Tomorrow Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be released on home media to find its way into homes around the world – perhaps nestled chronologically on home theater display shelves between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Gareth Edwards recently sat down with Tim Robey of The Telegraph in a retrospective of the process of creating the film. In the interview, Edwards discusses his access to the Lucasfilm archives, the internal discussions that ultimately led to the re-creation of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin as well as Orson Krennic’s purpose in regards to story-telling, an explanation of the much talked about reshoots, walking the fine line between “keeping it Star Wars” while still bringing something new to the table, and the passing of Carrie Fisher.
On his way out of the Lucasfilm archives Edwards noticed film cans and began to wonder and eventually realize what they contained:
As we were leaving, there were all these cans of film everywhere. The actual footage. Could we get copies of it? They said, yeah, just tell us what you want. I would have wanted everything, but it cost a lot of money to get it all transferred. So we went for just the things that applied to our film, so that was any Death Star scene, X-Wing pilot, Y-wing pilot footage.
We put footage from X-Wing pilot out-takes into our movie. In one particular shot, the negative was not good enough. It had been darkened and lost a lot of information. So ILM had to completely rebuild it, taking from other shots, rebuild the cockpit, and put the cheek of the character back in, from another take… Loads of little crazy details that you just wouldn’t know.
Not only did Edwards use outtakes from the original film, but ILM even went as far as editing and completely re-creating aspects of the archived shots to ensure they perfectly fit Edwards needs and vision.
After discussing every potential option on how to handle the inclusion/omission of Grand Moff Tarkin, Edwards found the fuel that goes beyond fan service as to why Tarkin had to be in the film:
We talked about every option. Maybe casting an actor and making them feel like Tarkin a little bit, and just embracing that. Maybe you could do that with other characters in Star Wars, but I would feel cheated, and a bit weirded out, watching that, as a fan. Then there was not including him, and hiding him, in some way, like the way they talk about the Emperor in A New Hope – they don’t ever show him. And there’s that option. But we need an antagonist for our rebels. If we made it Tarkin or Vader, you knew that nothing bad could ever happen to them. So whenever there’s a confrontation, or a threat, you knew they wouldn’t die or get hurt. So we wanted someone where you wouldn’t know the outcome. And that led to Krennic.
The biggest take away here is why Krennic exists from a story-telling standpoint. Edwards realized he needed to have a character in a prequel film whose future is completely uncertain. With the knowledge that Tarkin and Vader obviously survive the film, having a character like Krennic with a completely unknown and unmapped future added a much needed compelling weight to the villain side of the story.
When rumors ran rampant that Rogue One was enduring reshoots this past summer, a narrative began building that the movie was flawed and in trouble, but in reality, it was more in the spirit of making the best version of the film possible:
On a normal film you wouldn’t get the chance, you would cut it together, and you maybe would be lucky to do a couple of things in post. Because it’s Star Wars, and they had all these resources, they were like, just do whatever you need to do. Keep trying stuff. And so we did.
Perhaps inspired by the criticism some in the media gave J.J. Abrams for making The Force Awakens a borderline reboot of A New Hope, Edwards carefully walked the tightrope between remaining faithful to the Star Wars universe while showing us something completely different:
That’s the most common conversation: Is it Star Wars? There’s this fine line where, you go slightly to the left, and it feels like another sci-fi film, it’s not Star Wars. It’s good, maybe, but it’s some other science fiction franchise. And if you go slightly to the right, you’re just copying George Lucas.
Edwards also touched on his processing of the passing of Carrie Fisher, stating that the film is essentially one big love letter to her. Some criticized the CGI version of Leia, but perhaps after reading his explanation of why they did it and Fisher’s reaction to seeing it will temper those critiques:
What we’re doing with the entire movie is all building to that one moment [of the Death Star plans being handed to Princess Leia] where we hand the baton to her, to go off and make that film that inspired us all as kids.
When it came to our film, it went so late with that shot, trying to get it right, that Kathy took it down personally, on a laptop, and showed her. And initially Carrie apparently didn’t realise it was CGI, and wondered if it was footage which we had taken from somewhere else. Which was really reassuring for us. I thought, one day, either at the premiere, or one of these conventions, I’d get a chance to talk to her. And it’s really sad that it’s not going to get to happen.
The fact that Carrie Fisher had a chance to see, and approve of, her CGI self before she passed provides a strong sense of closure, almost like a metaphoric “thumbs up” and allowance to rest easy knowing that the original stars have handed the beloved saga off to a new generation that will continue to cherish and watch over it the way they have for 40 years.
The interview is rather lengthy, so for the full piece, check it out here.
A lot was discussed with Gareth Edwards in the interview, but there is a clear common denominator we can take away from it. Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm, and Disney are dedicated to giving Star Wars writers and directors every resource possible to make these films the best they can possibly be. It would be very easy for them to slap a Star Wars sticker on something and guarantee box office gold, but the awareness of how important this saga is to the fans is not lost on Kennedy or anyone involved at Lucasfilm and Disney. Not only was Rogue One a massive achievement and success, but proof that even in a non-saga film, the Star Wars universe is and will continue to be in excellent hands.