'Star Wars: Rogue One': Everything We Know (So Far)

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.

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.

The Force Awakens credits scene

When Will Rogue One Be Released?

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is scheduled to hit theaters on December 16, 2016.

What's in the Title Rogue One?

Though Star Wars: Rogue One was from an idea from ILM employee John Knoll, it seems initial writer Gary Whitta came up with the name. The title was revealed during a Disney shareholders call by company head Bob Iger, who called the movie "the first film in a unique series of big-screen adventures that explores the characters and events beyond the core Star Wars saga."

We don't know what "Rogue One" specifically refers to, of course, so with an answer comes more questions. The prevailing thought seems to be it refers to X-Wing fighters. But why is that? Uproxx has a very concise history and backstory of the word "Rogue" means in the Star Wars canon, and how it relates to X-Wing pilots.

Just a few days after Disney announced the Rogue One title, Paramount released the first teaser and the final title for the new Mission: Impossible movie, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Jokes flew immediately about the similar titles, but as it turns out there was some back-room dealing between the two studios over the similar titles. Paramount registered the Rogue Nation title months before, and Disney's end of the bargain involved agreeing to hold off on any early promotion of Rogue One until later in the year after Rogue Nation hit theaters.

We have heard that Lunak Heavy Industries is the top secret production company name for Rogue One. The code name for the film was Los Alamos, likely a reference to the the town where physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer designed the first nuclear bomb.

The official trademark Lucasfilm requested for that film is Star Wars Rogue One, not just Rogue One (though they surely have that as well). It seems likely the official title is "Star Wars: Rogue One," like "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" or "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back."

What Is This Teaser Trailer?

At Star Wars Celebration, Gareth Edwards surprised the crowd with a teaser trailer for the film which was cut especially for the convention.

A card with "December 2016" fades in and out, with a sound that is somewhere between a slow Inception horn and a lightsaber. Then a familiar voice: Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, saying "For more than a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire."

As he speaks, the teaser fades in on a tracking shot, high up through a forested canyon. We hear a TIE Fighter pass overhead, and see the ship move forward into frame as the camera continues to push forward. We see, dominating the sky, the outline of what could be a moon. But that's no moon, it's a... well, you know what it is. The Death Star. Music swells and the screen goes black. The Rogue One logo comes up, and we hear radio voices, like troops communicating during combat. The chatter gets more frantic and loud as light strobes on the logo, which finally breaks up as the sound cuts out.

Anakin Skywalker As A Force Ghost

Will Rogue One Feature Any Jedi?

Rogue One is set in a time when the Jedi are basically extinct, and director Gareth Edwards has said there are no warriors with "magical powers" to save the day.

"It's about the fact that God's not coming to save us," said Edwards. "The absence of the Jedi hangs over the movie."

Who Is Felicity Jones Playing In Rogue One

Who Is Felicity Jones Playing in Rogue One?

As of right now, we don't know. Disney has said that Jones plays "a Rebel soldier," but there have been many rumors floating around including:

  • She is the daughter of the galaxy's most notorious bounty hunter, Boba Fett.
  • That she might be playing a live-action version of Sabine Wren from the Disney XD animated series Star Wars Rebels. And we know a cross-over has been discussed and could be possible, but the characters don't look too similar.
  • And a recent rumor that's been floating around is that she might end up being the mother to Daisy Ridley's character Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Of course, I'm not sure how they would establish this as the events in this movie take place at least 34 years prior to The Force Awakens, which is probably 15 years prior to Rey's birth. Also, Edwards has said that there are no Jedi in this movie, so I doubt we'll be seeing someone with Force powers. And besides, most fans expect Rey will end up being a Skywalker of some kind, and we've been told the Saga movies will continue to tell that family's story, not the standalone movies.

All of these rumors/theories are interesting because if she is of Mandalorian heritage, this would explain why we initially heard that it was a group of bounty hunters hired by the Rebel Alliance to pull off the Death Star heist. Remember, we were the ones that broke the scoop about Rogue One's story.

Is Diego Luna Playing Biggs Darklighter

Is Diego Luna Playing Biggs Darklighter?

Is there a chance that Diego Luna is playing Biggs Darklighter in Star Wars: Rogue One? Both characters share a similar look, including that sweet mustache. But this theory seems pretty weak for now. Darklighter has a history with Luke Skywalker, as A New Hope establishes that the two of them were childhood friends on Tatooine. Biggs left to join the Academy before Luke did. If you want more information on Biggs Darklighter, check out his Wookieepedia entry right here.

Lor_San_Tekka_and_Poe_Dameron

Will Rogue One Feature Characters From The Force Awakens?

Over a year before Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released, I was told by good sources that Max Von Sydow's character in Episode 7 would be an older version of a character from one of the standalone movies.

