“If you’re too respectful of it, that you didn’t do anything new or different or take a risk, then what are you bringing to the table?” So said Rogue One: A Star Wars Story director Gareth Edwards this morning during a panel discussion of the stand-alone spinoff film that capped off the first day of Star Wars Celebration in London. The highlight of the panel? A new trailer, unveiled exclusively to the crowd in the hall, that confirmed a much-mooted appearance by Darth Vader in the film while also reflecting Edwards’ point about taking risks with the franchise.
Beginning with a sequence showing young Jyn Erso running through a field, then switching to her older self (played by Felicity Jones) in battle with her band of rebels, the trailer showcased plenty of the new characters and environments in the story that follows the rebels who stole the Death Star plans that motivated the plot of Star Wars: A New Hope. A voiceover from Jones laid out the stakes: “Every day we grow weaker, while they grow stronger. This is our chance to make a real difference.” At the trailer’s end the biggest tease for fans: on a black floor, Darth Vader’s familiar silhouette, before his ventilator mask takes an iconic, ominous breath.
Great stuff, and though Lucasfilm honcho Kathleen Kennedy said it was “just for people in this room” for now, rest assured, we’ll have it up as soon as it’s made public. Fortunately, the panel also contained new goodies to keep fans chomping at the bit until the film’s December 16 release date that actually were shown to the general public. Among them, a behind the scenes short showing off the filming of several key scenes was shown off, which you can see at the top of the page.
Official Star Wars panels have a way of reliably getting the faithful hyped up with encouraging words and thrilling tidbits. But Edwards’ statement of intent is particularly encouraging. After the aggressive reestablishment of classic tone and aesthetic that defined last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there was some discussion of whether the revived Star Wars franchise would be committed to a total recreation, for good and ill, of the original trilogy style. It would appear, however, that Lucasfilm is giving the directors who follow JJ Abrams a little freedom to play around in the sandbox.
“We have this amazing opportunity to be able to tell stories inside this incredible universe,” Kennedy said of the “Star Wars Stories” spin-offs. “In the past, all the Star Wars movies have been made as prequels or sequels, and now we can have these standalone movies to explore different places, different characters and different experiences all around.”
Today’s panel featured the cast and creatives behind Rogue One. In attendance, Edwards and Kennedy alongside EP John Knoll, Kiri Hart, Head of Story at Lucasfilm, and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, and Jonathan Aris.
Moderated by Gwendolyn Christie (Captain Phasma in The Force Awakens), the panel began with the crawl from Episode IV, pausing to focus on the lines of text from that crawl on which the story is drawn. This was followed by Ben Mendelsohn, who plays villain Orson Krennic in the film, helping to kick things off with an in-character appearance as he marched to the stage wearing his full costume and flanked by two black stormtroopers in full armor.
Short on new details about the film – they’re really enforcing strict secrecy about key plot points – the discussion was long on personality as fans got their first real look at the stars interacting and, vaguely, talking about their characters. Though Chinese actor Jiang Wen, struggling with his English, did accidentally reveal the biggest spoiler of the day, letting slip that his character died in the film.
Edwards’ anecdotes from behind the scenes focused on visitors to the set, which included Mark Hamill (“He was wearing a Godzilla t-shirt, and I remember talking to him and thinking in my peripheral vision, ‘Please Lord, let someone be taking a picture of this,'”) George Lucas (“I challenge anyone to have a more surreal experience than showing George Lucas a Star Wars movie for the first time,”) and a trip to New York to record James Earl Jones’s Vader lines. He had a “nerdgasm”, he said, when Jones wrapped his famous voice around the word “power”.
The team showcased the new worlds of the film – Jedha, compared to “mecca” to which people who believe in The Force go on “pilgrimages”, and Scarif, the Death Star-adjacent tropical world featured in the poster. Edwards noted that the shoot for Scarif took place in the Maldives, “so it was my favorite one,” and that members of the island country’s army played stormtroopers, though they didn’t seem to care. “I said, ‘Do you know what any of this stuff is?’ And they said, ‘No.'”
The same thing happened, he said, when the Rogue One shoot took over a London Underground station overnight. “We did this secret mission where we went to Canary Wharf one night,” Edwards revealed. “As soon as it closed at midnight we dived in and had four hours to set dress the whole thing and bring all the stuff in. We shot all the scenes and had to be out of there by 4AM. As we left, and everything disappeared, all these guys in suits walked past, like, ‘Morning, morning morning.’ You wanted to tell them, ‘We just shot Star Wars!'”
Meanwhile, a technical glitch prevented the Celebration audience from seeing the whole behind the scenes video at the top of the page (viewers of the live stream didn’t have that problem) when it was shown the first time, so the clip was shown again when Mendelsohn, now dressed in civilian clothing, joined the panel officially.
As the panel ended, the crowd rolled out to pick up prints of the new poster. Because the force is with us, we have that for you below, to tide you over while the new trailer remains rogue.