Riz Ahmed has already had a banner year with projects like his HBO series The Night Of and his performance in Matt Damon's Jason Bourne sequel. He's primed though for another big push when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters later this month.
Ahmed plays the role of Bodhi Rook, a member of Jyn Erso's team to infiltrate and destroy the plans for the Death Star. He recently spoke to Variety about his experience with the beloved film property, and while he is a fan of the franchise, he's very careful with the use of that term.
"I'm definitely a fan, but I use that word lightly now that I have seen the extent of "Star Wars" fandom. I am a fan, but I feel like that's almost insulting to the superfans that I've seen."
Rogue One fits right in between Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, but just because it's a prequel doesn't mean it lacks in new additions to the lore.
"The fact that the film takes place at the core of the "Star Wars" saga provides us with a great opportunity to throw out some really familiar references as well as introduce some new stuff. I think that one of the things that Gareth [Edwards] and [writer] Tony Gilroy and [producer] Katy [Kennedy] and the whole team have done is create a cool balance between old and new. One of things that stands out is how it was shot — it feels more like a war movie given the way Gareth did it. I think the world will feel familiar and it should get fans excited."
It's a strong cast, and with actors that include Ahmed, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, and Mads Mikkelsen, it's quite a diverse one. Ahmed was asked what that will bring to the film and said "This is a way to bring new and fresh energies and fresh elements into our stories. When you've got a world like "Star Wars" where it's such a global story and belongs to all of us, why not try to respect that by putting forward a global cast like Diego Luna and Donnie Yen and Mads Mikkelsen?
Star Wars is a film icon, and as such it carries with it enormous expectations and a budget to match. When asked if it was daunting to work on such a large-scale shoot he said "I don't think there is anything like a "Star Wars" film when it comes to scale. It was my first studio movie, so to go from "Nightcrawler" to this was absolutely a big shift. I'm not going to lie — to see a thousand film extras dressed as Stormtroopers, that's gonna freak anyone out. Because it was in the "Star Wars" world, and you grow up watching the movies, it was the best possible experience to have for that be my first big movie. A lot of the ingredients were familiar; I was like, "Oh yeah, I grew up playing with that toy." The biggest difference [between a small film and a large film] was that you had a bit more time, which is a gift and a curse, because you can go back and redo things, which to someone like me is great 'cause of how obsessive I am. I also think you can have too much time to think about things, which is not always good."
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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