The Art of Random Willy-Nillyness: The Man at the Helm of Rogue One - an Interview with Gareth Edwards! #rogueoneevent
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Friday, December 16, 2016

The Man at the Helm of Rogue One - an Interview with Gareth Edwards! #rogueoneevent

Disclosure: I attended the #Rogueoneevent and my expenses: flight, accommodations, transportation and some meals were be covered by Disney. All opinions, however, are always 100% mine.

After watching 28 minutes of Rogue One, I think it's safe to say that director Gareth Edwards has done an amazing job. If the rest of Rogue One is like the 28 minutes I saw, this movie is going to be AMAZING!!!

Here is our interview with Gareth Edwards. It's a long but it's a great interview and we get a lot if insight into his process and how it was to helm a film in the Star Wars Empire!!

Q: I saw a featurette that said if you had known you were going to direct this movie, you would have prepared for it your whole life. What is something you would have done to prepare for this film?

Gareth: I probably would have been a nervous wreck every single day 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. It starts off with this shot, and then becomes this shot. And then I realize I would have wasted my entire life.

Q: So, you're glad you didn't know?

Gareth: Yeah! 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 1 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 scared. The next day we came, 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.

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 that. There would be days where they would turn up with a rebel outfits, like rebel pilots.

Q: How difficult, or intimidating, was it to tackle a property like Star Wars knowing the rabid fan base will scrutinize every word and action, and then how did you overcome that.

Gareth: There's a line in the original [movie] 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 got to turn off your computer and not look at the internet. And just believe, you can bullseye 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 films. But it applies to everybody like people who do way more important things than me.

Q: How did you go about choosing your cast? Did you have specific people in mind?

Gareth: You try not to think of anyone to start with. 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 ObiWan/Yoda type figure. It made a lot of sense.

Q: You don't have a massive amount of directing credits to your name. But you've got a few good films. As of right now, you're number five most promising directors, and number nine of hot new directors. Tell us how you got your foot in the door to become a Star Wars.

Gareth: I'm not really sure how that bit happened. 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 software because it felt like this was going to be the future of filmmaking.

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 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.

Q: It's evident from the parts that we got to see last night, that you really put a lot of detail in there from the original movies. The blue drink. The setup of Jyn's home. Did you actually get to use any props from the first trilogy?

Gareth: 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.

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 ask] 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 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 in 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.

Q: 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.

Gareth: 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 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 round 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!

I had to publish the entire transcript because Gareth was so interesting and gave some real insight into the film. It is always so cool to hear about what happens behind the scenes of a film. I hope you enjoyed it!

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ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY arrives in theaters everywhere TODAY!!!! In RealD 3D and IMAX 3D!

Interview photos by Louise Manning Bishop -


  1. Fun! Our family can't wait to see this movie.

  2. Good interview - great chance to be there. My friend has been raving about the movie.

    slehan at juno dot com