But in Force Awakens, we learn very little about Von Sydow's character. We only know that Poe Dameron was tasked by General Organa to find an old ally of hers who holds information about her brother's whereabouts, and that man is a guy named Lor San Tekka. The Visual Dictionary tells us the following:

As the empire toppled, retreating Imperial officials destroyed records that would have been vital to the New Republic's attempts at Galactic reconstruction. New Republic bureaucrats turned instead to firsthand accounts from well-traveled locals to fill in the gaps. A seasoned traveler and explorer of the more remote fringes of the galaxy, Lor San Tekka has proven his worth to the New Republic and Resistance many times over. Ready to retire after decades of exploration and adventure, the spiritual San Tekka has settled with a colony of villagers in the remote Kelvin Ravine on the frontier world of Jakku.

The StarWars.com official databank also offers the following about the character:

A legendary traveler and explorer, Lor San Tekka is a longtime ally of the New Republic and the Resistance. After the Battle of Endor, San Tekka helped Luke Skywalker recover secret Jedi lore that the Empire had tried to erase, and Leia Organa hopes the old scout can now help find her brother. Following decades of adventure, San Tekka retired to live simply on Jakku, where he follows the dictates of the once-forbidden Church of the Force. But his retirement is fated to be anything but peaceful.

San Tekka also says of General Leia that "she'll always be royalty to me" which insinuates that he knew Leia before A New Hope. What if Lor San Tekka is one of the main characters in Rogue One? The official descriptions mention his time as a former Scout, which might fit into the Rogue One story.

At one point a rumor was going around that he would be playing an older version of Boba Fett, which would have fit in with the standalone film Lucasfilm was developing focusing on the infamous bounty hunter. While we've seen no evidence of that, it should be noted that the Art Of book shows early concepts of the character which incorporated costume elements from Boba Fett.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Might Get a Consultant Credit

Writer Chris Weitz asked Neil deGrasse Tyson for help with a astronomy question for the film, and Tyson agreed to help out. Tyson might get a consultant credit, or at very least, a thank you in the end credits.

Darth Vader Rogue One rumor

Who Is the Bad Guy?

We have been told that Ben Mendelsohn is expected to be playing a villain of some kind. We don't know the film's main antagonist yet, but it's been reported that Darth Vader will make some sort of appearance in the film.

Darth Vader will appear in Rogue One, but he will not be the film's main antagonist. According to the rumors, the Sith lord will "be working behind the scenes, pulling strings and will appear onscreen" ... "via viewscreen or holo projection or something." Its also been rumored that James Earl Jones will return to speak Darth Vader's lines

Who will be the villain in Star Wars: Rogue One? We don't know. The prime suspect from Star Wars canon would be Grand Moff Tarkin, the commander of the fully operational Death Star from Star Wars: A New Hope. There is always the possibility that the villain will be someone we've never seen or heard of before.

We might see some version of Shadow Stormtroopers in the spin-off. They may not be called that, but apparently there have been some black Stormtroopers with silver eyepieces spotted on set.

Han Solo shortlist

Will Han Solo Appear in the Film?

When we broke the news of what Rogue One would be about, one detail we reported didn't make much sense: we were told that the Millennium Falcon, but probably not Han Solo, would play a role in the story. Filming has completed on Rogue One, and the trades are now reporting on who might be playing Han Solo in the Phil Lord/Chris Miller film.

But isn't it a little early to cast for a film that is that far out? Even the trades have heard a rumor that the casting might be required as Han Solo could play a very small role in Rogue One. Of course, Rogue One, as far as we know, takes place just before A New Hope, so Han Solo wouldn't look too much younger than he does in that film.

Gareth Edwards Used VR to Help Visualize Rogue One

ILMxLab, the VR and augmented reality think-tank from Industrial Light & Magic has been involved in the development of Rogue One. Director Gareth Edwards has been using an xLab Oculus Rift set-up to help design Star Wars: Rogue One.

"He was in virtual reality for the first time," said Lucasfilm's head of New Media, Rob Bredow. "When he, two minutes into having the headset on, referred to it as 'real life,' I was like, 'okay, we're on to something here.'"

Arri Alexa 65 camera.

What Format Did the Film Shoot On?

While the new Star Wars saga films have been shooting on 35mm film (with a 70mm IMAX sequence), Rogue One's director of photography Greig Fraser filmed at least some sequences with a brand new, 6K resolution Arri Alexa 65 camera. And the DP also used some of the brand new, 70mm lenses Panavision created for Quentin Tarantino for The Hateful Eight. Here is a quick primer from our previous piece on the topic:

The advantage of 65mm film and large-format IMAX film is that there is a larger surface area to capture the image, resulting is finer and more detailed footage. The Alexa 65 is an attempt to create a digital camera that has the same effect, but with all the advantages of digital.  The Ultra Panavision 70 lenses used by Robert Richardson on The Hateful Eight yield an extremely wide aspect ratio of 2.76:1 when used with a 65mm capture area, which is wider than the widest standard anamorphic widescreen ratio of 2.39:1.

