Finally, the man who made it all happen, Directory Gareth Edwards. I think we could have all talked to him all day long. It's his vision and direction that is making the world stir crazy to see the best film of the year, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. A group of bloggers and I got to sit down with him and hear all about casting and becoming a huge part of the Star Wars universe!
I must say, Gareth really buttered us up when he walked into the room by telling us that Riz just passed him in the hallway and told him how nice we all were. He was all smiles, as I'd expect anyone to be in a room full of enthusiastic women.
Preparation for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Gareth Edwards once made a comment that about preparing his entire life for this movie. We decided to hold him to that and asked him exactly what he would have done to prepare for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He basically took back that statement. He basically explained how he would have wasted his entire life worrying about this film, so he's glad it happened the way that it did. “There's something about the organic process of making a film and working with others that if you don't let it in, I think you limit how great the film can become.“
I think it takes a really specific type of person to let go of the need to be overly prepared and let the organic process take place. He even made a deal with other members of the crew to keep it all very lax.
We [Director of Photography] had an agreement that, even though it was a massive movie, and there's all this pressure to have a specific plan, we were gonna keep it incredibly fluid. And so we had 360 degree sets where we could film in any direction.
He then described how on the set of Jedha, they just let the actors do whatever they wanted. He described how sometimes he'd accidentally get the crew in a shot or two and how they would all get scared of being filmed. “And then the next day we came and I panned left where the crew was. But this time they're all wearing Star Wars costumes.” This way, wherever the camera went, there wasn't any trouble. So basically, the crew could accidentally be in a scene or two. Boy, how awesome would that be? Gareth also mentioned how the crew secretly just loved dressing up! I mean, wouldn't we all?
Stepping into the Star Wars universe with a new story
It takes a really confident and brave individual to step into a universe so sacred and so loved, with a brand new story and new characters. I've been very fearful about the audience reaction. Will lifetime fans be too critical of the new film? Will new fans understand what the heck is going on? There are a lot of things that could go wrong, but Gareth Edwards didn't let that deter him. And funny enough, he used a quote from Star Wars to enourage him.
I grew up watching it [the original] every day. And it's 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 so literally you turn off your computer and do not look at the internet. And just believe you can bullseye this. You've just got to keep going! Everyone's shooting at you. But just believe in yourself an go for it!
Choosing the right Rogue One cast
Casting must be daunting in a film like this. There is so much talent in the film industry, how can you choose the right cast? I'm sure he had a difficult time picking someone that was just right for each role. Just as he did with preparation for shooting the film, Director Gareth Edwards made sure that he didn't think of anyone to start with. He basically wanted to get to know the characters, to develop them and see who came to mind while doing so. It's funny to hear this because I've never heard a Director look at a film this way. It makes so much sense, though. Could this be the key to choosing a perfect cast for films? I think it very well could be.
Picking Ben Mendelsohn for the role of Krennic
He said that sometimes it's inevitable, though. “Like Ben Mendelsohn and Forrest Whitaker popped up straight away.” He explained how he was already a fan of Ben's work and how he was “trying to figure out this character that was starting to happen, called Krennic”. It finally hit him one night that Ben was the man for the role!
As I walked into the office, Simon, one of the producers, [said[ can I just stop you a second? I said… No. I want to talk to you about Krennic. And he goes, I've got the guy. 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.
Gareth was relieved that Ben was such a massive Star Wars fan. It was the reason Ben got into film! He told us the story of how he met him on a rooftop in LA to talk to him about the role, which I mentioned in the Ben Mendelsohn interview.
Picking Forrest Whitaker for the role of Saw
Gareth knew that Forrest would be great for the role, but not because he's anything like his character, Saw Gerrera, but because he's a “phenomenal human being“. Gareth actually felt honored to even be talking to Forrest because of the incredible person that he is.
He has done amazing work outside of acting. And I think just before we met, he'd just done a talk at the United Nations. [I was] 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 then went on to describe Forrest Whitaker as “the Obiwan sort of Yoda type figure”. Which is the best compliment you could ever give to someone, in my opinion.
The road to becoming the Director of a Star Wars movie
It's interesting to find out how someone is all of a sudden the Director of a Star Wars movie! Obviously, it's the biggest movie of the year and will go down with the legacy that is Star Wars. So, how did it all happen for him? How did Gareth Edwards become the Director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?
To make a long story short, Gareth went to film school, worked at dead ends jobs, until he'd finally had enough. He quit his job and decided to follow his dreams of becoming a director. He went with a company of about 5 people to Central America to make a film. “I did all all of the visual effects myself and shot it. I thought the best that could happen is that I could direct a TV show and that would be it.” Then he showed the film at South by Southwest, met a man there that said he'd love to talk to him sometime.
And then the next day, as if by magic, he turned up. He just found me somehow. He said, I'm from an agency in Hollywood and I represent directors and I'd like to represent you. I said oh, okay. And he said, would you like to know who else I represent? He had me at agent from Hollywood. Then he's like, I'm with client Quinton Tarantino and Tim Burton. And I was like, and you want me!? And from that day on, my life changed.
Telling the most important events in the Star Wars canon
There's a lot of pressure on the man telling the story of the Death Star being destroyed! Without these events, the rest of the story wouldn't have happened. Gareth Edwards described it as an “impossible mission“. He doesn't intend for this to be a masterpiece like the originals. Let's face it though, it probably will be cherished just as much as the others. He described everyone as a “band of rebels making the film.”
It was basically a everything-goes film. Everyone kind of did what they wanted. They did things they weren't supposed to do. They would end each day with about 40 minutes of playtime where the actors could do whatever they wanted, but they kept filming. “A lot of stuff that was in the trailer came from things like that“. Gareth even explains how a couple of scenes came from that sort of okay.
I must say, Gareth seems like an incredible person to work for. He's so laid back, generous, and fun. He gave the actors so much creative freedom that allowed them to be really be a part of the making of Rogue One.
Oh and we felt pretty special too. Check out this awesome group shot!
See Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in theaters now!
From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes 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.