Rogue One Took A Big Swing By Bringing Grand Moff Tarkin Back To The Big Screen

Whether you enjoy the "Star Wars" spinoff film "Rogue One" or not, you can't deny that it took a lot of risks to the franchise's formula. After all, it is far and away the bleakest entry in the franchise, with almost all of its main characters being killed off in a story-defining sacrifice. The film took many big gambles, and you can argue that they all paid off in dividends. It is a miracle that "Rogue One" turned out as cohesive and singular as it did, as it had a number of problems plaguing its production.

One of the biggest gambles that the film made, however, is bringing back an iconic character that many might not have expected. Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) was a significant figure in the Galactic Empire, having appeared in "A New Hope" as a commander to Darth Vader on the Death Star. Considering how the story of "Rogue One" revolves around the destruction of that ship, it made sense that Tarkin would appear in it at some point. However, it was the way that this character would appear that was a major risk — given the death of Cushing in 1994, the character would appear through a 3D CGI mask mapped onto actor Guy Henry, an incredible feat of technology that still holds up to this day.

How this came to be

In an interview with, "Rogue One" director Gareth Edwards revealed that the film's inclusion of Tarkin was an absolute necessity.

"He was always going to be mentioned, possibly seen, glimpsed, a little moment where you see him revealed somewhere slightly or at least understand that that's probably him at the end of the corridor ... But as we developed the script more and more, it became like, 'He needs to be a proper character in this film for this to work.'"

In order for him to be an integral character, however, they needed to figure out the best way to bring him to life. With this in mind, Edwards decided to set up a meeting with Industrial Light & Magic co-founder John Dykstra to see what he and his team could do. "So we would obviously talk to John and the team and say, 'Is this possible? Is this crazy? Should we steer away from it?'" recalled Edwards. "And John would always light up and be like, 'No, this is exactly what ILM is about. This is why we exist. Go for it.'"

More than an imitation

While ILM had the technology and experience to make this daunting task work, Tarkin's appearance in "Rogue One" ultimately came down to his actor. There are only so many people that could imitate Cushing and have it be more than just a mere imitation. They ultimately landed on Guy Henry, who had experience in studying the late actor for his first television role as Sherlock Holmes. According to Edwards, Henry took the offer without question.

"You're basically saying, 'Can you be in our movie, but can we replace you with another actor and have nobody know that you did this? You'd imagine him saying a 'what's in it for me' kind of thing. But he said, "You know what, Gareth? If you'd said any other actor in the history of cinema, I would say no, but Peter Cushing was the reason [I'm an actor].'"

Needless to say, it all seemed to work out for everyone in the end. If you want to revisit ILM's work and Henry's performance, "Rogue One" is available to stream on Disney+.