Everything we know about ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

Brendan Hesse

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the next major film set in the vast universe of Disney’s shiny new Star Wars franchise. Being the first of Disney’s “Anthology” films — meaning those outside the core trilogy kicked off by J.J. Abrams — Rogue One will be a stand-alone film taking place before the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The movie will feature a cast of brand new characters outside the Skywalker family, alongside a few familiar faces. Directed by Godzilla‘s Gareth Edwards, Rogue One is expected to be tonally and thematically distinct from previous Star Wars films, telling a dire tale set during one of the most turbulent periods in the canon.

More: Hide your wallet: Disney selling spot-on re-creations of Star Wars props

For Star Wars junkies everywhere, we’ve put together this constantly updated guide of all the major news, rumors, and information you need to know about the film. Major spoilers lie ahead, so this is your last chance to turn back. Rogue One hits theaters December 16.

Where Twitter and blasters meet

Twitter played host to a live question-and-answer session with Rogue One director Gareth Edwards and much of the film’s featured cast on December 2, just two weeks from the film’s premiere date. Although the broadcast was marred by audio issues that distracted from some otherwise interesting conversation with stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, and other cast members, one element that created a significant buzz was a brief clip that debuted on Twitter (via the official Star Wars account and the account of event host People.com).

An unofficial (read: likely to disappear at any moment) version of the clip has found its way online, so you can watch it below until the official version is released (or it’s removed).

In the clip, reluctant rebel leader Jyn Erso (Jones) is confronted by Luna’s character aboard a ship after the latter discovers that Jyn has a blaster in her possession — something that’s apparently not OK for her to have, for some unknown reason. The pair argue about whether she should turn it over, with the android K-2S0 (as voiced by Tudyk) warning Luna’s character that nothing good will come of letting her keep the weapon.

When Jones’ character claims she “found” the blaster, K-2S0 responds, “I find that answer vague and unconvincing.”

“Trust goes both ways,” remarks Jyn cryptically.

The clip ends with Luna’s character and K-2S0 strapping into their seats at the front of the ship.

Jyn Erso can hold her own (on and off screen)

During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, actress Felicity Jones showed off the fighting techniques she learned for Rogue One and introduced the first full clip from the film.

Jones’ revealed that she’s had some kung fu training for the role of rebel leader Jyn Erso, and nearly took off The Tonight Show host’s head while demonstrating her skill with Jyn’s weapon of choice. In the clip that debuted during the episode, Jyn and Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) are seen evading a group of stormtroopers, only to have Jones’ character take down several of them solo.

The Rogue One trailers

Final trailer: Disney and Lucasfilm released the final trailer for Rogue One just after the Thanksgiving holiday on November 26. The most comprehensive — and possibly spoiler-filled — trailer so far, the preview featured quite a bit of new footage from the film.

International trailer No. 2: The second Rogue One trailer that Lucasfilm released for international audiences features quite a bit of new footage from the film, including some intense new scenes that put Darth Vader front and center and set a menacing tone for what’s to come. Everyone’s favorite Sith Lord is playing more than a supporting role in the adventure, it seems.

October 13 trailer: The newest trailer for Rogue One was released October 13, and features more background on Jyn Erso’s father, Galen Erso — played by Hannibal actor Mads Mikkelsen — and his connection to the Empire’s greatest weapon. The trailer sets an inspiring tone, with Jyn rallying her motley team of insurgents to the cause of the Rebellion with some help from Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera.

April 7 trailer: The first trailer for Rogue One was released April 7, 2016, introducing audiences to Erso, the film’s female protagonist. Erso, played by Felicity Jones, is shown to be a formidable fighter, one who takes on a mission directly from Rebel leader and classic Star Wars character Mon Mothma, now portrayed by Genevieve O’Reilly. The mission is to uncover the Galactic Empire’s plans to test out a new, deadly weapon — what we know to be the Death Star — and learn how to destroy it. The trailer also provides glimpses of other various characters, including Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Forrest Whitaker as insurgent mercenary Saw Gerrera. It does an excellent job at setting the tone for the movie, which appears to be (for now) much darker than any Star Wars film prior. Read more here.

Olympics trailer: Disney and Lucasfilm released a an extended television spot for Rogue One during the August broadcast of the Olympics in Rio. The new preview offered quite a bit more footage of the ragtag team of mercenaries led by Jyn, and concluded with a dramatic tease of Darth Vader’s return in the film.

New poster revealed

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A new theatrical poster has been unveiled just a couple months out from Rogue One‘s premiere. The poster’s composition and painterly look is reminiscent of the classic posters for the original Star Wars trilogy films, and features Jyn Erso and her team of Rebels juxtaposed against the tropical planet swarming with Imperial forces that has been prominent in the trailers. Looming in the sky behind the character portraits is the Death Star and in the shadows behind Erso, a ghostly apparition of Darth Vader lingers.

