Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters NOW! I highly recommend you go see the movie this weekend so you’re not spoiled! I have had so much fun sharing with you my experience visiting Skywalker Ranch and Lucasfilm HQ and also interviewing some of the cast of Rogue One. Today, I’m sharing my interview with Gareth Edwards, the director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!
Preparing to Film a Star Wars Movie
Gareth has said in previous interviews that if he knew he was going to direct a Star Wars movie, he would have prepared for it his whole life. When asked what he would have done, he shared, “I probably would have every single day been a nervous wreck, and not do any homework or schoolwork, and I probably would never have had a job, and I would have sat and prepared it for 30 odd years. Then the day it began, I think I would have brought in everything saying okay, I know exactly what to do. It starts off with this shot, and then becomes this shot.”
He’s glad he DIDN’T know because, “There’s something about the organic process of making a film, and working with others that if you don’t let it in…like if you are a dictatorship, like the Empire, and you say it’s gonna be this, this, and this, I don’t care what I see, I don’t care what the actors do. I think you limit how great the film can become. So it was trying to become much more of an organic process where even when we were filming, the director of photography’s the guy in charge of the camera, we had an agreement that we were gonna keep it incredibly fluid. And so we had 360 degree sets where we could film in any direction. I remember on day 1 on one set called Jedha, which is one of the cities that we go through where the force believers are, we started filming and the actors could do what they want. And I just happened to pan left or something. And there suddenly was all these crew in shot that suddenly ran out of frame, like scared. And then the next day we came and the same sort of thing happened where I pan left. And the crew were there. But this time they’re all wearing Star Wars costumes.
They’re all, like, yeah. So they’d all learned to put robes on and wherever the camera went, they could be in it if they had to be, and they secretly loved that. Like, there would be days where they would turn up with a rebel outfits, like rebel pilots. And you’re going, why are you wearing that? Well, in case you film us. And it’s like, I’m not shooting that way. And they’re like, well, it doesn’t matter. Even on days we weren’t even filming, like, on the day after meetings, they’re just there with the costumes on.”
Image courtesy of MomStart.com
The Pressure of Filming a Star Wars Movie
Gareth was asked how difficult was it to tackle a property like Star Wars knowing that the rabid fan base will scrutinize every word and action. Gareth replied, “There’s a line in the original where Luke Skywalker – I grew up watching it every day. It’s definitely the reason I got into filmmaking – Luke is doing the attack run on the Death Star through the trench. He’s got the computer and he turns it off and it goes wee, weeeek. And someone goes, Luke! You’ve turned off your computer! And he goes, it’s okay, I’m all right.
It’s kinda like that. He trusts the force. So literally, you turn off your computer and not look at the internet. And just believe, like, you can bulls-eye this. You’ve just got to keep going! But just believe in yourself and then go for it. To me, that’s the takeaway from the original film, if you believe you can do something, and you never give up, then you can achieve anything. I guess I took it too literally. Like, I want to make Star Wars films. It applies to everybody. Like, people who do way more important things than me.”
Casting Rogue One
Gareth was asked about how he chose the cast of Rogue One and he told us, “What happens is you try not to think of anyone to start with, ’cause you try and think these characters. And then it gets really difficult to keep talking about someone and not being able to visually picture them. Inevitably, you end up going you know, like so and so. Sometimes they’re a character from a film. You know, like so and so from that movie. Or this person and you start to take on specific people in the world.
I know definitely for things like Saw Gerrera and Director Krennic, like Ben and Forrest just popped up straight away. I’ve seen Ben’s work. And as we were trying to figure out this character that was starting to happen called Krennic that he plays…I loved Animal Kingdom. I thought it was one of the best films in a long time. And then forgot about it. And then watched a film called Startup. I just came away that night going we’ve got to call this guy. This guy is is Krennic. We’ve got to try and get him. And as I came into work, I was already, I’m gonna pitch this to the producer. I’m gonna try and sort them into it. As I walked into the office, Simon, one of the producers, went, can I just stop you a second? I went… No. I want to talk to you about Krennic. He goes, I’ve got the guy. He’d watched a totally different film, and he said Ben Mendelson. And I was like, I was about to say Ben Mendelson… It was really weird. Like, genuinely weird. And then from that point on, we were… not gonna take no for an answer. And thank god Ben’s a massive Star Wars fan. And I met him on a rooftop in LA, which sounds really glamorous, but it was raining. We’d already organized to meet there, so we did. We wanted to be away so no one could hear, so you could talk. I would get really paranoid about waiters and things, ’cause, you know, once you say the word, like, Darth Vader or something…you know. They’re gonna pay attention. So trying to talk to him, please let us have you for this film. And as soon as I talked about Star Wars, he was just giggling and going, like, hehehehehe. I was, like, you’re a fan? He’s, like, I love it! I watched it all the time as a kid. So I was thinking, okay, we might be all right. Same with Forrest. He’s a phenomenal human being. And I think just before we met, he’d just done a talk at the United Nations. And you’re sort of feeling, like, oh my god. I don’t really deserve to be kind of talking to this guy about a role in a film, because he’s the real deal. He’s incredibly humble and peaceful. But you see him in his roles and he can be intimidating and aggressive. He’s more like Yoda when you chat with him. And in a way, Saw was a little bit like, you know, he represents the, the mentor in our movie. So he’s like the Obi-wan sort of Yoda type figure. So it made a lot of sense.”
