Can you imagine having to direct a movie that millions of fans are counting on? Having to balance today’s technology with a movie that has cult fans who know it line by line. How do you balance good and evil, a story that you know the ending but not the beginning and be both old school and new while still engaging fans who will definitely let you know if they don’t like it. Gareth Edwards had to do all of these things and more when he took on the directing roll for this new Star Wars movie. So excited to share Director Gareth Edwards interview for Rogue One A Star Wars Story.
I just passed Riz and he said they are all so nice! I play Gareth Edwards, the director of, uh, Rogue One….
Our interview with Gareth Edwards started with a laugh and continued with amazing behind the scenese tales from Rogue One!
I saw a featurette that said if you had known you were gonna direct this movie, you would have prepared for it your whole life.
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. And then the day it began, I think I would have brought in everything saying okay, I know exactly what to do. Uh, it starts off with this shot, and then becomes this shot. And then I realize I would have wasted my entire life.
There’s something about the organic process of making a film, and working with others that if you don’t let it in…
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, you know, what the actors do. This is what it’s gonna be, 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 even though it was a massive, massive movie, and there’s all this pressure to have a specific plan, we were gonna keep it incredibly fluid. And so we had 3360-degreesets where we could film in any direction. And I remember on day 1 in this, in this one set called, Jeda, 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.
And they’re all, like, yeah. Is that Andy? And they’re, like, yeah, yeah, yeah. And so they’d all learned to put robes on and that way, 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…if you happened to look…
Even on days we weren’t even filming, like, on the day after meetings, they’re just there with costumes. Don’t need to do this. It’s like, well, you might get the camera out. You know.
How difficult, or intimidating, was it to tackle a property like Star Wars knowing that, um… knowing the rabid fan base will scrutinize every word and action, and then how did you overcome that…
There’s a line in the original, where Luke Skywalker, and I grew up watching it every day. And it probably is the reason I… Well, definitely the reason I got into filmmaking. And Luke is doing the attack run on the Death Star through the trench. And 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. And, and so literally you got… You turn off your computer…
And not look at the internet. And just believe, you can bulls eye this. You’ve just got to keep going! And just, you know. Everyone’s shooting at you.
But just believe in yourself, and then… and then go for it. And I think that’s… To me, that’s the takeaway from the original film was… 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. But… It applies to everybody. People who do way more important things than me.
How did you go about choosing your cast? Like, did you have specific people in mind?
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. And inevitably, you end up going you know, like so and so. And sometimes they’re a character from a film. You know, like so and so from that movie. Or this, this person, and… And you start to take on, specific people in the world, and, I know definitely for things like Saw Gerrera, Krenik. 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 Krenik 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. And, I just came away that night going we’ve got to call this guy. This guy is Krenik. 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. And as I walked into the office, which is right here, Simon, one of the producers, went, can I just stop you a second?
I went… No. I want to… I want to talk to you about Krenik. And he goes, I’ve got the guy. And 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, 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. And 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…
They’re gonna pay attention. And so…trying to talk to him, like, oh please, You know, 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. He was, like… And I was, like, you’re a fan? He’s, like, I love it! I watched it all the time as a kid. I says its why I got into films.
And so I was thinking, okay, we might be all right. And same with Forrest. He is not his character, but he has done amazing work outside of acting…
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 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. But… He’s more like Yoda. When you chat with him. And in a way, Saw Gerrera, he represents the, the mentor in our movie. So he’s like the Obiwan sort of Yoda type figure. And so it made a lot of sense.
Tell us how you got your foot in the door to become a Star Wars director.
I’m not really sure how that bit happened. But I think the big break for me… There was two. I went to film school. I wanted to make films. That’s all I ever wanted to do as a kid. And graduated, and 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… I never got that call, and I had to go back to, I worked in a supermarket. And 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. And I just needed, like 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. And I had spent, like, 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 is become a director. And so I kinda quit my job with this company, and 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.
And I did all the visual effects myself, and shot it. And… Thought the best thing that could happen as we were driving doing this road movie thing. What needs to take place after this for it to be worthwhile? ‘Cause it was about two years of your life. And I said, if I get to direct a TV show, I’ll be really… that would be it.
And then… We showed it at South by Southwest. The projection broke down…
It was, like… Oh, man! And, and then at the end of the thing, this guy comes up to me and he says… 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. And 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…
I’m with a clients Quinton Tarantino and Tim Burton, and…
And so I was, like, really? And you want me?
And 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.
Did you actually get to use any props from the first trilogy?
I think it’s in the trailer. You’ve seen it. What’s so funny is obviously they never anticipated that Star Wars would become this when they made it.
