most anticipated movies of 2016

The Force has Awakened, and we won’t find out what happens for another 600 or so days. But another Star Wars movie will be out later this year: Star Wars: Rogue One (or is it Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?) will hit theaters in December 2016, and we’re excited (Peter, Angie, Jacob, Jack and Ethan all listed the film in their most anticipated films of the year). But what do we know about Rogue One? I have compiled everything we know, have seen, and/or have heard rumored, and more, after the jump.

The Force Awakens credits scene

What Is Rogue One About?

Rogue One is set between the films Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope, during the Age of the Empire. The official plot description follows:

A band of resistance fighters unite for a daring mission to steal the Death Star plans.

We had initially broken the story about Rogue One‘s plot, but at the time we were told that it was a bunch of bounty hunters who were hired by the Rebel Alliance to take on a heist for the Death Star plans.

Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams

What Genre Will the Rogue One Story Be?

When I talked to Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy at the Force Awakens junket, she said “the standalone films can be a wide variety of genres inside the Star Wars universe.” When asked if Rogue One was Lucasfilm’s heist movie, Kennedy said, “It is to a certain extent.” This is kind of like the approach that Marvel Studios has been taking with their films, with Winter Soldier being a conspiracy thriller and Ant-Man being a comedic heist film.

Lucasfilm Story Group head Kiri Hart has described Rogue One as a “period piece”:

In the case of Rogue One, we’re essentially making a period piece. The benefit of making additional episodes that move forward on the timeline is that we are making new space for ourselves.

Kennedy also told me that they are hiring the filmmakers like Gareth Edwards because they want to bring a “different sensibility” from the Star Wars saga films. Actor Mads Mikkelsen echoes that statement in another interview, saying that the film will give us a different view of the Star Wars universe: “It’s still the Star Wars universe, but there is… There might be a personal take on that from Gareth, as well.”

More to the point, Edwards has called Rogue One as “a war movie.”

Rogue One Writers

Who Wrote Rogue One?

John Knoll: The Industrial Light and Magic visual effects supervisor and chief creative officer has a long history with Star Wars, having supervised VFX on the Special Editions and prequels. After Lucasfilm decided they would be making spin-off movies outside of the episodic saga films, they heard pitches from a lot of creatives including some people within the company. Knoll came up with the idea for Rogue One when he began to think about the kinds of stories he would like to see told within the Star Wars franchise. He pitched it to people within Lucasfilm, which resulted in a meeting with Kathleen Kennedy and Kiri Hart where he gave a 20-minute pitch for the movie.

Gary Whitta: A video game journalist who was launched into the screenwriting world, Gary Whitta wrote the Hughes Brothers’ The Book of Eli and M. Night Shyamalan and Will Smith’s After Earth. You can read our extensive five-part interview series with Whitta here. He was the first screenwriter hired for this project, but after completing a first draft he moved on to 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Mark Millar’s Starlight.

Chris Weitz: The screenwriter who replaced Whitta on Rogue One is best known as the co-director and co-writer, with his brother Paul Weitz, of the Oscar-nominated adaptation About a Boy. Weitz also wrote Kenneth Branagh’s live-action adaptation of Cinderella for Disney. His other directing credits include The Golden Compass (which he also scripted), The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and A Better Life.

Christopher McQuarrie: In January 2016, it was rumored that McQuarrie was quietly hired to polish the screenplay as shooting began. McQuarrie is one of Hollywood’s top script doctors (for example, he helped Paramount get World War Z‘s third act back on track), and the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Usual Suspects has recently risen as a strong director behind such films as Jack Reacher and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Its unlikely that McQuarrie will be credited as a third screenwriter on the film, but the reports going around claim that he was brought in to save the movie.

Gareth Edwards

Who Is Directing Rogue One?

Gareth Edwards was announced as the director on May 22nd, 2014, just a week after his first big-budget film hit theaters nationwide. Edwards was a visual effects guy who made a name for himself for the low-budget film Monsters, which he wrote, directed and served on as cinematographer and visual effects artist. That film was enough to get him the job as director of Godzilla for Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros, and his pitch impressed Disney and Lucasfilm brass.

