You might think every corner has been mined when it comes to “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and every kernel of information turned over and inside out, but you’d be wrong. Empire has just unleashed a massive, four-part look at the making of the movie as told by the filmmakers and cast behind the movie. Some of the information might be old, some might be new, but the perspectives are as fascinating as ever, and below we’ve picked out some choice morsels, but be sure to check out the full piece.
“Rogue One” started as a TV idea
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas had been dreaming of a way to bring “Star Wars” to TV (and that idea could still be alive), and it’s where ‘Rogue One’ first started percolating.
“It started way, way back… It was summer, 2003, when we were shooting ‘Episode III‘ in Sydney and I’d heard George [Lucas] and Rick [McCallum] were developing a live-action ‘Star Wars’ TV show [‘Star Wars: Underworld‘]. I started thinking, ‘What kind of fun stories could you tell in a live-action TV show?’ and one of the thoughts I had was doing a sort of a ‘Mission: Impossible‘-style break-in to the most secure facility of the Empire, to steal the Death Star plans,” VFX supervision and ILM Chief Creative Officer John Knoll said. “A day or two later I was chatting with Rick and I asked him about this live-action show and he told me about the era that it took place, and what the themes were and I realized that my idea had no place in his show, so I just dropped it entirely. I didn’t really return to it until after Kathy [Kennedy] came on board [as President of Lucasfilm] and there was the announcement of the new slate of films, including these stand-alone stories.”
But once he revisited the idea, that’s when it really began to expand.
“I had written up a six- or seven-page treatment and I pitched it to Kathy and Kiri Hart, who is the head of Lucasfilm story. It was probably a 45-minute meeting where I went through the story in detail, who the characters were, what themes we were trying to tackle with the film, and at the end of it I got a very polite, ‘Well I’m impressed, that’s very good. Thanks.’ And so I left and I didn’t hear anything for a week or so and I thought, ‘All right, well at least I did the pitch, so I won’t ever wonder now what would have happened if I hadn’t…’ But about a week later I got a mail from Kiri that said, “You know, we think we may wanna proceed with this.” And then it gradually snowballed into what we have today,” Knoll said.
“The broad strokes have all been as I originally pitched, but many of the details have changed,” he added. “Some characters have gone, new ones have been added, and some of the mechanics of how the plot unfolds are now different. Mostly in the interest of making it bigger and more epic. Because when we’d originally talked about the stand-alone movies versus the numbered episodes, the numbered episodes were the big-budget things and the ‘Star Wars’ stories were supposed to be the smaller, scrappier lower-budget kinds of things. So bearing that in mind, in the pitch I had gone for something that could be made on a lower budget. As the story developed it got more and more epic, and I like to think that we have every bit as much production value as you’ll see in the numbered movies. This won’t feel like it’s a lower budget smaller thing. It’s a big tent-pole.”
When Gareth Edwards got the call, he had two options to choose from
However, it seems Lucasfilm had a few irons in the fire, and when they contacted Gareth Edwards, the director was given a couple choices.
“I was in the middle of doing post on ‘Godzilla‘ when I got an email request: ‘Could you come and meet Kiri, just for a chat?’ And I thought, ‘This might be about Star Wars so I guess I should.’ I was exhausted from finishing ‘Godzilla,’ so I wasn’t going in like, ‘Oh please, please hire me!’ I just wanted a break, so it was probably the perfect conditions to meet people, ‘cos it was just a chat. I was thinking, ‘Oh they’re meeting 10,000 people, I’m number 9,998.’ So we chatted and it went really well and that was that,” the director explained.
“And she sent me an email with two ideas attached to it. One of them was really cool, but it wasn’t for me. Maybe that’ll pop up at some point. But the other idea was what John Knoll had written, and I thought, ‘Hang on, whoah, is this sacrilegious? Is this hallowed turf? Is this an accident? Did they send me the wrong document?’ And then I said I’d love to be involved,” Edwards added.
We really wonder what that other idea was, though….
Gareth Edwards and Riz Ahmed explain how Bodhi evolved during the making of ‘Rogue One’
The director and actor have previously discussed how much Bodhi changed as filming continued on the movie, and if there was any doubt, they address the topic again.
“Bodhi started out a little bit like Dustin Hoffman‘s character in ‘Papillion.’ That’s why he’s got the goggles on his head. And a little bit Dennis Hopper in ‘Apocalypse Now‘ — you know the guy who accidentally ended up somewhere really bad…,” Edwards said.
“He evolved quite a lot through the pre-production stage and also even through the shoot and then the reshoots,” Ahmed explained. “There was a lot of talking and developing things and revisiting things. Ultimately the Bodhi we’ve arrived at is an everyman who finds himself thrust into the middle of historic events, in a troupe of tough guys and girl, so he’s someone who is rightly frazzled and disconcerted by what they’re gonna be up against.”
“To be honest, Bodhi just grew and grew in the film because Riz was so good. It was like, ‘I wanna see Bodhi more and more,’ so we just kept adding and adding him. I’m probably a closer to Bodhi [than any other character], in that he’s ‘this is all crazy, and what am I doing here?’ Though when you watch the film you’ll probably want to be more like Cassian,” the director added.
Kathleen Kennedy wants more Saw Gerrera
The extensive reshoots seem to have curtailed Forest Whitaker‘s role as Saw Gerrera the most, but it seems that Lucasfilm aren’t done with the character just yet, which isn’t a surprise given how much he connects to key “Star Wars” lore.
“He’s a battered war veteran who has fashioned himself as a freedom fighter. But because they need to make sure that they need to win this battle, he starts to take more extreme points of view,” Whitaker said about his character. “So a lot of the other rebel fighters won’t associate with him, and consider Saw as an extremist in the fight against the Empire. All that back story he has — he trained with Anakin Skywalker, Obi-wan Kenobi and Padawan Tano, you know — really blends in beautifully with where we meet him [in ‘Rogue One’]. Which is more of a war-torn veteran, suffering and injured from battles and wars.”
It’s all cool stuff, but Kathleen Kennedy concedes it just couldn’t find a way into the movie.
“To be honest, we originally thought we were going to develop Saw into something much larger, but we couldn’t accommodate it. So he is not in the movie as much as we would like to have him in the movie, which creates the opportunity to explore his character even further in our future development,” she added.
For now, Whitaker will revive Saw Gerrera on “Star Wars Rebels,” but there seems to be a hint we’ll be seeing him more on the big screen too. Perhaps in other spinoff films?
Breaking free from the familiar
One of the common knocks against “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was that it felt like a rehash of elements from the original trilogy. Director J.J. Abrams has admitted that was very much by design, but the goal of ‘Rogue One’ was try and buck against the expected.
“I think it’s good that ‘Rogue One’ is the first of these ‘Star Wars’ stories. Episode VII had a lot of very familiar elements and I think some of the choices that were made there were oriented towards reassuring people that, yes we can get the fun of the original ‘Star Wars ‘ movies back,” Knoll said. “But I think now that statement’s been made and we’ve had that success, we can be a little brave now with going to places that we’ve never seen before and doing tonal experiments.”
Read the full Empire piece right here for much more.