Posted on Monday, April 11th, 2016 by Angie Han
The star of last week’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer was undoubtedly Jyn Erso, the “reckless, aggressive, undisciplined” rebel fighter played by Felicity Jones. But surrounding her is a cast that looks positively stuffed with potential scene-stealers, like the imposing figure played by Ben Mendelsohn. There’s not much we know for sure about the character at this point, other than that he’s some sort of high-ranking Imperial officer with an uncanny talent for keeping his white cape clean even as he drags it through the mud.
Which, of course, just means there’s lots and lots of room for theories and speculation. After the jump, let’s run down some guesses about who this mysterious Ben Mendelsohn Rogue One character might be.
Grand Moff Tarkin
With his distinguished bearing, prominent cheekbones, and silvery hair, Mendelsohn’s character bears a reasonable resemblance to Peter Cushing in A New Hope, which has led some to wonder if he’s playing a younger version of Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. But the uniform and rank insignia don’t match up, as you can see for yourself. It wouldn’t be impossible for director Gareth Edwards and his team to argue that Tarkin’s role in the Empire has changed between Rogue One and A New Hope, given that Rogue One takes place a little bit before A New Hope, but it seems like an awfully dramatic change. Not to mention an unnecessary one. If Rogue One wanted to give us a younger Tarkin, there would be easier ways to do it than by putting forth an actor who looks vaguely like Cushing in an entirely different uniform, with some convoluted backstory to explain the apparent inconsistencies.
Grand Admiral Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn is a character who originated in Timothy Zahn‘s Heir to the Empire trilogy in the 1990s — which, remember, are now considered non-canon “Legends.” Though he’s never appeared in any of the movies, Thrawn is a favorite among Star Wars diehards, and one many fans would surely love to see cross over into the official canon. Mendelsohn is wearing a white uniform like the one Thrawn wears, and he seems to project a similar aura of calculating leadership.
That said, Mendelsohn doesn’t really fit the character’s physical description at all, as Thrawn is supposed to have blue skin and red eyes. Plus, the rank insignia doesn’t line up; Mendelsohn’s is six red over six blue, suggesting a fleet admiral, while Thrawn is a grand admiral. While Edwards and company could, in theory, introduce a different version of Thrawn with a different look and a different rank, it seems unlikely he’d want to. Why create an unfaithful adaptation of a beloved character and thus risk the ire of fans, when he could just start from scratch with a completely new character? Not to mention there are already rumors Thrawn will enter the canon in a different way.
— jon erso (@jonniechang) April 7, 2016
Wulff Yularen appeared briefly in A New Hope and had a much bigger presence in The Clone Wars series. In A New Hope he wears the white uniform of the Imperial Security Bureau, not unlike the costume Mendelsohn is wearing. And Mendelsohn looks similar enough to Yularen’s live-action and animated appearance that Rogue One could probably pass them off as the same character and get away with it. However, they aren’t a perfect fit. Yularen seems to be a colonel in A New Hope, and Mendelsohn appears to rank higher than that. More to the point, while there’s no hard evidence they aren’t the same character, there’s also no real evidence that they are, aside from this passing physical resemblance.