Image courtesy of MomStart.com
How Gareth Edwards Got the Job
When asked how he got his foot in the door to direct a Star Wars movie, Gareth shared, “I’m not really sure how that bit happened. But I think the big break for me – there were two. I went to film school. I wanted to make films. That’s all I ever wanted to do as a kid. And graduated. I’d read all the Steven Spielberg story of how you make a short film, and then Hollywood calls and then you go off directing movies. And I think they lost my number? ‘Cause I never got that call, and I had to go work in a supermarket. I tried to earn some money to buy a computer so I could learn software. ‘Cause it felt like this was gonna be the future of filmmaking, that digital technology. It was all kind of developed here with George and ILM, and pushing the boundaries that you could. I thought you could make a film from home on a home computer. I just needed six months and I could learn the software to go make one. It took me more like ten years to learn it and be any good. I had spent that time doing visual effects for things like the BBC and discovery channel.
Then one day I just thought, I’ve had enough. I can’t live with myself. Being an old man, having never tried to do what I really wanted to do, which was become a director. So I kinda quit my job, and with this company in England, they give us some money, and went and made a film where there was just, like, five of us traveling around Central America.
I did all the visual effects myself, and shot it. Thought the best thing that could happen and it was, like, as we were driving doing this road movie thing, I thought, okay what needs to take place after this for it to be worthwhile? ‘Cause it was about two years of your life. I said, if I get to direct a TV show, that would be it. We showed it at South by Southwest. The projection broke down…It was like… Oh, man! Then at the end of the thing, this guy cames up to me and he gives me a business card. He says I’d love to talk to you whenever you’ve got a moment. I was, like, okay. And we left. Then the next day, as if by magic, he turned up. He just found me somehow. He sat down. He said, can I just talk to you for a second when you’ve got a moment? I was, like, sure. And he said, I’m from an agency in Hollywood, and I represent directors, and I’d like to represent you. And I said oh, okay. And then he said, do you want to know who else I represent? You had me at agent…from Hollywood… And he’s, like, yeah, I’m with clients Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton, and so I was, like, really? And you want me?
From that day on, my life changed. You don’t need to know anything about Hollywood. You just need to make a film, and then these people exist. So they go, we’re gonna make it happen. And then a few months later I was off at Godzilla, and things like that. I don’t know how it really works. I think if I had my life again, it wouldn’t happen the same way.”
Gareth was asked, “How does it feel to be telling a part of the story that’s arguably one of the most, if not the most, important events in the Star Wars canon. Because without those plans, the Death Star just destroys everything.”
Gareth shared, “It feels like probably what the characters feel like in that we…we know. It was an impossible mission really. It was like something you’re not supposed to succeed at, or survive. Try and make a good, or great Star Wars film r something that lives up to, like, those masterpieces I grew up with is nearly impossible. It very much became like we were a band of rebels making the film and we were rebellious! We did things we weren’t supposed to do and there’s a set way of making these big movies and we tried to do things, say the shoot was 10 hours long, or something, one day. The last hour was like a playground. So we’d get what we needed for the scene. The last hour it’s like… okay, do whatever you want.
A lot of the stuff that was in the trailer came from things like that. There’s a picture of Krennic in the white cape, and he stood looking with the big blue sphere behind him. The planet and the Death Star, and that was just messing around. We did this scene, but we never said cut. We went on for another 40 minutes. And we would just whisper things to Ben and to the actors and move the camera around. Felicity going in, where the tunnel lights up round her, as she turns around. That was the same sort of thing. She walked in, we go okay and cut. Okay, we’re getting her to do the next scene, and she walks into the tunnel, and as she walks into the tunnel, someone just turned the lights on. And as she was walk in, I saw the lights are gone around her, and I was, like, oh my god! That looks really good! And it was, like, stop, stop, stop! Hang on, we have to film this. And it was like, no, we’ve got to move on. It’s like, no, no! We have to film this. Okay, Felicity, do that again, but just look round as you do it. And I promised everyone it would take, like, a minute. And so we start rolling. And obviously you’re like, okay, one more take. Okay, one more take. An hour later, it’s like, okay. I think we got it. Everyone’s like, well, where’s it gonna be in the film? And you think, oh, I don’t know! It just looked good. Then, the trailers come in, and Disney shows you, this is what we’re thinking for the trailer. And these shots start turning up. You go, oh, cool!”
Image courtesy of MomStart.com
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters on December 16th! Watch the trailer below and don’t forget to grab your tickets for it now!
Disclosure: Thanks so much to Disney for bringing me out to San Francisco for the event. All thoughts and opinions are my own.