First look at STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE cast; EPISODE IX director revealed

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It was Disney’s D23 Expo this weekend past, and while most Star Wars fans already knew not to expect huge revelations for Star Wars: The Force Awakens thanks to last week’s epic revelations, JJ Abrams’ upcoming flick is of course not the only Star Wars film in development.

In this case, during the Star Wars portion of Disney’s “Worlds, Galaxies, and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios” presentation, it was Gareth “Godzilla” Edwards’ Star Wars: Rogue One that took center stage as not only was the cast officially announced for the first of the Star Was spinoff films – standalone adventures that will be released in between the main Episodes – but we actually got to see what they look like!

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From from left to right there, that’s Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler), Diego Luna (Elysium), Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) – who has long been confirmed as the film’s lead – Jiang Wen (Let the Bullets Fly) and Donnie Yen (Ip Man). Yes, Donnie Yen. The rumours were sort of true! Rogue One is set to tell the story of the group of “resistance fighters” that steal the Empire’s Death Star plans which Princess Leia has in her possession at the beginning of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, and it’s a pretty safe bet that the five folk pictured above are in fact that very same crew.

But they’re not the only ones around though, as also joining the cast will be Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline) – who is believed to the be main villain – Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal), Forest Whitaker (The Butler) and Alan Tudyk (Firefly), with the latter reportedly playing some kind of full CGI motion captured character.

Lucasfilm President and Star Wars: Rogue One producer had this to say about the film (via StarWars.com):

Rogue One takes place before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and will be a departure from the saga films but have elements that are familiar to the Star Wars universe. It goes into new territory, exploring the galactic struggle from a ground-war perspective while maintaining that essential Star Wars feel that fans have come to know. Gareth is such an innovative director and I’m so excited to be working with him and the extraordinary ensemble cast he’s selected for ‘Rogue One.’”

We’ve previously heard from director Gareth Edwards that with this movie taking place in the era when Jedi were outlawed, we shouldn’t expect any of the Force-wielding peacekeepers to show up here. Instead, this is being billed as a Star Wars war movie, focusing on the normal soldiers down in the trenches, and is going to be very morally ambiguous. This certainly puts a new spin on the typically glossy Star Wars story.

One other new detail you may have noticed about Rogue One, is that it’s no longer being officially referred to as an Anthology film, as it and the other spinoffs were labelled during the Star Wars Celebration earlier in the year. Instead, the new title treatment for the movie now refers to it as “A Star Wars Story”. Perhaps Lucasfilm has decided that “Anthology” wasn’t self explanatory enough?

But here’s another Star Wars story for you, as during the presentation Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn confirmed the rumour that following JJ Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rian “Looper” Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII, it will in fact be Jurassic World helmer Colin Trevorrow who will be directing the still-untitled Episode IX, the final installment in the new trilogy.

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Trevorrow had this to say about the announcement (via StarWars.com):

“This is not a job or an assignment. It is a seat at a campfire, surrounded by an extraordinary group of storytellers, filmmakers, artists and craftspeople. We’ve been charged with telling new stories for a younger generation because they deserve what we all had—a mythology to call their own. We will do this by channeling something George Lucas instilled in all of us: boundless creativity, pure invention and hope.”

Kathleen Kennedy added to that statement:

“Colin is someone I’ve been interested in working with ever since I saw Safety Not Guaranteed. The power of that film paired with the enormous success of Jurassic World speaks volumes about his abilities both as a storyteller and skilled filmmaker. We are thrilled to have such an incredible talent as Colin join our family and step into the Star Wars universe.”

I’m actually not too sure how I feel about Trevorrow’s pick here. While I was charmed with Safety Not Guaranteed, and also found Jurassic World very entertaining overall – and you can’t deny that film’s record breaking success – there’s no getting around some of his largely visible failures as a storyteller in the latter film. There was of course the hugely controversial “high heels” incident, some serious scripting gaffes and the fact that for huge portions of the film, he was in fact just doing an impersonation of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Granted it was a very fun impersonation, but it was still detracting.

With Episode IX though, he won’t be able to use such obvious tricks, and I’m hoping this means going back to that creative talent we saw in Safety Not Guaranteed coupled with some of the flashes of blockbuster fun we also saw. The press release just states that he will be directing and not writing as well, but even if he does tackle the script, he will of course have the backing of the Star Wars brain trust here. It’s also been revealed that just as JJ Abrams will help with the scripting of Episode VIII, Rian Johnson will contribute to Episode IX to keep narrative continuity between filmmakers, which will definitely make Trevorrow’s job easier. With Episode IX nowhere close to going into production yet though, it’s going to be quite some time before we can see if his pick pays off or not.

Star Wars: Rogue One is scheduled for release on December 16, 2016, while Star Wars: Episode IX is only slated for release in 2019.

Last Updated: August 17, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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