'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' exclusive images
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.” But what do you make of the Imperial insignia on his shoulder?
'Rogue One' Burning Questions
With EW’s new Rogue One issue now on newsstands, we’re releasing a few new bonus images that didn’t make the print edition of the Star Wars article. Along with them, some burning questions we’re eager for the Dec. 16 film to answer. First up: The movie will feature never-before-seen vehicles, like the fang-toothed TIE Strikers (featured on our cover image), as well as some sinister new classes of Stormtroopers — like the black-masked Deathtrooper pictured here. Storywise, what became of these designs during later years of the galactic conflict? Were they experimental models? Will the Rebel victory be so complete that the Empire never uses them again? Will the Deathtrooper squad be utterly annihilated?
Jyn and Cassian
In the era of fandom ‘shipping, it’s only a matter of time before people start drawing hearts around Jyn and Cassian. The filmmakers say he’s the reliable, stable one who counters her loose-cannon tendencies, sort of Murtaugh to her Riggs. (There’s probably a fandom out there who ‘ship the two Lethal Weapon characters, too.) No doubt Jyn and Cassian form a trust and a friendship, but does that always have to mean romance? Is there perhaps value in showing a man and woman whose partnership is strictly platonic, an example of two soldiers who share a deep affection for each other, but not necessarily in that way? Or are we just going to ‘ship, ‘ship, ‘ship until the Banthas come home?
Rebel Soldiers Assemble
Here we see Diego Luna’s Capt. Cassian Andor in the beach battle alongside some fellow Rebel soldiers — all of them human. From the original trilogy, we know a great many creatures also joined the Rebellion. Did those species line up and follow the lead of the humans after the events of Rogue One? Or have we just not seen some of the aliens who will join this battle? Director Gareth Edwards says there are at least two background creatures who fight with the squad, but they aren’t major characters. “They’re not necessarily front-and-center,” he says, before joking: “But maybe one day, there’ll be a spinoff movie.”
Chirrut Imwe's Weapon
This shot of Donnie Yen’s blind warrior-monk, Chirrut Imwe, gives us a good look at a new kind of weapon on his back. In the trailer, we see him face down a Stormtrooper using only a wooden staff. (No laser sword for him!) But the device slung on his back looks unusually ornamental for a mere blaster. It seems to be a more elegant version of the kind of bowcaster used by Chewbacca, and it makes me wonder if it has any historical significance. Also, what’s a sightless warrior doing with any kind of blaster? Does his faith in the Force somehow help ensure his aim is true?
Baze Malbus Takes Aim
While Chirrut puts his faith in the Force, Jiang Wen’s hard-bitten soldier, Baze Malbus, clearly believes more in the force of firepower. Here we see him taking up position beside a crashed X-wing fighter, toting a blaster that’s linked up to a massive power pack on his back. Was he the pilot of this downed vehicle? In the teaser, we see Chirrut taking out Stormtroopers with this wreckage in the background. Is this where the two meet and become brothers-in-arms — or does their friendship go back much further?
Storming the Beach
Don’t worry, the Empire isn’t using choppers alongside its TIE Strikers to strafe the Rebellion. This is a behind-the-scenes shot, showing Baze, Chirrut, and a squad of Rebel fighters storming the beach. The helicopter camera is a surprising element, however, because it’s not typically the kind of shot we’ve seen before in a Star Wars film, which tend to be more classically composed. Edwards says he’s going for a hand-held, you-are-there approach to filming this battle, and a hovering, swooping camera angle could be an interesting component of that. The question now is how this approach will alter the vibe of what a Star Wars film can be.
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We’ve seen father and son stories play out in Star Wars movies before, but Rogue One will present a father/daughter tale. Jyn’s 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.