Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is on the way, promising to keep us going after Star Wars: The Force Awakens well and truly whetting the world’s appetite for Jedi and X-wings.
While we wait for our many questions to (maybe) be answered by the untitled Episode 8, Disney and Lucasfilm will be taking us on a trip into the past in the first in a series of (potentially unlimited) spinoffs exploring the character backstories, history and furthest reaches of the galaxy far, far away.
Related: Rogue One tickets are on sale NOW
Here’s everything you need to know about Star Wars‘ first heist movie:
Rogue One release date: Happy Christmas 2016
With the delay of Star Wars Episode 8 from May to December 2017, we’ll no doubt be very happy to have a Rogue One-shaped snack later this year to keep us going in the meantime.
In a surprise move in late October, the UK release date for Rogue One was moved up a day to December 15, leaving the US waiting for December 16 before they get to see the film. France, Italy and the Netherlands are ahead of everyone else, with the film coming to them on December 14.
The latest news is that the film went through four weeks of summer reshoots – alternately attributed to a negative test screening, the need for more “fun” or an attempt to tie the plot threads closer together. Whatever the truth of the matter, this apparently won’t affect the release date.
Rogue One cast: The rogues unite
The lid was lifted on Rogue One at Disney D23 Expo with a first picture of the cast. Oscar-nominated The Theory of Everything star Felicity Jones will lead the cast of the film, playing a troubled young tearaway called Jyn Erso who is recruited as part of the team tasked with retrieving the Death Star plans.
Diego Luna (Elysium) is Rebel officer Captain Cassian Andor, with Jiang Wen (Let the Bullets Fly) as “freelance assassin” Baze, Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler) as Bodhi, an Imperial pilot and secret Rebel, and Donnie Yen playing a “spiritual warrior” called Chirrut. Get the full lowdown on them here.
Firefly‘s Alan Tudyk is a CGI Enforcer Droid, the Imperial-turned-Rebellion secret agent K-2SO, and two more members of the team are the aliens Pao and Bistan – the latter, we suspect, played by Warwick Davis.
Genevieve O’Reilly is reprising the role of Mon Mothma from Revenge of the Sith, and it sounds like the Rebel leader is finally getting the exposure she deserves. And Jimmy Smitshas confirmed the rumours that he’s back as Princess Leia’s adopted dad, Senator Bail Organa.
“We actually see quite a bit of [Mon Mothma],” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told EW. “The Rebel alliance is in disarray. Pretty panicked. Up against it. And she is trying the best she can to provide the leadership, in amongst a wide variety of Rebel soldiers that have very differing opinions as to what to do.”
Related: Every single picture from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Against all odds, Hannibal‘s Mikkelsen won’t be a villain, but is instead Jyn’s absentee father, the scientist Galen Erso who has a knack for building doomsday weapons. Forest Whitaker will play Saw Gerrera, a guerrilla fighter who featured in the animated Clone Wars series.
Mendelsohn will play one of the villains of the piece. His uniform (and foul stench) in the trailer initially suggested that he might be reprising Peter Cushing’s role as Imperial leader Grand Moff Tarkin, but instead he is another Imperial Military leader, the new character Director Krennic.
Tudyk revealed that he nearly had a second role, too – as a pilot who may or may not have been based on his Con Man character Wray Nerely – but it has been cut from the movie.
There is one character with a major significance to the events who won’t be showing up. Ian McDiarmid has said that he isn’t back as Emperor Palpatine, so unless he’s been recast with a hot young actor, he probably won’t be showing up.
And don’t expect to find out any more about The Force Awakens‘ mysterious head honcho Supreme Leader Snoke in this movie, if Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo is to be believed.
And there is also a rumor that Princess Leia might have a cameo, too, played by Norwegian actress Ingvild Deila.
Rogue One plot: Vintage action with a sci-fi twist
The Star Wars franchise’s first spinoff film will be taking us back in time to a point between Episodes III and IV – that’s Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope to you – and judging by what we know, it will be at a point in time much closer to the latter.
The official synopsis reads as follows:
“Following the foundation of the Galactic Empire, a wayward band of Rebel fighters comes together to carry out a desperate mission: to steal the plans for the Death Star before it can be used to enforce the Emperor’s rule.”
That would be the first Death Star, before you get all worried about Jones and co being Bothans doomed to die. Mikkelsen in his guise as Galen Erso is the apparent source of the Death Star leaks, and after and age waiting for him to show up, he finally took a prominent place in the final Rogue One trailer.
“Rogue One takes place very close to Episode IV [A New Hope],” said Edwards in the featurette below. “The simplest way to explain it is – that text you see at the beginning of A New Hope, that is essentially our movie.”
We know the link between the Ersos and Director Krennic, the latter having rescued the family and given Galen the opportunity to develop his “energy-focused research”. Of course, he has a more sinister purpose than being nice to a scientist and his family…
(We’re not sure how this fits in with those Star Wars prequel Easter eggs…)
Gareth Edwards took a stab at explaining Rogue One‘s title. We’ll leave it up to you to decide how successful he was.
“I’d been thinking about it,” he told Empire. “What does it mean? ‘Rogue One’ is a military call sign to some extent, but this is the first film that’s gone off-piste and is not part of the saga – or the Anakin story – so it’s the ‘rogue’ one, you know?
