As new documentary series Light & Magic makes clear, Star Wars has always been at the forefront of technical innovations in movie production. The effects on George Lucas’ original trilogy were groundbreaking – as was the shift to digital production in the prequels. It’s a tradition that more recently has been continued with pioneering production techniques on The Mandalorian, The Book Of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi – series that made major use of the ‘Volume’; an ultra-HD video-wall that offers in-camera effects and immersive digital environments for actors to work in. Also known as StageCraft, it’s been deployed liberally on every Star Wars Disney+ series so far – until now.
Upcoming Rogue One prequel series Andor – telling the story of Diego Luna’s rebel Cassian Andor amid the rising rebellion in the five years running up to that movie – went predominantly practical with its environments. That meant building massive sets at Pinewood, heading out into the world to shoot on location, and leaving the video wall behind altogether. “Yep, we’re old-school,” chuckles series mastermind (and Rogue One alumnus) Tony Gilroy, in Empire’s major new Andor feature – coming soon in the House Of The Dragon issue. “We didn’t use StageCraft at all.” It’s a choice that looks set to add even more grit and earthiness to a series all about capturing that texture, set at a time when the Star Wars galaxy is a particularly dark and dangerous place to be.
The effect was the opposite of dark and dangerous for Andor's cast. “As an actor, it’s beautiful,” says Luna on the practical production. “Everything is mechanical. You’re interacting with real stuff.” Fiona Shaw, who plays Maarva in the series, also revelled in the practicality. “My character’s house is built from parts of old spaceships,” she says. “I used to go out and just stare at it. Breathtaking.” The only downside? Shooting with expansive vistas occasionally meant some big, long walks. “In Pitlochry, Scotland, we had to walk for hours up a mountain to set up one shot,” says Luna. “Huge effort. Really dangerous to get there. All you can see around you is sky, trees, rivers, lakes. Amazing! Like being on another planet.” Prepare for Andor to make the Star Wars galaxy feel bigger than ever before.
Read Empire’s full Andor feature in the upcoming House Of The Dragon issue – on sale Thursday 4 August and available to pre-order online here. Andor streams on Disney+ from 21 September.