Only Gareth Edwards showed up to the spin-off film panel, but some notable guests joined him like Kathleen Kennedy, Kiri Hart, John Knoll, and Pablo Hildalgo hosted. Not only did they have a short teaser prepared, but they revealed the spin-offs were to be branded the Star Wars Anthology Series (and now re-branded “A Star Wars Story”), there was a summary of the plot of Rogue One, possible in-universe connections, the genesis behind the idea, and key members of the crew. Oh, and that Edwards visited the Tunisia sets for his 30th birthday. Yes, it was a surprisingly busy panel.
While it was a little disappointing Josh Trank was unable to show (he was reportedly sick and his Tweet suggests he wasn’t kicked off the film and UPDATE: he is no longer directing a Anthology film), but they more than made up for it with all the enticing details and secret early teaser for the film. It all started with Kathleen Kennedy and Kiri Hart (development lead/Story Group member) taking the stage, where KK said Kiri was her first call after taking over the reins of Lucasfilm.
In the need to clarify what the spin-off films’ mentalities would be, they decided to brand them as the Anthology Series, which were actually an idea George Lucas had upon leaving LFL. For the title card, Rogue One sits in the center with Star Wars on top and Anthology on bottom, something which we’ll get used to seeing very quickly as I can only imagine Anthology will have way more than 3 films.
When Gareth Edwards joined the panel, Pablo asked him to immediately roll footage, which resulted in a somewhat funny little back and forth, as Edwards looked confused about having footage while Pablo insisted he show some type of footage since he had nothing to talk to Edwards about. Cue a VERY brief teaser: It opens with a sweeping shot of a jungle canopy, as Obi-Wan’s lines from A New Hope about peace and justice in the galaxy play over the scene. As Obi-Wan says, “Before the dark times. Before the Empire,” a TIE Fighter swoops over and we pull up to see a lush jungle world. In the horizon it looks like there’s a moon, no another, no, it’s the Death Star (crowd went wild)! The title card shows, but it’s choppy and being broken up as frantic troop chatter crescendos into silence. Cue giant roar of excitement from crowd and of course it’s played a second time.
As rumors had suggested, the film is about, “A band of resistance fighters uniting for a daring mission to steal the Death Star plans,” and will be set between Ep. III and IV, but way closer to IV. Felicity Jones is set to star as a Rebel solider, but that was the only detail about any member of the cast revealed. Instead, they focused on what type of film Rogue One would be: a gritty, realistic military film that wouldn’t involve any Jedi. It’s strange to realize there has always been a Jedi in every theatrical Star Wars film…until now, which is a very exciting prospect and something LFL is happy to be able to do with the Anthology Series. Kiri Hart mentioned the slight possibility that Rogue One could connect with other things along the timeline in that era, like say Star Wars Rebels or ANH, which Edwards mentioned is his favorite film. UPDATE: It’s recently come to light Rogue One‘s first writer, Gary Whitta, is writing an upcoming episode of Star Wars Rebels, likely in the third season. Of course this is sparking the rumor it’ll be a crossover episode with Rogue One, which could be something as simple as a character from the film appearing in the show or it could have nothing to do with the film. Either way, this certainly stirs the possibilities this new connected era could hold.
A piece of concept art was shown (and shown later Sunday at the closing ceremony), which is likely the one heard about from the Disney shareholders meeting back in March, and it does a wonderful job of hinting how the film could match the tone they are striving for. Since Edwards has done a great job giving his sci-fi films Monster and Godzilla a realistic, grounded feel to them, I’m excited to see that applied to Star Wars, especially in such an exciting movie concept about stealing the Death Star plans. But Edwards has help adding the gritty feel to the film, with crew who have worked on Zero Dark Thirty, Black Hawk Down, and Saving Private Ryan, plus a familiar face like Doug Chiang on production design (check out the full list at StarWars.com).
As in the title announcement, John Knoll will receive “Story By” credit for the film and he took the stage to unveil the process for how he pitched the film. After he told a friend his idea, they mentioned he should tell Kathleen and he was given an audience rather quickly. She joked she was worried about, “…opening the floodgates,” but found herself unable to say no to Knoll after hearing his pitch. Knoll and Edwards joked around about their friendship, with Edwards constantly suggesting Knoll add new features to Photoshop, which is a piece of software he wrote with his brother, instead of working on the film. Knoll’s biggest bit of information was how happy he was to fit within the limitations set by the opening crawl of ANH, hinting even more heavily Rogue One would overlap with the classic film; it makes me wonder, will they cast a young Princess Leia?
Kiri then told the tale of how she got Edwards into the film and it all hinged on one piece of paper with the story points and concepts on it. Edwards said he was just finishing up on his latest film and considering taking a long break and reevaluating his life then the e-mail from Kiri with the letter came in. He was wishing it would be terrible so he could say no, but he ended up reacting with, “Oh fuck,” after he realized how good it was and how he wouldn’t have been able to see someone else make it (while Pablo joked the swearing is why they couldn’t livestream the panel, it’s more than likely because of Paramount’s injunction on Rogue One publicity and their desire to show us the sneak peek trailer).
They filled the remaining time evaluating Edwards geek cred, which is where we were treated to shots of him touring the Tunisia film sets, including taking a picture looking at the famous sunset and him drinking blue milk at the Lars’ table, which resulted in myself and the rest of the crowd easily accepting him into the Star Wars fold.
Rogue One drops December 16, 2016 and begins filming this Summer. Expect more details once the whole thing with Paramount blows over.
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