rogue one death troopers

In their original incarnation, the Imperial Stormtroopers were grunts, working stiffs who suited up for the Empire because it was a job because being cannon fodder for characters with names and faces was something that paid the bills. Over the years, it became easy for fans to justify just how disorganized these guys were and how they seemingly couldn’t hit the broad side of a Sandcrawler at ten paces with a blaster – these guys aren’t the most elite bunch.

Now, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story seems poised to finally explain where the cream of the crop from the Imperial Academy actually went – they’re the Death Troopers, specialized soldiers who are instantly recognizable from their black armor. But like so many new pieces of Star Wars lore, their origins lie in in the distant past of the saga’s real life history.

Director Gareth Edwards was one of the key players at this year’s Star Wars Celebration, popping up here, there and everywhere to talk about Rogue One and how it will be different from past Star Wars films. While participating in an onstage Q&A with The Star Wars Show, he was asked about the origin of the Death Troopers, who appear to be a striking and deadly bunch. Like so many other iconic characters, they came into being after Edwards found himself entranced by some old concept art from before the original film was even shot. Here’s the full story:

One of the great things you can do when you get to make Star Wars is you go to the Lucasfilm archives. You get to go through all of the different objects and stuff. The woman who runs that place gets really bored I think because every person like me is going “Is this the Millennium Falcon?” And she’s like “Yes.” “Is this the actual Millennium Falcon that was used in the film?” “Yes.” “The actual one that was used in the shots? There’s no another one?” “Yes, that’s the one.” And then it’s like “This is the actual X-Wing?” “Yes.” “Is this the actual lightsaber?” “Yes.” The whole day goes like this, where you go through every single object you can think of. And then at the very back of the room are all of these drawers that are full of the Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie originals. The original actual paintings that they showed the studio to get Star Wars made. And on some of those images, there were these Stormtroopers that were really tall and thin and they looked so cool and athletic. When you put armor on a Stormtrooper, they look like NFL players. They were sleek and S.A.S. looking Stormtroopers. So we thought let’s try to find some six, seven foot tall people who are really thin and try to figure out a new Stormtrooper that can actually hit its target with guns. And they became, eventually, the Death Troopers.

The only real issue with a concept like this (and this could very easily be explained in Rogue One) is this: where the hell were these guys in the original trilogy? That’s an unfair accusation to make, but if we’re going to consider every Star Wars movie and show and book and comic part of a giant connected tapestry, we’re now allowed to wonder why these guys weren’t defending the shield generator on the moon of Endor or why they weren’t in direct pursuit of Luke Skywalker during the aftermath of the battle on Hoth. Then again, I’m sure a future book will explain all of this in great detail.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens on December 16, 2016. You can watch the entire interview with Edwards below.

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