The Rogue One: A Star Wars Story panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe was packed with talent and information, and I am here to report back what I have seen - including a description of some footage that did not stream online and was exclusive to the convention.
The panel opened up with the A New Hope crawl, but it froze and and began getting staticky over the paragraph about the stealing of the Death Star plans. We could hear screaming over comms and a klaxon sounding… and then the Rogue One title came up.
Gwendoline Christie was the host of the panel, and she brought out the behind the camera folks, who shared a sizzle reel (click here to watch that) before introducing the cast. That was when we started to get our real new information.
First: Strange new worlds!
Scarif is a paradise planet, and they shot in the Maldives. We saw storm troopers walking through gorgeous crystal blue waters, a truly striking image. Director Gareth Edwards explained that the Maldivian army played the stormtroopers, and he asked them if they were excited. It turns out Star Wars is not a thing in the Maldives, so these guys had no idea what they were doing.
The other new planet is Jedha, and if that sounds like Jedi it’s no accident. While the Jedi are gone and many disbelieve the Force, Jedha is like the Mecca of the Star Wars universe - believers make pilgrimages there. But it is now in Imperial hands, which probably means its safety as a spiritual center is in doubt.
As for the characters:
Jyn Erso - Felicity Jones. You know her story - she’s the lead of the movie.
Cassian - Diego Luna. He’s a rebel intelligence officer, and he’s Jyn’s best pal. He’s the guy who keeps the team together, and the mission may have been his idea. He has a droid…
K-2SO - Alan Tudyk. Cassian has reprogrammed this Imperial droid to be his buddy, but in doing so he left out some of his higher functions. We saw a sequence where Jyn gives K2 a bag to hold and the droid just looks at it before letting it drop from his hands.
Tudyk met Anthony Daniels, the original Star Wars droid, at the wrap party for The Force Awakens and they had this conversation:
Anthony Daniels: “Are you a suit or are you CGI?”
Alan Tudyk: “I’m CGI”
Anthony Daniels: “You shit!”
Bodhi - Riz Ahmed. He’s an Imperial pilot, but don’t hold that against him. “People work at big organizations - they don’t agree with EVERYTHING they do! You don’t have to get judgy,” said Ahmed.
Bodhi is from Jedah, and the Imperial occupation of that planet has really begun to change his mind about his career choice. And while on Jedah he meets a couple of warriors…
Chirrut - Donnie Yen. A blind warrior, Chirrut is a true believer in the Force. “He can feel with his heart.” And his best buddy is
Baze - Wen Jiang. Chirrut’s best pal, he doesn’t believe in the Force. Here’s how Jiang explained the character: “He has a gun. A huge gun. He has a weapon. The weapon is very huge.”
Saw Gerrera - Forrest Whitaker. We already know about this guy - he’s a character from the Clone Wars. Whitaker gave some more insight: “He’s been controlling a group of rebels that are out to the extreme. There is a series of rebel groups coming together as an alliance… I’m leading my group, which will by any means necessary do anything to save the world.”
Galen Erso - Mads Mikkelsen. That last name is the big news - he’s Jyn’s dad. And he’s key to the whole thing. He’s a scientist, and Mads says: “He invented something so beautiful, so fantastic, it might change the universe.” Between you, me and my sources, let me say that I think the beautiful thing may have been turned into something horrible and deadly…
And finally we met Krennic, played by Ben Mendehlson. Mendelshon wouldn’t tell us much but did say that “He is smarter than most of his predecessors. He’s more inventive. He’s perhaps a little sexier than some of them, perhaps not as sexy as others.” He was looking at Gwendoline Christie when he said that.
At the very end of the panel we were treated to an exclusive look at some footage. It was really quick, cut together very tightly, but here’s sort of a sense of what I saw:
A young girl in pigtails is running across a craggy marsh. An Imperial shuttle rises behind her. It’s clearly young Jyn Erso, especially as the footage cuts to modern Jyn running as well. There are shots of things going bad, of arrested Rebel pilots being paraded through a Jedah market.
Over all of this Jyn says:
“Every day we get weaker, and they get stronger. This is our chance to make a difference.”
And then combat! Shooting! A cargo shuttle exploding! A green faced CGI alien in a helmet turning and yelling at a bunch of other soldiers. Krennic walking. Someone - probably Krennic - kneeling before a hologram that will clearly be the Emperor, and which is flanked by two red Imperial Guards. And then finally a reflection of Vader, bathed in red light from what looks like the radar screen that showed off Yavin IV in A New Hope. He breathed. The crowd went nuts.