The return of Darth Vader to the big screen in this December's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story isn't simply a reunion with one of the greatest movie villains of all time; it's a monumental piece of history in the making that even got director Gareth Edwards freaking out. Here's what he had to say.
On Vader's comeback...
Handling the iconic Star Wars villain required extra special care on Edwards' part. After all, this is the guy who oversaw the construction of two Death Stars, obliterated the Jedi younglings and lopped off his own son's hand, before experiencing a tear-jerking redemption in 1983's Return of the Jedi. Little wonder the filmmaker, responsible for 2014 blockbuster Godzilla, was nervous.
"It’s like we're at the playground again and there’s this hero sort of standing there," Edwards tells USA Today. "You end up very respectful of him: Even though you know there’s a guy inside the outfit, you still talk to him like he’s Vader."
The magic even rubbed off on actor Ben Mendelsohn, a newcomer to the Star Wars universe who here plays Imperial figurehead Orson Krennic.
"He went, 'It’s Darth Vader. We filmed with Darth Vader,'" Edwards recalls. "And I was like, 'I know. It’s amazing, isn’t it?' It was like no one wanted to admit that they’re having a little fanboy freak-out but everyone did. It’s impossible not to. He’s so iconic."
On the nuances of Director Krennic...
By and large we're used to Star Wars baddies being cut and dried, easily perceived as unstoppable forces of evil. However, when it came to Krennic filmmaker Edwards says he looked to explore the character's intriguing backstory a little more.
It of course helps that he's brought to life by terrific Aussie actor Mendelsohn, fine purveyor of creepy menace in the likes of crime drama Animal Kingdom, gritty Brit prison movie Starred Up and critically acclaimed quirky Western Slow West opposite Michael Fassbender. The director recalls that Mendelsohn requested performing the character with "a very posh English accent" but this was changed to something rather different.
"It feels like if the Empire ever have a job vacancy, they go to the Royal Shakespeare Company to headhunt people," Edwards says. "I like the idea that Ben’s character was much more working-class and rose in the ranks through sheer force of personality and ideas."
On making his own mark on film history...
Much has been made about the way in which Rogue One will shake up the Star Wars aesthetic, bringing a grittier tone more in line with a war movie. And there are also plenty of new characters set to rejuvenate the storyline, beginning with the black-clad Death Troopers in place of the standard white-armoured Storm Troopers. It was a development that, according to Edwards, proved especially spine-tingling.
"I kind of looked at them like, 'Oh, cool, Death Troopers,'" he remembers, "and then suddenly stopped and thought, 'Hang on a minute, this is my film. I’m never going to be in a position where it’s such already part of popular culture.'"
We're sure you'll agree that those are three very good reasons to be seriously amped for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The movie hits screens on 15th December – yes, it's been moved up three days, don't forget – so stay tuned to the blog and website for when tickets go on sale.