The reshoots

To be worried, or not to be worried? That is the question for Star Wars fans. While reshoots are a very common occurrence built into the budget of all major blockbusters, Disney has reportedly ordered extensive reshoots for Rogue One after initial test screenings of the film were supposedly poorly received among studio execs. Needless to say, that news raised some eyebrows.

Any fears might be for naught, though. Rogue One star Felicity Jones weighed in on the reshoots and her words may allay concerns. She pointed out that reshooting is a chance for improvement and a normal part of the process.

“Obviously when you come to the edit, you see the film come together and you think, ‘Actually, we could do this better, and this would make more sense if we did this,'” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’ve done it so many times. I mean, you wouldn’t just give your first draft on this story, would you?”

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Jones’ response is in line with that of her co-star Mads Mikklesen. He has been quoted as saying he thinks the response to the news in overblown and that the reshoots, which took place over the summer, are “no big deal.”

In the lead-up, some reports, citing unnamed sources on set, suggested that as much as 40 percent of the movie would be reshot. However, that number has also been widely criticized as unsubstantiated and/or exaggerated. Regardless of the amount of involved, it’s important to note that the so-called poor response was not for the reasons you might think. The execs supposedly raised concerns over the darker tone of the film, worried it wouldn’t match up with the lighter vibe of A New Hope.

Rumors suggested that Rogue One played more like a war film than an operatic space adventure, according to various Hollywood insiders. Earlier rumors suggested that the reshoots were the result of quality concerns following poor performance with test audiences, but it was later revealed that these test screenings never took place. In any event, many believe the reshoots are more of a positive sign than a negative one, suggesting Disney is willing to spare no expense to make sure Rogue One plays out exactly as it should to fit into the beloved franchise. Read more here.

Composer change-up

Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel) was originally attached to provide the score for Rogue One, but after the film underwent extensive reshoots over the summer, it forced Desplat to exit the film in September — just three months before its premiere — due to scheduling conflicts.

According to THR, it didn’t take long for another Academy Award winner to fill the vacancy, with Up and The Incredibles composer Michael Giacchino now on board to score the Star Wars prequel.

Move over, R2-D2

One of the non-human standouts of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the ball-shaped android BB-8, and now Rogue One will have another compact (i.e., non-humanoid) robot in its supporting cast, too. Lucasfilm revealed the Imperial astromech C2-B5 in September, and indicated that — unlike R2-D2 — this astromech is subjected to frequent memory wipes as part of its service to the Empire. That’s all we know about it for now, though.

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New combat vehicles for Rebels and Imperials

The rebel alliance has a cadre of iconic starships, including A-, B-, X-, and Y-Wing varieties. However, as revealed in a recent episode of The Star Wars ShowRogue One will feature a new letter-based ship in the rebellion’s alphabetical fleet, the U-Wing (or the UCOM UT-60D, for the more technical-minded fans out there). The U-Wing looks somewhat like a hybrid between the Y-Wing and X-Wing designs, and can change the orientation of its wings to suit its mission needs. The ship will be a multipurpose vehicle, acting as a troop transport but being able to change its flight mode and engage with enemy fighters.

Of course, the Empire will have new vehicles of its own. The TIE-Striker is a new starfighter that has been modified from the traditional TIE-Fighters for better performance in planetary atmospheres, rather than in space. We expect to see these play a major role in the various large-scale battles teased in the trailer footage.

Another new piece of Imperial hardware is a here-to-fore unnamed tank-like craft shown off in the trailer. The vehicle is crewed by a squad of Shoretroopers, and seems to be pursuing Jyn Erso and company in the trailer.

New Stormtrooper flavors

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One of the first glimpses of Rogue One production was this photo of several Stormtrooper helmets that will be featured in the film, two of which are new to the franchise. The black helmet on the left is worn by the Deathtroopers, while the middle is the classic white Stormtrooper design. The right belongs to a new version of the Stormtrooper known as Shoretroopers, which we can only assume are a class of Stormtrooper outfitted to fight in coastal environments, much like The Empire Strikes Back‘s Snowtroopers were specialized for arctic combat.

First TV Spot released

The first TV spot for Rogue One aired August 2, 2016. The clip is a short 30-second teaser, and while it doesn’t give any further information than what’s been gleaned through previous trailers and info dumps, it’s notable in that it maintains the darker and more urgent tone of early trailers. That would ostensibly mean the final film will, too, which was previously in question do to the rumors of significant reshoots for the film.

Star Wars Celebration Rogue One teaser reel

At the Rogue One panel during Star Wars Celebration Europe, Disney treated fans to nearly three full minutes of detailed Rogue One film footage that included new scenes, behind the scenes interviews, and plenty of explosions. While there wasn’t too much new story info in the trailer, the sheer amount of Star Wars goodies packed into the teaser will make die hard fans comb through to absorb every new costume, set, and frame of new content.

