This post is part of my all expense paid trip to San Francisco, CA provided by Disney. However, typos, misspelled words and opinions are 100% mine.
Gareth Edwards is the director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which, in my opinion, is arguably one of the most important events in the Star Wars story.
Rogue One tells the story of how a group of Rebellion soldiers steals the Death Star plans, which, as we all know, allowed Luke Skywalker and crew to destroy the planet-destroying space station.
Gareth Edwards – At the Helm of the Most Important Story in Star Wars
Being able to sit down with the director of this incredibly important Star Wars tale was epic!. And it didn’t hurt that he was an incredibly nice guy! As soon as he walked in, he told us all that he had passed Riz in the hallway, and Riz told him how nice we all were. He was all smiles and warmth, and that really made the interview all the more special.
Gareth Edwards on Preparing for the Film
In one of the featurettes, Gareth said that if he’d known he would direct this film, he would have prepared for it his whole life. So of course one of the bloggers asked him about what he would have done to prepare.
“I probably would have been a nervous wreck every single day,” he said, “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 known exactly what to do. It starts off with this shot and then becomes this shot. And then I realize I would have wasted my entire life.'”
We followed up by asking if that meant he was glad he didn’t know this would happen for him.
“Yeah,” he said. “Because I think there’s something about the organic process of making a film and working with others.
“Like the Empire. You say it’s going to be this and this. I don’t care what I see. I don’t care what the actors do. This is what it’s going to be. I think you limit how great the film can become. It was trying to become much more of an organic process where even when we were filming, the director of photography – 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 going to keep it incredibly fluid.
“We had 360-degree sets where we could film in any direction. I remember on day one 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 they’re suddenly was all these crews in a shot that suddenly ran out of the frame cared.
The next day we came, the same sort of thing happened where I pan left, and the crew was there. But this time they’re all wearing Star Wars costumes.
They 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 it. There would be days where they would turn up with rebel outfits like rebel pilots.”
Gareth Edwards on Taking on a Property Like Star Wars
We all know that Star Wars fans are an incredibly loyal, incredibly devoted lot. We asked Gareth how he felt about taking on a film with a fan base like that.
“There’s a line in the original,” he said, “where Luke Skywalker 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.’ Someone goes, ‘Luke! You’ve turned off your computer!’ And he goes, ‘It’s okay. I’m all right.’
“It’s kind of like that. He trusts the Force. Literally, you’ve got to turn off your computer and not look at the internet and just believe you can bull eye this. You’ve just got to keep going! And you know everyone’s shooting at you.
“[You have to] 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. I want to make a Star Wars film, but it applies to everybody like people who do way more important things than me.”
How He Chose the Cast
“You try not to think of anyone to start with,” he said. “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. This person.’ And you start to take on specific people in the world. I knew definitely for Saw Gerrera [and] Krennic.
“Ben and Forrest just popped up straight away. I’ve seen Ben’s work. I loved Animal Kingdom. I thought it was one of the best films in a long time and then forgot about it. Then watched a film called Startup. I just came away that night going, ‘We’ve got to call this guy. This guy is Krennic. We’ve got to try and get him.’ And as I came into work. I [said], ‘I’m going to pitch this to the producer.’ And as I walked into the office, and Simon, one of the producers, went, ‘Can I just stop you a second?’
[I said], ‘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 Mendelsohn.’
I was about to say, Ben Mendelson. It was really weird. Like, genuinely weird. And then from that point on, we were not going to take no for an answer. Thank god Ben is a massive Star Wars fan. I met him on a rooftop in LA, which sounds really glamorous, but it was raining. We’d already organized to meet there. We wanted to be away so no one could hear, so you could talk. As soon as I talked about Star Wars, he was just giggling. I [asked], ‘You’re a fan?’ He [said], ‘I love it! I watched it all the time as a kid.’ I said, ‘[That’s] why I got into films.’
“Same with Forrest. He is not his character, but he has done amazing work outside of acting. He’s a phenomenal human being. I think just before we met, he’d just done a talk at the United Nations. I don’t really deserve to be 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 represents the mentor in our movie. So he’s like the Obi-Wan/Yoda type figure. It made a lot of sense.”
How He Got the Rogue One Directing Gig
Gareth Edwards doesn’t have a ton of directing credits, but he’s number five on a list of most promising directors and number nine on a list of hot new directors. So of course, we wanted to know how he landed the Rogue One gig.
“I’m not really sure how that bit happened,” he said. “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. I graduated and read the Steven Spielberg story of how you make a short film, and then Hollywood calls. I think they lost my number because I never got that call, and I had to work in a supermarket. I tried to earn some money to buy a computer so I could learn the software because it felt like this was going to be the future of film-making.
