When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters this week, it will mark the second Star Wars film in a role to have a female lead character. Daisy Ridley starred as Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year, a movie that wen on to break over 30 box office records. Now, it's Felicity Jones's turn, as she steps into the shoes of Jyn Erso and seeks to lead a disparate team of Rebels on a near-impossible adventure.
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has spoken at length about supporting representation and inclusion, creating a world on screen that better reflects the world around us. Kennedy and her staff sat down when she first took over as president of the company upon the sale from George Lucas to Disney to figure out exactly what that would entail.
"I find it really interesting, when I first stepped into this job, I started looking at, what does it mean to be a female hero?" Kennedy said at the Rogue One press junket. "And when you look at it in this industry, it's pretty shocking."
The executive noticed as she looked around film that many female heroes, especially in action films, were mostly just male characters in everything but gender, and that's something she's working to combat in Star Wars.
"I think the character of Rey, the character of Jyn, these are empowered women that are not necessarily just taking on male characteristics. These are genuinely female heroines. I think that's really important, and I think it will make a difference."
Does Kennedy think this take on female heroism can expand out into the rest of Hollywood?
"I hope it has that level of impact!" she genuinely exclaimed.
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."
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