Cast and characters leaked

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Several pages from a Rogue One visual guide recently leaked, including two pages detailing the core group of rebel heroes — an eclectic group of mercenaries, bounty hunters, and rebel agents — as well as members of the Imperial forces. The text on the pages is a bit difficult to make out, though some details have been gleaned regarding each of the featured characters.

The leader of the group is Jyn Erso. Erso is the main protagonist of the film, described as a “gifted soldier and warrior.” In the Rogue One cover story for Entertainment Weekly, it is revealed that Erso is a criminal who has numerous run-ins with the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance alike. She is detained by the Rebels, and given the opportunity to clear her record by agreeing to lead a mission to undermine the Empire’s plans for the Death Star. The rest of the rebel team descriptions are as follows:

  • Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) — an officer in the Rebel Alliance
  • Baze (Jian Weng) — freelance assassin
  • K-2S0 (voiced by Alan Tudyk) — Imperial Vollstreckerdroide (Enforcer droid) who joins the rebels
  • Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) — rebel soldier
  • Chirrut (Donnie Yen) — the “spiritual warrior”
  • Pao and Bistan — a pair of aliens both described as “fierce warriors”

Clearly, we’re dealing with a far more grizzled and gruff crew than we’re used to seeing in Star Wars films.

As for the Imperials, only one named character, Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), is detailed. Krennic is described as the Empire’s military director — tasked with preventing the Rebellion’s covert operations — and is ostensibly the main antagonist. He is tasked with thwarting the Rebel’s plans to steal the Death Star plans, and his operations are closely monitered by none other than Darth Vader himself, giving Krennic quite the motivation to achieve his objective. The other Imperial forces revealed are a squad of unique Stormtroopers clad in black armor called “Deathtroopers.” Based upon their appearance and name, and the fact that they seem to be reporting directly to Director Krennic, we’re guessing this trooper squad will be far more capable and pose a much greater threat than your rank-and-file Stormtrooper.

Alan Tudyk’s K-2S0: The most interesting Star Wars droid yet?

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Part of the aforementioned leak included several pages on K-2S0 (or “Kaytoo,” for short), the Imperial Enforcer droid voiced by Alan Tudyk. Some pages included various sketches and schematics of the character’s design, but also some background on why Kaytoo was created in the first place.

Enforcer droids act as “peace keepers” for the Galactic Empire, but instead of acting as robotic sheriffs, they are programmed with ruthless, violent protocols to stifle uprisings or uncooperative citizens. They maintain order through fear, intimidation, and force. At some point, Kaytoo decides to go against his programming and turncoat, tagging along with the rebel heroes in their mission against the Empire instead. In the Rogue One cover issue of Entertainment Weekly, Edwards describes K-2S0 as the “antithesis of C-3P0,” and that the character has the “personality of Chewbacca in the body of a droid,” with little regard for the opinions (or the lives) of others. Such descriptions make Kaytoo sound like a complicated character, but more importantly, it raises many questions as to why (and how) the droid has turned coat and joined the rebellion, and just how well he will fit in given his violent nature.

Mads Mikkelsen’s major role

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One of the characters not discussed in the leaked visual guide is Mads Mikkelsen’s character. However, some rumors point to Mikkelsen’s role being important, not just to the characters in Rogue One, but also to the broader Star Wars canon. First, we know that Mikkelsen’s character will be named Galen, and that he shares an important tie with another character. In an interview with Sky News, Mikkelsen said that he will play the father of Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso. “I read the script and it was very beautiful, and Felicity is playing this lovely, strong woman and I play her father,” said Mikkelsen, before quickly quipping that he had shared too much.

That’s a big reveal in and of itself, but there’s more. Rumor has it that Galen is one of the scientists in charge of the development of the original Death Star. This may seem like a contradiction, with Galen being a part of the Empire while his daughter is a rebel agent. However, there is some speculation that Galen is not the staunch supporter of the Empire he appears to be, and his interest in the Death Star comes from a place of Oppenheimer-esque scientific interest, rather than power or allegiance, which may lead to defect to the Rebels after witnessing the Death Star’s destructive potential. Some rumors even point to Galen Erso being pursued by both the Rebels and the Empire for his technical knowledge of the doomsday device.

Who is Forest Whitaker’s crochety warrior?

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In June, Entertainment Weekly’s Rogue One cover issue revealed a host of new character and plot details, including the first information on Saw Gerrera, Forest Whitaker’s character in the film. Some Star Wars fans will recognize the character from an episode of Cartoon Network’s animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars. In the show, Gerrera is a guerrilla soldier aided by Anakin Skywalker, one hellbent on defending his home planet from the encroaching droid army. This is an interesting fact, as it marks the first instance of a character from one of Disney’s non-film properties making the jump to the big screen, which further opens the door to other characters in the Star Wars universe.

