- The background of our cover showcases new Imperial weaponry being used against the nascent Rebellion: taller, slimmer walkers known as AT-ACTs hauling cargo, and flatter, fang-like interceptors known as TIE Strikers.
- New information about Jyn Erso (The Theory of Everything’s Felicity Jones), the outlaw who has clashed with both the Rebellion and the Empire, and now has a chance to clear her ledger of past wrongs by leading a mission for the good guys. It’s also personal – her father, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is a scientist whose knowledge is sought by both sides.
- Full details of the squad of characters uniting to take on the Empire, played by the most multicultural cast to appear in a Star Wars film yet: Diego Luna, Jiang Wen, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, and Alan Tudyk – as a performance-capture droid. (One of these has been seen before by Star Wars fans.)
- A look at the skullduggery inside the Imperial ranks, as seen through the eyes of a new villain: Ben Mendelsohn’s ambitious officer, who’s eager to earn the favor of the Emperor – and avoid the wrath of his black-masked enforcer.
- Candid revelations from the filmmakers about what the current reshoots are adding to the story as the film nears its December release.
- Finally, confirmation of what fans have hoped ever since the project was announced: Vader is back. We have a run-down of the Sith lord’s first day on set, and what his return means for the larger Star Wars storytelling universe.
Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones)
A streetwise delinquent who has been on her own since 15, she has fighting skills and a knowledge of the galactic underworld that the Rebel Alliance desperately needs. “She’s got a checkered past,” says Lucasfilm president and Rogue One producer Kathleen Kennedy. “She has been detained [by the Rebellion] and is being given an opportunity to be useful. And by being useful, it may commute her sentence… She’s a real survivor. She becomes a kind of Joan of Arc in the story.”
Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna)
Andor is a by-the-book Rebel intelligence officer, brought in to steady the volatile Erso, but he’s no square. He’s committed, steady, and practical, and has seen more than his share of combat. “He conveys a fair amount of experience and the reality of what it’s like to do this every day, to try to figure out how to resist the Empire effectively and intelligently,” says Kiri Hart, Lucasfilm’s chief of story development. “It’s not easy.”
Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen)
Pronounced chi-RUT, he’s no Jedi, but he’s devoted to their ways and has used his spirituality to overcome his blindness and become a formidable warrior. “Chirrut falls into the category of being a warrior monk,” says Kennedy. “He very much still believes in everything the Jedi were about.” He maintains that belief even though the Jedi are no longer there to protect the galaxy. As director Gareth Edwards puts it: "This idea that magical beings are going to come and save us is going away, and it’s up to normal, everyday people to take a stand to stop evil from dominating the world.”
Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen)
Heavily armored, Baze prefers a blaster to hokey religions and ancient weapons, but he is devoted to protecting his friend Chirrut at all costs. “He understands Chirrut’s spiritual centeredness, but he doesn’t necessarily support it,” Kennedy says. Baze goes along with this Force business because “it’s what his friend deeply believes,” she adds. Think of them as a little like the galactic version of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed)
Bodhi is this Rebel squad’s lead pilot. He tends to be hot-headed, but any abrasiveness is overshadowed by his skills in the air — and the void of space. “He flies a lot of cargo, one of his key jobs,” Kennedy says. “And he tends to be a little tense, a little volatile, but everybody in the group really relies on his technical skills.”
K-2SO (Alan Tudyk)
This towering, powerful security droid is described by Edwards as “the antithesis of C-3PO.” In other words, he’s tough, confident, not especially interested in "human/cyborg relations," and the complete opposite of a neurotic fussbudget. “Kaytoo is a little bit like Chewbacca's personality in a droid’s body,” Edwards says. “He doesn’t give a s--- about what you think. He doesn't fully check himself before he says things and does things. He just speaks the truth.” Like Jyn, he’s also seeking a bit of redemption for past wrongs. Droids, too, can have regret.
Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen)
Jyn’s estranged father is like the galactic version of nuclear pioneer J. Robert Oppenheimer, with doomsday knowledge that is sought by both the Empire and the Rebellion. “He’s one of those people that has insight into you know specific aspects of just how the universe works,” says Hart. Where has Galen been, if Jyn has been on her own for years? “The circumstances of how the family got to the state that it’s in is something that we probably don’t want to share right now,” Hart says. (Lucasfilm isn't revealing his image yet, so this is file picture. Don't worry -- the button-down isn't retro galactic fashion.)
Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn)
On the opposing side, this villain is an ambitious Imperial apparatchik who intends to use his squad of Deathtroopers to pulverize the Rebel uprising and ascend into the Emperor’s graces – while hopefully avoiding the wrath of his enforcer, Darth Vader. “The bad guy is a lot more terrifying when he’s really smart, and really effective,” says 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.
???? (Forest Whitaker)
This character has a past that Star Wars completists will recognize immediately when they see his name, even if he looks very different than the way they've seen him elsewhere. (He even looks different from when we saw him in the teaser trailer.)
Meet the Rebel fighter who’s so extreme that the other good guys aren’t sure if he really is one.
Forest Whitaker’s character has been one of the more closely held secrets of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but Lucasfilm is ready now to make his identity official: this shadowy freedom-fighter is Saw Gerrera, a figure with a surprisingly deep background in galactic history.
The warrior — seen in the Rogue One trailer asking, “If you continue to fight, what will you become?” — was actually first seen in season 5 of The Clone Wars animated series, when he was a young man on the planet Onderon, unleashing guerilla combat on the droid army of Separatists who took over his world.
A band of resistance fighters unite for a daring mission to steal the Death Star plans.
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Written by Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk and Jonathan Aris.
Release Date: December 16, 2016