And so there’s sometimes not a record of what an object is. And… Can’t talk about some things ’cause they’re spoilers, but there was definitely… on Yavin, which is the rebel planet, there’s a guy as the Millennium Falcon comes in, he sort of follows it, like, with this speed gun or something. Assume it’s a speed gun. He’s not gonna shoot at the Millennium Falcon. And we were calling up, trying find it. The art department would say…We have got no record of what that is, that object he’s holding is. And so we called the guy that’s originally in the film.
Do you remember what that was? And he said, oh yeah! We got them. We didn’t have anything. So we grabbed a light meter for the camera. And something else and we taped it together, and I just held it. And we were, like, what were those objects? We just want to get those objects and do exactly the same thing. And he’s like, I’m not sure! And so we kinda looked at it in high res, and tried to replicate it.
And with the blue milk stuff, I’ve got a confession, which is… I’m a massive Star Wars fan obviously. And for my 30th birthday, I went to Tunisia, and woke up on the day I turned 30 in Luke Skywalker’s house.
Not by accident. It wasn’t like a crazy night out. But it was, And I took some blue dye with me because I wanted to drink blue milk in the very table……where he does with Aunt Berew and Uncle Owen.
And I actually made a blue milk glass drink and, and drank it. And then dropped it, and it went all over the floor…
…and there’s this big blue stain now…
I felt really bad ’cause, this is you know, cinema history. And then I was, like, well, you kinda left your mark. And…
That might outlive me in Star Wars world than, anything else that I know.
Are there any stormtrooper cameos?
People……inside stormtroopers……in our film. There are cameos in the film. What was funny, and I don’t know… You have the show Top Gear over here.
You know that show…
Well, We were doing one scene, and someone goes, you knew the guy in the storm trooper on the left there, and I was, like, right. And he says, you know that’s the Stig from Top Gear, you know, the driver that does all the laps,they’ve got..a white helmeted guy…
I was, like, really? And he’s, like, ’cause there’s a stunt. and he’s a stunt man. And he’s James Bond’s driver and everything. And so I went up to him, had a lot of fun with the irony that he’s now also wearing a white helmet, and no one’s gonna see his face. Yeah, there were people… There are cameos in the movie. I get a cameo, and I can’t tell you what it is because it will spoil things, but…
But it was, like, a dream come true to… Everybody… Everybody wants to have a cameo. And, so there’d be like this que of people and then sometimes they don’t make the cut! You know, ’cause you just… You’ve got to make what’s the best film, and, and it’s really hard to tell ’em, you’re not actually in the movie. Sorry.
Yeah. That’s the thing. If you put someone in a storm trooper outfit, anywhere in the movie you go, yeah, that was you there. Yeah. Yeah.
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.
It’s feels like probably what the characters feel like in that 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 is, is like… Or something that lives up to, those masterpieces I grew up with. Nearly impossible. And so… It very much became, we became, like, a band of rebels making the film. We were rebellious! We did things we weren’t supposed to do, and, We would… You know, there’s a set way of making these big movies, and we tried to do things, We had little sections where we would, part of the day, like an hour. Say the shoot was 10 hours long, or something, one day. The last hour was like a playground. And so we’d get what we needed for the scene. last hour it’s like… okay, do whatever you want. And so we would just play around. A lot of the stuff that was in the trailer came from things like that. Like… Picture of Krenik in the white cape, and he’s sort of 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. And we went on for another 40 minutes. And we would just, whisper things to Ben, and to the actors and move the camera around. And Felicity going in as that thing where all the tunnel lights up round her, as she turns around.
That was the same sort of thing. She walked in to the tunnel. We go okay… 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 going around her, and I was, like, oh my god! That looks really good! And it was, like, stop, stop, stop! And everyone goes, what? And you go, Hang on, we have to film this. And it was like, no! We have 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.
And, like, an hour later, it’s like, okay.
I think we got it. And everyone’s like, well, where’s it gonna be in the film? And you think, oh, I don’t know! It just looked good. And then, the trailers come in, and Disney show you, this is what we’re thinking for the trailer. And these shots start turning up. You go, oh, cool
Check out this extended look at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY follows a group of unlikely heroes in a time of conflict who band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, with Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel are producing, with John Knoll and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The story is by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and the screenplay is by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY arrives in theaters everywhere on December 16th in 3D, Real D 3D and IMAX 3D!
Follow STAR WARS on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/starwars
Visit the official ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY website: http://www.starwars.com/films/rogue-one
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY arrives in theaters everywhere on December 16th In RealD 3D and IMAX 3D!
I was a guest of Disney for the #RogueOneEvent. All opinions expressed are my own.