The goal was to make the space battles in Rogue One feel like roller coasters, so director Gareth Edwards came up with a unique way to shoot them:
Literally turn them into an amusement park ride.
“When we were filming the X-wing footage in the film, we had the X-wing [cockpit] mounted to a gimbal so it could move around, like it was really flying,” Edwards says. “Then all around were the screens, in 180 degrees, that were projecting space and this pre-animated flight path as the X-wing was moving around, like it was really flying.”
The first Star Wars standalone movie comes out in just over a week, with a lot of talk about the Godzilla filmmaker’s visceral, handheld approach to showing the soldier’s perspective of galactic conflict.
Edwards and cinematographer Greig Fraser tried to do the same thing from the aerial point of view by placing a handheld camera in the X-wing and maneuvering it to follow the strafing and explosions the same way a human (or alien) pilot might.
Their plan was to give the movie a documentary feel, and since Edwards knew what he wanted that pilot’s eye to follow, he operated the camera himself.
“I got inside this X-wing, put the camera on top of my shoulder and they closed the cockpit. Then the thing just started flying and we started going through space in a space battle. And I was filming it, trying to film everything and trying to get the shots as well as I could.”
Edwards also wanted to do it himself because … come on, that’s fun.
“The second it was over, I got so transported to a galaxy far, far away that I had forgotten I was in Pinewood [Studios], you know?” he says. “I had forgotten that I was just Gareth with a camera. I mean, I thought I was in this space battle.”
RELATED VIDEO: Gareth Edwards, Diego Luna open up about making Rogue One
After an arduous shoot, that moment stands out as one of his personal favorites. “I really felt at that point, ‘Okay, that’s probably the high bar of feeling like I was really in a spaceship flying, while trying to make a movie. It was quite disorientating to go back to the set and carry on filming because you get an adrenaline rush from the whole thing.”
For more of Entertainment Weekly‘s Gareth Edwards interview, Sirius XM listeners can tune-in Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT for “Behind the Scenes” on EW Radio, Channel 105.
He’ll discuss the process of braiding Rogue One into 1977’s original Star Wars, and answers a longtime fan question: Why does Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera have brown eyes when the character originally had bright blue ones in The Clone Wars animated series…?
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