“That digital technology. It was all 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. I quit my job, and this company in England – they give us some money – and we made a film where there was just five of us traveling around Central America.
“I did all the visual effects myself and shot it. I thought the best thing that could happen. I was what needs to take place after this for it to be worthwhile? Because it was about two years of your life. We showed it at South by Southwest. The projection broke down.
“Then at the end of the thing, this guy comes 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. He said, ‘Can I just talk to you for a second when you’ve got a moment?’ He said, ‘I’m from an agency in Hollywood, and I represent directors and I’d like to represent you.’
“I said, ‘Okay.’
“[He asked], ‘Do you want to know who else I represent?’
“[I said], ‘You had me at the agent from Hollywood.’
“[He says], ‘I’m with Quinton Tarantino and Tim Burton.’
“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. A few months later I was off [making] Godzilla.”
The Little Nods to The Original Trilogy
We had just seen the 28-minute footage the day before, and we noticed some details that obviously nodded to the original trilogy. So we had to know how that happened and if he got 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,” he said.
“Sometimes there’s not a record of what an object is. I can’t talk about some things because they’re spoilers, but there was definitely [a scene where] there’s a guy as the Millennium Falcon comes in with this speed gun or something. We were calling up the art department, and they have got no record of what that is – that object he’s holding is. And so we called the guy who is originally in the [film and asked] do you remember what that was? He said, ‘Oh yeah! We grabbed a light meter for the camera. And we taped it together, and I just held it.’
“We were like, ‘What were those objects? We just want to get those objects and do exactly the same thing.’
“He’s like, ‘I’m not sure!’ We looked at it in high res and tried to replicate it.
“The blue milk stuff. I’ve got a confession, I’m a massive Star Wars fan. For my 30th birthday, I went to Tunisia and woke up on the day I turned 30 in Luke Skywalker’s house. It wasn’t like a crazy night out. I took some blue dye with me because I wanted to drink blue milk at the very table where he does with Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen.
“I actually made a blue milk glass drink and drank it, then dropped it, and it went all over the floor and there’s this big blue stain now. I felt really bad because this is cinema history. And then I was, ‘Well, you kind of left your mark.’ That might outlive me in Star Wars world than anything else that I know.”
How it Felt to Be at the Helm of the Most Important Events in the Star Wars Cannon
My favorite question of the interview was this one. There’s no denying that without the Death Star plans, the Rebellion would have been crushed and the universe would have been a very different place.
“It was an impossible mission really,” he said. “It was like something you’re not supposed to succeed at or survive. Try and make a good or great Star Wars film like those masterpieces I grew up with. It’s nearly impossible. It was very much like we became a band of rebels making the film.
“We were rebellious! We did things we weren’t supposed to do. There’s a set way of making these big movies and we tried [to have] little sections – like an hour. Say the shoot was 10 hours long one day. The last hour was like a playground. We’d get what we needed for the scene. [The] last hour was do whatever you want. And, we would just play around.
“A lot of the stuff that was in the trailer came from things like that. Krennic in the white cape, and he’s sort of stood looking with the big blue sphere behind him. The planet and the Death Star – that was just messing around. We did this scene but we never said cut. We went on for another 40 minutes. We would just whisper things to Ben and to the actors and move the camera around.
“Felicity going in as the tunnel lights up around her, as she turns around. That was the same sort of thing. She walked in into the tunnel as someone turned the lights on. She was walking in, I saw the lights are gone around her and I was like, ‘Oh my god that looks really good!’ [I] was like, ‘Stop, stop, stop! Hang on, we have to film this. Okay, Felicity, do that again, but just look round as you do it.’ I promised everyone it would take a minute. So we start rolling. And obviously, you’re like, okay, one more take. Okay, one more take.
“And an hour later, it’s like, ‘Okay, I think we got it.’ And everyone [asks], ‘where’s it going to be in the film?’ And I think, ‘I don’t know! It just looked good.’ Then the trailers come in and these shots start turning up. You go, ‘Oh, cool!”
Gareth Edwards is SO GREAT
Gareth Edwards is so great. That’s it and that’s all. He’s just so great. The vision that Gareth Edwards brought to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cannot be overstated. Neither can the collaboration between this massive directorial talent and his equally talented cast. There’s a synergy there that works on every level, and it shone through in those 28 minutes that we got to see.
See the incredible work of Gareth Edwards and the cast in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s in theaters everywhere in RealD 3D and IMAX 3D right now! So get out there and experience all the Star Wars action.