Back in August, it was revealed that Jimmy Smits would be returning to the Star Wars franchise in Rogue One as Bail Organa, the adoptive father of Princess Leia and perhpas more importantly (or at least more relevant to this story), one of the founding fathers of the Rebel Alliance. Now, thanks to the US Weekly Rogue One: A Star Wars Story special edition, we have our first look at the actor back in costume, war weary but still a clear leader.
The image shows an aged Bail Organa in a fairly simple tunic. Taking place just before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, that places Rogue One about 19 years after Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. "[His garb] isn't as stately as in the other episodes," Smits tells Us Weekly in the caption of the image, "he isn't as high up the political food chain."
Bail Organa was considered a founder of the Rebel Alliance in the Legends universe, and has been established officially in recent canon works. He has appeared or been mentioned in several episodes of the animated series Star Wars Rebels, as a clear leader of the Alliance. He was also in the novel Ahsoka, where he recruited the errant Jedi into the Rebel Alliance as his new Fulcrum, a centerpoint to bring together other cells of rebels, something we see later (chronologically) on Rebels as well.
So, what will his role be in Rogue One? Well, Smits himself already confirmed it's only a cameo. The character is basically being used as connective tissue, a visible link from the Prequels to the animated series to the new film. He's certainly easier to use, having naturally aged about a decade between live-action appearances, it helps sell that this is the same character after living in the war-torn "dark times" era. He's also easier to use than say his daughter, Leia, who would have to be recast, with an actor playing the character just days, weeks, or months ahead in the timeline of when Carrie Fisher appeared at the start of A New Hope. We'll find out more in just three weeks.
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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."