When director Gareth Edwards and the team at Lucasfilm decided they needed Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, they suddenly had two tasks: Industrial Light and Magic had to figure out how well - if at all - they could make a believable face of Peter Cushing to impose on an actor, and Lucasfilm and Edwards had to cast an actor that could believable speak and move as Cushing did when he originated the role in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.
That actor wound up being Guy Henry, and he was uniquely suited to mimic Peter Cushing - because he'd done it before.
"[Casting director Jina Jay] sent me this clip one day, I remember I was with one of the producers," Edwards recalled to Empire's post-release podcast. "It was Guy Henry, and his whole way about him was like Peter Cushing. Guy Henry started his TV career in the UK playing young Sherlock Holmes; to get into the role he'd watch all the old Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes films."
The actor became famous for his Cushing influence, and it took one clip for Edwards to say, "we found him." Then came the hard part; telling someone they were going to be cast but not seen in the biggest movie of the year.
"And then I had to go convince him in a restaurant to do this. You're basically going up to an actor and saying, 'now, you're going to be in a film. It's a big film. It's called Star Wars. But we're not going to see your face, you're actually going to look totally like someone else, and you're not allowed to tell anyone.'"
As jarring as that may have been, Henry obviously took the role and was up to the task. Thanks to his performance and movie magic, you'd swear that was the same old Tarkin when you saw him on screen in Rogue One.
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now. 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."