Posted on Friday, July 15th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
After the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story presentation, we got an opportunity to chat with director Gareth Edwards. During the roundtable discussion, Edwards talks about creating the Jedi mecca in the film, a new planet called Jedha, the very unique shooting methods he employed on this production, the decision to include Darth Vader in his story and what concerns come with that, and I ask if we will get any aerial battles in this Star Wars film. Hit the jump to watch the Gareth Edwards Rogue One Interview in video or text format.
Gareth Edwards Rogue One Interview
You can watch the full interview embedded below or read the transcription the follows underneath.
We talked to Gareth about the planet Jedha and how he envisioned the spiritual world he is brining to the Star Wars galaxy.
It came from the fact that the era that our film is set in in theory doesn’t have any Jedi. So the idea of having a Star Wars film that doesn’t talk about the Force—if you look at what George was great at is although he got a story about one thing, he’s implying a million other things in the background and ideas that are much wider, and obviously our film is using that and telling a story within it. But for me it’s like if A New Hope is kind of the story of Jesus, there must be a whole religion beyond that, and so it felt like what was it a thousand generations the Jedi were the leaders of the spiritual belief system. So it’s like there’s gotta be like a Mecca or Jerusalem within the Star Wars world. It also felt very contemporary to have a situation where the Empire were imposing themselves on what means a lot to the spiritual side of Star Wars for their own reasons, their own goals, and within that area there’s a resistance that’s building and trying to fight back, but our characters end up having to go to Jedha and they basically end up getting pulled into their story a bit.
The planet Jedha was filmed in a combination of on location in Jordan as well as sets constructed at Pinewood Studios outside London. Gareth described the unusual way he decided to go about finding Jedah on set:
It’s just a beautiful—we went to Jordan to film and we built this set in Pinewood that was 360 degrees so you could kind of look wherever you wanted. Normally on a set the extras are told, ‘Okay on action you walk over there and on cut you stop,’ and we said, ‘Okay for the next hour you’re cooking food, or you’re doing this car thing,’ and the crew were wearing costumes so if the cameras turned around on them, they wouldn’t be in the shot. So we tried to keep it all flowing and the actors were given the freedom to go where they wanted and do the scene in a way that felt right. So there’s a lot of freedom and it had this organic, different vibe to it than you associate sometimes with Star Wars, and so that felt really exciting. As a fan, I wanted to go to these places. It’s gotta feel right, that’s what was a massive learning experience. There’s such a fine line in Star Wars, if you go just slightly to the left it’s not Star Wars, it’s another sci-fi movie that doesn’t feel right. And if you go slightly to the right, you’re just copying what George [Lucas] did. So trying to navigate this thing where it’s new/feels fresh was like the dance that was the process of making the film. I really loved Jedah.
But Gareth couldn’t use all the footage, which he says is the “most frustrating thing about it.”
It looked so good and there was so much, I was dying because it can’t all fit in the film, it can’t all fit in the story, the film’s not about that but it’s an embarrassment of riches when you’re doing something like this. You just desperately want everything to be in everything all the time, and then you go back and look at the originals and you go, ‘Wait a minute, that guy I had the toy of that I used to play with all the time, he’s only in one shot.’ … I was obsessed with that toy as a kid.’ That’s the beauty of it is that the hope is there’s so much detail in this world—this film’s born out of that, like ‘What would that story be?’ It’s not a main event but it could be another film and that’s what exciting about Star Wars and I think that’s what, obviously, our film’s been born through. It never ends really, I think Disney are very smart.”
But is Jedha called Jedi because of the Jedi? Is there a connection between the two?
The whole real backstory of it all is really more a thing for the canon and Lucasfilm, but I feel like it’s definitely—if you believe in the Jedi and you believe in the Force, it feels like Jedha is somewhere you should visit in your lifetime. It’s like a spiritual home of the Jedi.
Did he shoot any other pieces of the movie in that unique organic way? Gareth admits that he “tried to do everything like that, but the reality is you can’t.” The conversation quickly turned to how Rogue One will look unlike George Lucas’ original trilogy or even the new Skywalker saga movies.
There’s different styles. There’s that style, which was more going for realism and there was the classical, original trilogy style, which is very more considered and feels very imperial. So initially there was the feeling that Rebels will be this one thing and then the Empire will be this other thing, but as we got going we started mixing it all and it felt a lot better. I was really pleased with the vibe of the film in that it changes gears between those classical — what feels like the language of Star Wars — into something a bit more contemporary and back again. And you’re not jarred by it. The way I used to try to justify it was that this is a real historical event and George is on Tatooine with his camera crew, we’re on our planets with our camera crew, and there’ s there filmmakers on other planets with their camera crews. We’re not going to see those movies for a while, but everyone’s making just making their movies and they’ll all have their own little style and voice. It felt like, you have historical events like World War II and they grow films like Casablanca and Saving Private Ryan which are completely different, Star Wars can do like that. So it felt like, especially because we’re not part of the saga, we’ve got that license to try and branch out a bit.
But what I was really wondering is, the movie is called Rogue One, which calls back to Rogue Squadron, but so far much of the action we’ve seen is ground based war combat. What about the Star Wars? Will there be aerial battles in Rogue One? Edwards smiled and laughed before teasing: “There could be.”
Another question was asked about how you use Darth Vader in this film. He’s such an iconic character, and people will be excited to see him but you don’t want to take away from the film’s main villain, right?
[Vader]’s got such a gravitational pull, the second he shows up you just get sucked into Darth Vader. So it was a process to try and figure out how to pepper that in in a way that felt right. When I read the first document, which is “this is what we’re thinking of doing” I was like “Oh my god, they’re going to do that film? Jeez.” And at the time I thought they must have sent it to hundred other people and I accidentally got it by mistake. Then I realized they were going to do it, and I was like “i could never live with myself to be two years from then and it’s coming out and this is happening and there’ some guy here going “yeah, so we filmed in 360” and I’d be going “God damn I could have been doing that!” So you have to do it.
Edwards quickly transitions into talking about how he got involved in this film in the first place.
I got pulled into making the film through my love of the original films, but then what was a clear conversation that happened early on at Lucasfilm is that we’re doing new things here, this is not a karaoke number or just pure winks and fan service. That’s not going to make a good film. This has got to be characters that you care about and there’s an opportunity to create new people and events that pull you in, so hopefully the goal is that you come to the film for all the reasons that we love star wars and you get sucked in and start to care about the new people and when you’re in the midst of all that and that’s going on, familiar things start to pass you by, you start to remember “Oh yeah, oh yeah” but the film should exist on it’s own terms. If all these film are ever just “And here’s that character you love, Yay! Here’s that other character you love, Yay!” All the time, that’s all they’re doing then they’re not really doing what George did, which is he tried to find stories that were about something, that were saying something, that you keep in your pocket forty years later, that stay in your head and are still affecting you.
As someone who loves Star Wars so much, does Edwards become aggravated when people ask which characters in Rogue One are the Bothan Spies? Edwards laughs, and its clear he’s seen this question too many times.
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Yeah, I don’t even want to start on that because this comes up all the time and you’re like “No, no…” … I don’t even have to [explain it] because for every person who says that there’s someone on the forum just below them that goes “You idiot!”