enthused about the visual texture of Rogue One. Here’s hoping the story is just as good.
To catch up on the rest of our Star Wars Celebration coverage, peruse the links below. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on December 16th.
- ‘Rogue One’ New Trailer Description: Darth Vader Returns!
- New ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Footage Revealed in Behind-the-Scenes Video
- ‘Rogue One’: Over 40 Images from the Star Wars Celebration Exhibit