Edwards released the following statement when the news was announced: “Ever since I saw Star Wars I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life – join the Rebel Alliance! I could not be more excited & honored to go on this mission with Lucasfilm.”

rogue one

Who Is Starring in Rogue One?

Felicity Jones is playing a Rebel soldier who might be named Lyra Erso. The Oscar-nominated actress has appeared in films as varied as The Theory of Everything, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Like Crazy. Edwards has said that he “wanted to see fear, humor, and warmth” in the character, and not just a cliched image of a warrior. Rumor has it that other actresses testing for the role included Tatiana MaslanyRooney Mara, and Kate Mara. Another rumor claims that her character is the daughter of Mads Mikkelsen’s character.

Diego Luna is also playing a Rebel soldier. Luna first hit the mainstream with a starring role in Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá Tambien. Since then, he’s worked with Steven Spielberg, Gus Van Sant, Harmony Korine and many more.

Riz Ahmed is also playing a Rebel soldier, possibly named Bodhi Rook. Liz has starred in Four LionsNightcrawler and The Road to Guantanamo.

Jiang Wen is playing an unknown character. The Chinese actor isn’t terribly familiar to U.S. audiences, but he did gain some international attention for his role in Zhang Yimou’s directorial debut Red Sorghum. He later reunited with the filmmaker Keep Cool. Jiang’s other credits include Let the Bullets Fly and Gone With the Bullets, which he also directed. He additionally helmed a segment in the American anthology film New York, I Love You.

Mads Mikkelsen wasn’t present in the “good guys” cast photo and since he is known for the villainous roles he has played in Casino Royale and the Hannibal television series, many people speculated that he might play a bad guy in Rogue One. But according to the actor, that is not the case. The Danish actor says he has “a very important role.” His character may be named “Galen,” as the actor signed the name on a Rogue One poster. The video game The Force Unleashed featured a very powerful Force user named Galen Marek as the main character, but the character is not expected to be related to Mikkelsen’s. Another report claims his character is an Robert Oppenheimer-type — the Imperial scientist chiefly responsible for getting the final Death Star fully functional. However, his guilt over building the ultimate weapon of mass destruction forces him to reconsider his allegiances.

Alan Tudyk is playing a performance-capture character, which we suspect is an alien or android. Tudyk is a favorite of sci-fi audiences, having starred in Firefly/Serenity and I, Robot. He also voiced the Duke of Weselton in Disney’s Frozen.

Forest Whitaker is an Academy Award-winning actor known for his roles in Platoon, The Last King of Scotland, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Panic Room, Species, Good Morning Vietnam and many more films.

Ben Mendelsohn is expected to be playing a villain of some kind. Mendelsohn is currently starring in Netflix’s Bloodline but was also seen in Animal Kingdom, The Place Beyond the Pines, and had a small role in The Dark Knight Rises, among other films.

Donnie Yen says he is playing “a good and benevolent character,” but we don’t know anything more about his role. The Hong Kong action star most notably played Yip Man in the 2008 film Ip Man. He is credited for helping popularize the traditional martial arts style known as Wing Chun. Edwards was supposedly looking at a number of Chinese actors for a role in the spin-off, a list that reportedly included Jet Li, Stephen Chow, Tony Leung, Chiu Wai, Daniel Wu, Wang Leehom and Chang Chen.

Jonathan Aris (BBC’s Sherlock, The World’s End) is playing a character named Senator Jebel.

Not in the movie: Sam Claflin was initially reported as “the frontrunner for one of the ensemble roles.”

Star Wars Rogue One (hi-res)

Have Any Official Rogue One Photos Been Released?

At the 2015 D23 Expo, Lucasfilm released the above first look cast photo for Rogue One, which features (left to right) Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen.

rogue-one-concept-art

How About Rogue One Concept Art?

Disney’s Bob Iger released the above piece of Rogue One concept art, first at an investors’ meeting in March and then later to the public.

Anthology Film Or A Star Wars Story?

Anthology Film or A Star Wars Story?

When the Star Wars spin-off films were first announced, they were branded as “Anthology films” but later at D23 Expo 2015, Disney decided to rebrand the category as “A Star Wars Story.” You can see a photo of Disney’s Alan Horn on stage talking about the new branding. The change was made without any big fanfare or comment, which has led to some confusion amongst fans and press as to what to refer to the stand-alone movies as.

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