Alexandre Desplat

Who Will Score Rogue One?

Star Wars franchise composer John Williams will not be composing the score for the Star Wars spin-offs. Instead, Academy Award winner Alexandre Desplat will compose the score for Star Wars Rogue One.

Desplat won his first Oscar for Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, although he was also nominated this year for his work on The Imitation Game. His credits include Argo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The King's Speech, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Queen and Zero Dark Thirty.

Yavin 4

How About Set Photos?

During the filming, a bunch of set photos from Star Wars: Rogue One have hit the web from Cardington. None of the set photos reveal anything big storewide — we've seen practically built New Hope era X-Wings and a stone wall with vines which call back to Yavin 4. You can see the set photos here, herehere, here, and here.

Pinewood Studios - Star Wars

Where Did Rogue One Film?

Rogue One began filming on July 1st, 2015 and concluded their filming the same day that Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters in mid-December 2015.

Lucasfilm and Disney have a very long deal with Pinewood to film most of the upcoming Star Wars films in London, and Rogue One was one of the movies that shot at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, in Buckinghamshire, England, UK.

We also know they filmed at Mýrdalssandur beach in southern Iceland, specifically, "by the mountains Hjörleifshöfði and Hafursey, east of the village of Vík," which is known for its black sand beaches. Also at Pymmes Park in Edmonton, London; RAF Cardington; and Laamu Atoll, an archipelago nation located in the Republic of Maldives (which might look like a gorgeous tropical island).

When Will We See the First Real Trailer?

Rumor has it the first official trailer will play in front of Captain America: Civil War, which is another Disney release. And it certainly helps that both Civil War and Rogue One are IMAX releases, as IMAX movies typically have only trailers for other IMAX movies attached to them (at least on IMAX screens).

starwars-r2buildersclub

Rogue One Will Feature More Droids

R2-D2 Builders Club members and Star Wars fans Oliver Steeples and Lee Towersey had their dreams come true when they were hired to create new astromech droids for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now it seems they're already hard at work on Star Wars: Rogue One. Keep in mind that this doesn't mean that R2-D2 is in the Star Wars Anthology film, because the duo worked on a variety of astromech droids in the new film in addition to our favorite feisty droid.

Will Rogue One Set Up the Knights of Ren?

The above image has been making its way around the internet, suggesting that Rogue One's group of soldiers might later become the Knights of Ren. Adam Driver has said that the Knights of Ren "was a group that existed before" [Kylo Ren]. Some of the weapons look the same, but even Rey has a staff. Sure, this one looks more like the one we saw in the Knights of Ren shot from The Force Awakens, but it seems like it could just be a coincidence. And besides, Edwards has said Rogue One won't feature any Jedi or Force powers, which pretty much rules out this theory, assuming the Knights of Ren are Force-sensitive.

Jabba's Palace

Will Jabba the Hutt Appear?

Special effects wizards Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould, the lead creature designer and special effects supervisor on Star Wars: The Force Awakens respectively, recently spoke at a British Academy of Film and Television Arts event and revealed that a certain iconic villain may be returning to the big screen. Scanlan, whose next project is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, suggested the potential resurrection of a certain slimy crime boss:

There is a huge amount of secrecy around all of the films and we never really know exactly what the characters are until way way down the line. We have heard rumours of all different characters coming back and I had heard Jabba The Hutt, but to be honest I cannot confirm that one way or the other, It is certainly not on the cards quite yet.

Seems like a weird quote, especially from some people creatively working on the film.

lords-of-the-sith-cover

Could Rogue One Feature Star Wars' First LGBT Character?

Star Wars canon got its first LGBT character in the form of Moff Mors, who made her debut in Paul S. Kemp's novel Star Wars: Lords of the Sith. And it has been rumored that Moff Mors might appear in Rogue One. Here is a description of the character:

Moff Mors is an Imperial who has made some very serious mistakes but she is an incredibly capable leader and spends much of the book working hard to prevent absolute failure. She also happens to be a lesbian.

neal Scanlan creature shop Star Wars: The Force Awakens

What Can We Expect in Terms of Alien Creatures?

Rogue One creature designer Neal Scanlan has revealed that director Gareth Edwards wanted a different flavor of creature than J.J. Abrams:

In the world of 'Force Awakens,' there was a real mixture of all different kinds, very much like the original Cantina sequence. Working with Gareth now on 'Rogue One,' he sees these aliens as being much more part of the human [world]. They co-habitate, they work together and so it's pushed us very much to create characters that are more realistic.

Unlike most of the 110 creatures that were built for The Force Awakens and only appeared onscreen for a few seconds, Scanlan says that the aliens of Rogue One frequently play a vital role in the plot and required a new level of detail and realism:

They move more realistically, they're able to emote more than maybe the characters that we did for 'The Force Awakens.' So they're a closer part of the storytelling. They're less of the world, and they're more of this group who have a mission, and play a part in that.