Shortly after the announcement in 2012 that George Lucas had sold Lucasfilm to Disney came news that the Star Wars episodes VII-IX, then in development, would alternate their release-dates with standalone "anthology" movies. The first of those, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives this December, and as usual, advance information is wrapped up tighter than a freezing Jedi in a Tauntaun's innards. But once again, we have scoured the far corners of the galaxy for all the intelligence that's out there so far. We're not called Empire for nothing.
Who directed Rogue One?
Who wrote Rogue One?
Gary Whitta originally embarked on the screenplay, with the next draft changing hands to About A Boy writer Chris Weitz. VFX man John Knoll has a story credit. Christopher McQuarrie later undertook uncredited rewrites.
The broad concept for the film may originally have been envisioned by George Lucas. "It was really George’s idea," says producer Kathleen Kennedy. "In fact one of the first things he sat down and talked to me about (following Disney's acquisition of LucasFilm) was not only picking up the saga again - which he never envisaged he would do, but was ready to do - but also exploring all the stories that might exist inside the Star Wars universe."
Who stars in Rogue One?
Felicity Jones is in the lead, playing a rebellious solider named Jyn Erso. The first trailer (see below) tells us that she grew up on her own from the age of 15 and developed a reckless and rebellious streak. Her criminal record includes the forgery of Imperial documents, possession of stolen property, aggravated assault, and resisting arrest. "She’s got a checkered past," producer Kathleen Kennedy told EW. "She becomes a kind of Joan of Arc in the story."
Diego Luna plays Capt. Cassian Andor, a somewhat less rebellious Rebel intelligence officer, brought in to temper Jyn's more nonconformist attitude. But he is, we're led to believe, no slouch.
Riz Ahmed plays Bodhi Rook – not, sadly, a bank-robbing extreme sports enthusiast, but in fact the hot-headed lead pilot of the Rebel squad. "He tends to be a little tense, a little volatile," Kennedy explained to EW, "but everybody in the group really relies on his technical skills."
Ben Mendelsohn plays the Imperial villain of the piece, Director Orson Krennic. With an icy stare and a penchant for grand white capes, Krennic looks set to join the pantheon of truly great Star Wars baddies. He's been described as an "an ambitious Imperial apparatchik". According to Knoll, "there is a lot of palace intrigue going on in the Empire, with people conspiring to move up the ranks and sabotaging each other. There’s not a lot of loyalty there."
Donnie Yen – not widely known to mainstream Western audiences, but a huge martial arts star in his native Hong Kong – plays Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior monk. He's not Force sensitive, but still believes in the Jedi.
Forest Whitaker plays the awesomely-named Saw Gerrera, who dedicated Star Wars nerds will recognise from The Clone Wars, the animated spin-off series. A younger version of the character appeared in the series in an episode back in 2012. "Consider him kind of a battered veteran who leads a band of Rebel extremists," Kathleen Kennedy told EW. "He’s on the fringe of the Rebel Alliance. Even [they] are a little concerned about him."
Alan Tudyk plays new security droid K-2SO, also known as Kaytoo. Described by director Gareth Edwards as "the antithesis of C-3PO." "Kaytoo is a little bit like Chewbacca's personality in a droid’s body," Edwards told EW. "He doesn’t give a shit about what you think. He doesn't fully check himself before he says things and does things. He just speaks the truth."
Jiang Wen plays Baze Malbus, a close friend of Chirrut, but more of a blaster guy. "He understands Chirrut’s spiritual centeredness, but he doesn’t necessarily support it," Kennedy told EW.
Mads Mikkelsen plays Jyn's estranged father, Galen Erso. But he’s more than just a family hanger-on: Galen is described as "a galactic version of nuclear pioneer J. Robert Oppenheimer, with doomsday knowledge that is sought by both the Empire and the Rebellion".
There's also this new droid: meet C2-B5, a rather evil looking variant of R2.
And there's Bistan, the "space monkey" (not official Star Wars parlance). Nick Kellington is the actor in the suit for this guy, buried beneath an animatronic mask. Bistan himself is a member of a new species called the Jakaru, never before seen or mentioned in any Star Wars media. He's a door gunner on one of the new U-Wing spacecraft (see below).
According to Kathleen Kennedy, the characters seen in the anthology movies will not appear in the new trilogy. Director Gareth Edwards has explicity stated that we won't see Han Solo make a cameo – but the Rogue One range of Lego sets appear to reveal that Boba Fett may at least perform a fly-by.
Is Darth Vader in Rogue One?
Rumours swirled for months – but it was finally confirmed that the franchise's most iconic villain will indeed show up in some capacity, cracking down on troublemakers in the service of the Emperor. Woe betide any lackeys who fail him: hope they like their necks as an internal organ. Vader's famous helmet was glimpsed at the end of the second trailer (see below).
James Earl Jones has also been confirmed to return as the voice of The Artist Formerly Known as Anakin. But Bristol’s David Prowse – the original wearer of the suit – will not be back: instead, it’s been reported that Rhyl’s Spencer Wilding – standing at 6’7” – will be the new Vader, in physical form at least.
Rogue One trailer
The first teaser trailer arrived in April, and offered AT-AT attacks, new-look Stormtroopers, and – intriguingly – Canary Wharf tube station as one of the locations.
The second trailer arrived in August, and featured the brief presence of one D. Vader.
This year's Star Wars Celebration also threw up a rather nifty little teaser reel, showing behind-the-scenes footage and never-before-seen aliens.
The third and final trailer arrived in October, giving us our first look at Mads Mikkelsen as Jyn's father – and a juicy new shot of Darth Vader, given a dramatic entrance.
When is Rogue One released?
When does Rogue One take place?
The film is set between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope (and closer to the latter, as revealed at the Star Wars celebration last year). Many people are incorrectly assuming Rogue One is Episode VIII; it would be more accurate to call it Episode 3.5 – except it does not deal directly with the Skywalker/Solo lineage at all. Instead, it follows a group of Rebel soldiers who set out on a dangerous mission to steal the plans for the original Death Star and bring (a new) hope to the galaxy.
What’s Rogue One about, then?
Kennedy says that, "to a certain extent", it's a heist movie. But "it's really about pulling the beginning stages of the Rebel Alliance together".
Edwards sees it as a war movie, drawing comparisons to Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and Zero Dark Thirty. Sidestepping the high fantasy of the franchise as we know it, he's aiming for a more grounded tone, exploring the moral grey areas rather than the more straightforward binary of The Force and its dark and light sides. Outside of the main trilogies he's grabbing the opportunity to push some boundaries.
"It's not going to be like a saga movie," says the director. "It's about the nature of war and what it takes to do something important for the greater good."
Of the anthology movies in general, Kennedy says "We want to make very different kinds of movies, in different genres, that live inside the Star Wars universe that each have a beginning, a middle and an end. They’re not dependent on leaving you with a cliffhanger ending; they really do present a very straightforward and satisfying (self-contained) story.
Rogue One will be the first Star Wars movie without any Jedi, and there are reports that it may be the first without that famous opening crawl.
Who's composing the musical score?
Another Star Wars first: Rogue One will not be scored by John Williams. The music is instead composed by Michael Giacchino. He's a solid choice to replace Alexandre Desplat, who departed due to scheduling clashes. Giacchino has provided the scores for films such as The Incredibles, Star Trek, Super 8, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Inside Out, Jurassic World and Zootopia. He was Oscar-nominated for Ratatouille and won for Up.
Where is filming taking place?
Principal photography took place at Elstree Studios, with further locations in the UK, Iceland, Jordan, and on Laamu Atoll in the Maldives.