Prior to the issue of Entertainment Weekly, the details had been gleaned about Garrera from the trailer. Fans initially noticed that he seems to be a hardened, battle-wizened warrior of some type, one that walks with a limp and the aid of a cane (perhaps it doubles as a weapon?). In the original trailer, Gerrera is bald and clad in armor that appears to be a mismatch of different styles, but in the character shots from EW, he is seen in turquoise armor with a full head of hair. This opens up more questions, such as whether this means we’ll be seeing Gerrera at different points in time throughout the film, or if this new look is a result of the changes from the reshoots Rogue One is currently undergoing.

No opening crawl?

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When you think of virtually any Star wars media — be that the films, the numerous video games, or even the various comic book series over the years — they almost always feature one common, iconic element: the opening crawl. The giant yellow-orange letters offering background and contextual story information to the audience, before panning down to an establish shot of a planet or space station is synonymous with the Star Wars experience. But what if a piece of Star Wars media began without the bombast and orchestral accompaniment? Rogue One will ostensibly be just that, nixing the opening crawl and replacing it with something else entirely. According Lucasfilm President, Kathleen Kennedy, this is likely going to be the case for all standalone, non-“saga films.” Thematically, it makes sense to relegate the opening crawl to the main numbered films, but it will be interesting to see how this affects the mood of the film, which is said to be removed from the whimsical and fantastical feel of the main saga films. You can read more about the choice to nix the opening crawl here.

New AT-AT designs

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The most recent poster for the upcoming Star Wars Celebration event in London this year shows off characters and vehicles from both The Force Awakens and Rogue One, including a new version of the AT-AT called the AT-ACT (all terrain armored cargo transport), and the Shoretrooper. The menacing Deathtroopers are also featured on the poster, one of which seems to have night vision lights illuminating his helmet, adding further credence to the idea that this unit is better equipped and better trained than normal Stormtroopers.

Sandy set shots reveal major battle location

Aerial shots from a Rogue One shooting location showcase a sandy, perhaps coastal location riddled with the scars and evidence of destructive combat. This is likely the same sandy battlefield shown in the trailer.

Peter Cushing will return from beyond the Force

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Actor Peter Cushing, who portrayed the menacing and nefarious Grand Moff Tarkin in the original Star Wars, died of prostate cancer nearly 22 years ago. His iconic character, however, is set to make an appearance in Rogue One. Rather than recast the part, Edwards has chosen to recreate Cushing’s form on screen through the magic of CGI and motion capture. Special effects creators are combing through footage of Cushing’s performances in the original film, as well as his many roles in Hammer Films’ classic horror flicks, in order to faithfully recreate the actor’s mannerisms and motions — even down to the way he moved his feet when he walked. Read more here.

Lord Vader

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Grand Moff Tarkin isn’t the only classic Star Wars villain rumored to be in the film. In fact, the Star Wars villain himself, Darth Vader, is going to have a presence in the film, which has been confirmed, including a big cover for Entertainment Weekly’s Rogue One issue. This substantiates the plethora of rumors regarding the dark lord’s return due to the remarkable number of appearances Vader makes in leaked art and illustrations.

This would mark the first time Vader’s presence has been felt on screen in more than a decade — his most recent appearance was in Revenge of the Sith — and the first time we’ll have seen the character alive and on screen in any of Disney’s new Star Wars tales. Rumor has it that British actor and stuntman Spencer Wilding will be embodying Darth Vader. Most exciting, however, is that James Earl Jones will be reprising his role as Vader’s voice, so fan’s will once again be treated to the masked villain’s signature booming delivery. Read more here.

Ten minutes before A New Hope 

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We know Rogue One takes place between Episodes III and IV, while the rebellion is mounting attacks against the Galactic Empire, but new rumors suggest Rogue One is said to end a mere 10 minutes before the opening of A New Hope, chronicling the events briefly mentioned in the opening crawl to the original classic. This interim period of time between the first two trilogies has been largely untouched by Disney’s official canon outside of the animated TV show Star Wars Rebels. It should be exciting to see how the events of Rogue One lead into A New Hope. 

Solo cameo?

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It now seems likely that Han Solo will be in Rogue One — at least in some capacity. Rumor has it that one goal of the aforementioned reshoots is to film scenes with the legendary smuggler. Considering actor Alden Ehrenreich has been recently cast to play the iconic hero in the upcoming Han Solo anthology film, it seems plausible that the actor could make his debut as Solo in Rogue One. 

Article originally published in June 2016. Stephanie Topacio Long and Brendan Hesse contributed to this report. Updated on 12-2-2016 by Rick Marshall with clip that debuted during the Twitter Q&A event.