Disney made headlines when they bought Lucasfilm - and Star Wars along with it, four years ago this week. Then they announced plans to do not just a sequel trilogy of Episode VII, VIII, and IX, but also start a series of standalone films that took place outside of that main "Skywalker Saga." Initially called "Anthology" films, they changed the name to simple, "A Star Wars Story," denoting that this is something that takes place in a galaxy far, far away, and that's all you really need to know. The first one, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, hits theaters this December, with a marquee director: Gareth Edwards.
Disney's headlines continued when they started announcing directors for their projects. From J.J. Abrams to Edwards to Rian Johnson, and Phil Lord & Chris Miller, and Colin Trevorrow, these are all directors known for their unique style and vision. Having such disparate directors all coming to Star Wars at once offers very different looks at that universe, something Oscar-winning Creature and Special Makeup Effects Supervisor Neal Scanlan loved about working on Rogue One.
“The biggest challenge on Rogue One was to give Gareth, Gareth’s vision for the film," Scanlan told the Radio 1138 podcast in an interview (click through to listen to the full show). "In many ways that is the biggest thing because a director always has his unique way of seeing the world, and I think Gareth has an incredibly unique way, and I think you’ll see that in the film, I think it’ll come through. His whole style of filmmaking is different from people we’ve worked with. You have to get to know him, and get to know his creative - what would Gareth like and what doesn’t Gareth like? What would work for Gareth and what would work for his film?"
That meant, for Scanlan and the other visual effects teammembers, that they had to "understand not where you are now, but where the film needs to be at the end, and where [Edwards] wants to be at the end." And that's when he realized exactly what makes Edwards so different from other Star Wars directors: his personal nature.
"I think you’ll see that the characters in this, in Rogue One, are, I daresay, more realistic. They’re more up close and personal," Scanlan said. "Gareth’s world is a much more intimate world. When we came to do the creatures for him it was the same thing. I think in many films we make characters that are all about the world around us, whereas for Gareth it’s about people, it’s about their faces, their expressions, it’s about the things they’re doing not in the broad scale, but the intimate scale."
Scanlan noted that in some films, and even some Star Wars films, a creature is put in, and they're featured in a particular shot as if to say "here comes a character, here comes a creature, showcase the creature!" However, that's not the case with Edwards' work on Rogue One.
“You think in much more specific details with Gareth, in that so much is said with your eyes, and so much is said in your mannerisms. Gareth is a huge believer in allowing people not to act, but allow their natural performance to come through, in the film and in the characters. They’re all a part of Gareth’s world, the aliens and the creatures all slot in there in a way that hopefully you almost don’t notice them. They’re part of the story, not part of an effect.”
Edwards told ComicBook.com and other reporters back at Star Wars Celebration London that he built fully-realized 360-degree sets as often as he could, expanding his philosophy from creatures to the surroundings. That way, he could look at scenes from every angle, often finding surprising shots, like the reflection of Darth Vader in a Death Star panel. He even dressed his crew in costume so that if they accidentally appeared in a shot they wouldn't have to scrap it.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters December 16, 2016.