Deathtroopers Turn the Tide
A new, deadlier breed of commando Stormtrooper is storming the beach. As part of EW’s exclusive preview of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we bring you this gallery of new images from the Dec. 16 film. Leading things off: This shot of a squad of Deathtroopers, who are tasked with hunting down and destroying the fragmented Rebel uprising.
Rogue One is an ensemble story, but its central figure is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a young woman recruited by the Rebellion to infiltrate the Empire and secure details of its latest weapon – a moon-sized battle station we know as the Death Star. Here we see her in disguise, armed for conflict inside an Imperial corridor. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy says Jyn starts as an outlaw and “becomes a kind of Joan of Arc in the story.”
Krennic Schemes for Dominance
Ben Mendelsohn's Director Orson Krennic is responsible for protecting the security of the Death Star project, but he's also a manipulator within the Empire. "He understands the system and he knows how things work, but he also is not above trying to bend it to get what he needs or what he thinks he wants," says Kiri Hart, Lucasfilm's head of story development. Krennic is intended to be a contrast to Imperial officers we’ve seen before, like Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin. “Tarkin is the model for these really cool, icy types, you know?” Hart says. “Krennic runs a little hotter than that, so that’s kind of fun and it’s a little bit different. … He is unpredictable and volatile.”
Rest for Baze and Chirrut
Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen (Ip Man) plays Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior monk who is not a Jedi but follows the path of the Force, and Chinese martial-arts actor and director Jiang Wen (Devils on the Door Step) co-stars as Baze Malbus, Chirrut’s Force-doubting rough-and-tumble protector. Like the original Star Wars, these characters owe a debt to the two peasants from a 1958 Akira Kurosawa adventure saga. “They’re inspired, again, by what inspired George in The Hidden Fortress, “ Kennedy says. “You could even say to some extent it’s, you know, R2 and C-3PO, a little bit of that.”
Keeping with the Star Wars tradition of planets with a single ecosystem, one key battleground in Rogue One is on a world that might resemble a relaxing seaside holiday destination if not for its proximity to the Death Star. That leads to a key battle in the film taking place on its balmy shoreline — blue waters and an eerie gray sky.
A Galactic South Pacific
We don’t yet know the name of this world, but it’s meant to evoke both heaven and hell — tranquility and war. “There’s this sort of South Pacific, tropical paradise planet that subconsciously leads into some of the imagery associated with World War II,” director Gareth Edwards says. “We went to lots of different places around the world, and one of them was the Maldives. When you're shooting Stormtroopers in paradise, you have the best job in the world, you know? You can't really deny it at that point.”
In one of the more intriguing photos from Rogue One, we have this image of Deathtroopers prowling on a tundra. One of them is holding what appears to be ... an action figure of sorts. The filmmakers didn't want to explain exactly what's happening here, but they confirm: yes, that's a Stormtrooper doll, a galactic version of a toy soldier. And it will have special significance in the story. (Decades later, an abandoned girl name Rey will also fashion a doll for herself — this one an X-wing pilot.)
K-2SO in Detail
Here's a full-body shot of the newest Star Wars droid — a security robot known as K-2SO (Kaytoo Esso), who is voiced and performed via motion-capture by Alan Tudyk (Firefly.) Compare his gunmetal gray surface to the shimmering plating of "Goldenrod" C-3PO, and you'll see the difference between a utilitarian droid like Kaytoo and a protocol droid like Threepio. Kaytoo wasn't built to socialize. He's as brusque and blunt as he is strong. "He has a very dry delivery," Edwards says. "He doesn’t realize what he's saying is very funny."
In this behind the scenes shot from the Yavin-4 base, Edwards consults with some of his lead actors: Jones, Diego Luna, Yen, and Jiang and Tudyk (in his performance capture suit). The movie's Rebel team is a deliberately diverse mix from our own planet, meant to reflect a galaxy filled with a wide variety of humans from many different worlds (not to mention a healthy mix of creatures and aliens). “People are coming to the Rebellion because something has happened that has galvanized or politicized them,” says Hart. “The question just becomes: What are those triggers for different people in different places?"
The Surly Pilot
We don't yet know what kind of craft he'll be maneuvering, but Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler) will costar as the Rebel squad's lead pilot, Bodhi Rook. "He’s a very experienced pilot. 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."
We’ve seen father and son stories play out in Star Wars movies before, but Rogue One will present a father/daughter tale. Jyn mission is personal, since her father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), is a scientist whose knowledge is being sought by both the Empire and the Rebellion. Producer John Knoll, the Industrial Light & Magic VFX pioneer, came up with the plot and from the start he wanted the lead character of Jyn Erso to be a woman. “I’m a father with three daughters, and I felt it was time to have a really good, smart, resourceful, strong female character in the lead of a movie like this,” he says, before adding: “I wrote that before I saw a treatment for Episode VII, so I didn’t know about Rey.”
Captain Cassian Andor
Diego Luna (Y Tu Mamá También) plays Capt. Cassian Andor, a Rebel stalwart who anchors the loose cannon Jyn. "He’s an intelligence officer and he’s got quite a bit of combat experience," says Kennedy. He's the quiet type, but that's a soldier's trait of not wanting to talk about the things he's seen. "He has a weariness that he carries," says Hart. "It comes from, 'We’re in it, I’m committed for the long fight, and it’s not something that I came to yesterday.'"
Donnie Yen’s blind warrior believes in the Force, even if he isn’t necessarily sensitive to it. One goal of Rogue One is to step away from the Jedi and Sith to explore the heroism of ordinary people. “The Jedi are pretty much extinct,” says Edwards. “It’s up to normal, everyday people to take a stand to stop evil from dominating the world.”
Jiang Wen's Baze doesn't believe in the Force — but he believes in Chirrut. He's in the fight out of devotion to his blind, trouble-finding friend. "He understands Chirrut’s spiritual centeredness, but he doesn’t necessarily support it," Kennedy says. "He supports what his friend deeply believes, but he’s much more of a pragmatic soldier."
Director Orson Krennic
Ben Mendelsohn's Director Krennic is already boxed in. Not only are the Rebels targeting the Death Star, but he has Darth Vader looming over his shoulder, and the Emperor has high expectations for the officers of the Empire. He's got a squad of Deathtroopers and his own wits to keep him safe — even from his fellow Imperials. "They all have their own agendas," says Knoll. "They don’t really trust each other and are always ready to backstab each other. Maybe that’s why the forces of good prevail and the forces of evil do not."
This is the first example of a character from an animated Star Wars title crossing over into live-action. Forest Whitaker's Saw Gerrera is a freedom fighter whose brutal tactics unsettle the Rebellion. During the character's arc on The Clone Wars, a younger Gerrera learned that change and victory often come with horrific sacrifices. You can read all about his checkered history in EW's special breakout on the character. One surprising detail from this new image: Gerrera has more hair than we saw in the trailer. It's not clear if this is the result of the ongoing reshoots for Rogue One, or simply a change in appearance that he undergoes in the midst of the story.
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