Host Gwendoline Christie also paid tribute to those killed in the attack on Nice, France.
Captain Phasma herself submitted Rogue One for inspection at Star Wars Celebration in London.
Gwendoline Christie moderated the panel for the upcoming film, although — sadly — not in her signature chrome armor. The event began on a somber note, with Christie saying it wouldn’t be right to continue an event called “Celebration” without first acknowledging grief over the massacre in Nice, France, which left at least 84 dead on Thursday.
As the room of nearly 4,000 fans sat in silence, heads bowed, someone in the back began singing the French national anthem at the top of his lungs. Those who knew it joined in for a true Casablanca moment of joy in defiance of tragedy, heartbreak, and evil. Those who didn’t know the words cheered and clapped.
Then the program continued by venturing from the grim realities of this world to the escapist fantasy of a galaxy far, far away.
The first major revelation: director Gareth Edwards confirmed that the tropical world in Rogue One where a major battle takes place is known as Scarif. That was followed a moment later by the new poster (see it below), showing a colossal Death Star crescent looming over the sandy beaches of this new world.
After most of the cast was introduced and emerged onstage, Christie balanced the heroic characters on the panel with one evildoer. Ben Mendelssohn marched out, in the white cape and costume of his Imperial weapons supervisor, Director Krennic, flanked by onyx-masked Death Troopers.
Before Christie could ask a question, Edwards interrupted to present a treat — not a trailer, but a behind the scenes clip, similar to the one The Force Awakens brought a year ago to San Diego Comic-Con.
Each frame was a revelation, until — freeze frame, ominous boom from the speakers. Technical difficulties!
“How’s your weekend going?” Christie asked the crowd, killing time.
Edwards said: “We’re going to continue chatting and when it’s ready, we’ll play it again.”
Christie recovered from the technical snafu by introducing Rogue One star Felicity Jones to her very first action figure, depicting the reluctant Rebel spy Jyn Erso.
“I feel very privileged to join the Star Wars doll universe,” Jones said, noting that she was especially proud of the character’s Han Solo-inspired blaster holster.
Delving into the character, Jones said that unlike Luke Skywalker or Rey, Jyn is not someone who is waiting for her life to begin. She has led a full, complicated existence even at a young age. If anything, it sounds like she’s a bit weary of intrigue and adventure.
Diego Luna, who co-stars as Capt. Cassian Andor, said the veteran Rebel intelligence officer is so devoted to his service that the only friend he has is K-2SO, a droid played via performance capture by Alan Tudyk.
Kaytoo is a former Imperial droid, who has had his memory bank wiped by Cassian — rescued in a sense. But the hardened security droid lacks the social graces of some of the more charming robots this galaxy has presented. Kaytoo is blunt, sometimes unpleasantly so. He speaks without a filter, whether its appropriate or not. “If you know any old people, he’s like that,” Tudyk said.
Riz Ahmed, who plays the Rebel pilot Bodhi, confirmed that his character was also previously in service to the Empire. He said the character comes from an occupied planet, Jedha, where he was forced into work for the oppessors, but turns traitor when he becomes too horrified by the actions he is forced to carry out.
Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe) and Jiang Wen (Baze Malbus) play characters who also come from the planet, which is being crushed by Imperial tyranny. It is also the a place that is vitally important to the Empire, while also being a hub of sacred sites relating to the Jedi faith, which is waning after the execution of most of its practitioners.
Forest Whitaker spoke for the first time about Saw Gerrera, his Rebel extremist — who unsettled some of his compatriots with his violent methods. “He’s been fighting for years against the Imperial occupation. He’s a guerrilla fighter,” Whitaker said. “There’s a series of different rebel groups coming together as an alliance. All of these different people are parts of that. By any means necessary, he’ll do what he has to do to save the world. He was trained by the military, but also the Jedi, too.”
Edwards, meanwhile, recalled the day George Lucas himself visited the set of Rogue One. “I challenge anyone to have a more surreal experience than showing a Star Wars film to George Lucas. He’d start to criticize something, then he’d make a joke, and you’d realize he was just kidding. But we’re all having heart attacks. He just has a really dry sense of humor.”
Mads Mikkelsen, who has been a leaky sieve of information in previous interviews, was tight lipped on the panel, saying only that his character, Jyn’s father, is a scientist who invented “something so fantastic, so beautiful that it might change the universe.” For better or worse, though? He didn’t specify. It probably depends on who controls him and his knowledge.
After the tech interruption, Mendelsohn emerged again — out of costume — to say the behind the scenes clip was ready again. “So I can soliloquy, or we can sizzle,” he said. (The footage was already released online by Disney — showcasing new characters, the film’s practical effects, and much more — and can be seen above.)
“Okay, so we want to know a little bit about Director Krennic,” Christie said. “I’ve heard he’s a different kind of villain.”
“Yes, yes he is,” Mendelsohn said. “He’s an Australian kind! We do villainy very well.”
He did offer a little more. “He’s smarter than most of his predecessors,” the actor said. “He’s a little sexier than some of them, not quite as sexy as some of the others,” he added, nodding toward Christie.
“Darling, thanks so much,” she said.
Another major villain will be back in the film: Darth Vader. Edwards recalled recording some of the Sith Lord’s dialogue with James Earl Jones, saying he and the crew had a “nerdgasm” when the actor said a line that ended with the emphatic emphasis of the word: “POWER.”
Finally, the panel ended with another piece of video.
“You guys have come all this way,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy says. “Should we show a little something?”
This glimpse was not something that’s being shared outside the room.
The clip seemed like a teaser trailer, showing a young girl running across a tundra (where we have previously seen a Death Trooper carrying a child’s toy-soldier version of a Stormtrooper). It suggests this young girl is Jyn — perhaps showing how she became orphaned after losing her father to the Imperials? The Death Troopers leave the home they’ve invaded in ruins.
There were various other quick-flash battle segments, but the major reveal came at the end — something large, shimmering and red reflecting off a glistening floor. Is it a sun? A power core?
Then we see the shape of a masked, cloaked figure standing in the reflection — and we hear the rasp of a single mechanical breath.
Darth Vader is back. And the Rogue One panel is over.
For more Star Wars news at Celebration, follow @Breznican.