“It’s kind of describing [Felicity Jones’s Jyn Erso] as well in a similar way. It has [all] these split, multiple meanings that made it feel like the right choice.”
The first trailer gave us some more hints about what will happen – mainly that Jyn might join the Empire, or even be a double agent all along. Colour us worried.
Rogue Squadron was the group of fighter pilots of which Luke Skywalker was a member with his old pal Wedge Antilles, and though the film’s name indicates some sort of link, we don’t know if these Rebels spies moonlight as crack fliers or if that’s even a thing.
The film has been billed as a heist flick, with rumours comparing it to The Dirty Dozen or Saving Private Ryan. Except in space.
The footage released at Star Wars Celebration’s Rogue One panel on July 15 certainly backs up that description.
Beyond the inevitable speculation of a connection to The Force Awakens‘s Rey, Jyn’s relationship to her fellow Rebels has been teased.
“He’s really close to her, and they have a very powerful relationship,” Whitaker told EWregarding his character Saw Gerrera’s relationship to our hero. “He’s talking about how you maybe make compromises that may harm people, or may harm the situation, or people may question it, but if you’re doing it for the good, there’s a positive thing about that. But what does it make you become? And how do you change as a person?”
“I would say there’s a huge amount of respect for women in the Rebellion,” Jones told EW. “Mon Mothma is ultimately, for Jyn, someone she looks up to. So even as the film opens [Jyn] has a very strong female role model in front of her, and someone she respects.”
The film’s action will be set partly on Jedha, a planet with a specific importance to the Force.
“The Force is basically in Star Wars like a religion, and they’re losing their faith in the period that we start the movie,” Edwards told Entertainment Weekly. “We were trying to find a physical location we could go to that would speak to the themes of losing your faith and the choice between letting the Empire win, or evil win, and good prevailing. It got embodied in this place we called Jedha.
“It was essentially taken over by the Empire,” he continued. “It’s an occupied territory… for reasons we probably can’t reveal.
“There’s something very important in Jedha that serves both the Jedi and the Empire. It felt very much like something we could relate to in the real world.”
That reason seems to have been spoiled by Donnie Yen already…
Sacred Jedi moons there may be, but alas, none of those (surprisingly large numbers of) Jedithat survived Darth Vader’s purge.
Rogue One cameos: From Darth Vader to Han Solo
Our most favourite thing about Rogue One is that Darth Vader will be putting in an appearance, which makes perfect sense given the film is set during his reign as the Emperor’s chief enforcer. The rumour was confirmed at the Rogue One panel. And then super-confirmed in the second Rogue One trailer.
What’s even better is the suggestion that he will be mega-brutal, with “decapitated rebels, people being dismembered by Vader throwing his sword [and] levitating bodies to make human shields”. Although Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy gave a more tempered promise that he would be used “sparingly”. James Earl Jones is coming back to voice him too.
There was also speculation that Alden Ehrenreich could make his debut as Han Solo, and that Hayden Christensen could be back as Anakin Skywalker, but both of those theories were shot down by Kennedy.
Finally, chins have been wagging that the
totally overrated Boba Fett could be knocking around after his ship Slave 1 was spotted in a promo for Rogue One Lego. But, be warned, Lego has misled us before.
Rogue One director: From monsters to Moffs
Gareth Edwards made his name with the ultra-low budget Monsters in 2010 before directing last year’s Godzilla, and now he’s been tasked with launching the new expanded Star Wars universe.
It’s been a sharp career trajectory, but one that Edwards seems to be taking in his stride. He’s previously cited George Lucas as one of his favorite filmmakers and his comments on the official press release announcing his hiring showed his geek cred.
“Ever since I saw Star Wars I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life – join the Rebel Alliance! I could not be more excited and honoured to go on this mission with Lucasfilm.”
He also admitted to ‘nearly having a heart attack’ when George Lucas visited the set of Rogue One.
Edwards is the second Brit to take the helm of a Star Wars movie, following in the footsteps of Return of the Jedi‘s Richard Marquand.
Rogue One was shot in the UK
VFX firm ILM set up shop in London late last year with the promise of working on six new Star Wars films over the course of the next decade. A UK base for ILM indicates that Star Wars will be a strong presence in the British film industry for some time.
JJ Abrams’s The Force Awakens has already completed filming, using the iconic Pinewood Studios as the focal point for a global shoot that went to Abu Dhabi, Iceland, Scotland and Ireland.
Rogue One (as well as Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII) is back at Pinewood, further tying the series to the UK after George Lucas shot the original trilogy here back in the ’70s and ’80s.
This is the first Star Wars movie without John Williams
John Williams’s iconic music has provided the soundtrack to all six previous live-action Star Wars feature films, but Rogue One will be the first to break with that tradition.
Alexandre Desplat, the French composer behind everything from Grand Budapest Hotel to The Imitation Game and Argo, was initially brought on, but in September is was announced that because of the additional shooting he could no longer fit it into his schedule.
Michael Giacchino – whose credits include Up, the Star Trek reboot films and Doctor Strange– will replace him.
The question remains whether Williams’s classic theme be returning as part of the new score? We’re still waiting to find out!