The sweeping themes of the musical genius and living legend John Williams are inextricably linked to Star Wars (amongst other classic films). The Force Theme, the opening and closing fanfare, the Imperial March, amongst many others are instantly recognizable the world over. If you so much as read "dun dun dun duh du dun duh du dun," chances are, you're humming that song and picturing Darth Vader and the might of the Empire. It may surprise Star Wars fans, then, that they won't hear too much of John Williams in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story when it hits theaters next month.
The first of the new standalone films, Rogue One will be scored by Michael Giacchino, an Oscar-winning composer who has a long history with Disney including Up (which he won the Academy Award for) and this month's Doctor Strange, as he hits the Pixar-Marvel-Lucasfilm trifecta in December. The composer is actually the second attached to the film; originally, Williams protegé Alexandre Desplat was going to do the music, but when extensive reshoots changed the schedule, conflicts made the project impossible for him. Giacchino was brought in with only three months to go before release, and only four weeks and change to score the film.
Interestingly, though, he won't be using too many of the themes and score notes that Williams has laid down for the franchise, and that comes both out of personal preference and directive from the top.
"[Kathleen Kennedy] said to me, 'No one is asking you to do what was done before,'" Giacchino told EW in a recent interview. "I feel it's important to be me, but in this universe we're working within. That was sort of the challenge. it was never sort of, 'Oh you have to do this, this, and this.' It was always just: 'Here are the emotions that we need to cover.'"
As such, there were only "a couple of times when you want to hit upon something that was from the past," he said of using elements of John Williams' classic score. "For me, even as a fan, it was about going, 'Oh, this particular idea would be a great if we did it here. I would want to see that if I were watching a Star Wars movie.' As a kid who grew up with John's music and who was catapulted in this direction because of what he did, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to use and how I wanted to use it."
Don't expect that to mean these things will be all over the movie, despite his love and respect for it.
"That being said, I'd say the score is 95 percent original, but with little moments here or there to accent. If I were sitting in that seat and I heard that, it would totally raise the hairs on my neck."
Giacchino said he took inspiration from the things that inspired George Lucas and John Williams when they were working on the Original Trilogy, like "Flash Gordon, the old serials, [Gustav] Holst and different composers along the way. I wanted to honor that vernacular but still do something new with it, something that was still me in a way."
His music will have some "World War II movie" feelings, continuing the narrative of this film's genre, with a "slightly different" opening title theme "because it's not one of the saga films," going along with Kennedy confirming there won't be an opening crawl. But will we hear his take on the Imperial March?
"Maaaaaaybe," Giacchino said with a laugh.
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits US theaters December 16, 2016. Directed by Gareth Edwards, it's the first of the new standalone features from Lucasfilm and Disney, which take place outside the core "Skywalker Saga" of films noted by an Episode number. Rogue One tells the story of the small band of rebels that were tasked with stealing the plans to the first Death Star. The story spins directly off the opening crawl from the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. In that crawl, it read: "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet."