Gareth Edwards appeared at Star Wars Celebration on its final day to reveal the details for his standalone movie, which is now officially known as Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One. The film, to be released in December 2016 will, according to the official plot summary, feature a story in which “a rogue band of resistance fighters unite for a daring mission to steal the Death Star plans".
Edwards, who doesn’t begin shooting until summer, nonetheless brought something to show fans, having had the boffins at ILM put together a short teaser to lay out the film’s agenda.
The footage begins with a deep rumble, before showing the verdant trees of a lush forest planet not dissimilar to Yavin IV. Birds fly above the canopy as the camera pans up to look out over the tree line. Over it all we hear Alec Guinness intone his lines from Star Wars. “For more than a thousand generations the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.”
The howl of a TIE Fighter is heard as it flies overhead and above the trees toward the mountain range on the horizon, outlined by the silvery silhouette of a moon. As the camera perspective shifts and the trees move away, we see the truth: that’s no moon… it’s a space station!
The outline of the Death Star looms large above the forest planet and a few bars of the Imperial March are heard as Guinness continues. “Before the dark times. Before the Empire.” The screen goes black and the squawk of battlefield comms chatter builds to a crescendo with shouts and screaming before cutting to the title card: Star Wars Anthologies: Rogue One.
Disney have been blocking the leaked footage left right and center from YouTube - but I have managed to get you a solid link right here - hopefully it lasts for a while :)
Given the secretive nature of the panel and the footage on display this was one of the few events at this year’s Celebration that was not live streamed for fans at home. Edwards was joined on stage by producer Kathleen Kennedy, ILM’s John Knoll and Lucasfilm’s VP of development Kiri Hart.
The director was tentative in revealing too much more information but did drop a few tantalising morsels. “It’s set after Episode III, before Episode IV. It’s basically in an era where there are no Jedi, where they’re all but extinct. It’s about the fact that God’s not coming to save us. We’re on our own and we have to do this ourselves. The absence of Jedi is omnipresent in the film, it hangs over the whole movie. It comes down to a group of individuals who don’t have special powers but have to bring hope and justice to the galaxy.” According to Edwards this is going to be a down-to-earth war film. Asked to elaborate, he said, “It’s called Star Wars.”
“The word that we say the most is ‘real’. The realism. This is a real place that we’re really in. It will feel very natural and subjective. Star Wars was very black and white: the good guys were incredibly good and the bad guys were very bad. Our movie is very grey and something that leads to that polarised event that is A New Hope. It’s about the realities of war. Good guys are bad, bad guys are good – it’s a complicated place to set a movie.”
The film was pitched to Kathleen Kennedy by ILM’s John Knoll when she had just taken over Lucasfilm. The idea was apparently too good to turn down. When they decided to greenlight the project, Hart contacted Edwards and sent him a treatment. Still in the thick of Godzilla at the time, Edwards had wanted to take six months off afterwards to decompress and was daunted by the prospect of jumping straight into Rogue One. “I read it thinking, ‘Please be rubbish, please be rubbish, please hate it’,” he recalled. “I got to the end, read the last paragraph and thought, ‘Oh fuck!’ I couldn’t sit in a cinema and know that someone else had made this film. There was no option.”
In addition to the footage, fans were a shown a single piece of Rogue One concept art, which showed a battalion of Rebel soldiers running through the rain at night, all clutching blaster rifles. Above them a Rebel craft hovered, shining floodlights down to illuminate the troops.
“[The standalone films] were really George’s idea,” recalled Kennedy. “It was one of the first things he sat down and talked about. He was really interested in exploring all the stories that might exist inside this universe.”
“Star Wars is a set of character but also a place and it’s a place we can explore,” said Hart. “It has a timeline and we wanted freedom to do some films that would stand on their own they could vary in scale and genre introduce new characters and new places. We’re calling them 'anthology' films.”
Felicity Jones is so far the only officially confirmed cast member, with Ben Mendelsohn, Tatiana Maslany and Rooney Mara all rumoured to be in talks. The script was written by Chris Weitz and a few other collaborators were also revealed at the panel. Zero Dark Thirty’s Greig Fraser will be cinematographer, Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down’s Neil Corbould will head up VFX (there’s definitely a war theme here), and Neal Scanlan will head the creature team.
Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One will be released in December 2016.