There are few things more fun as an entertainment reporter than finding out your subject loves this stuff as much as you do. Gareth Edwards, director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is a perfect example of that notion, as his love for Star Wars shines in everything he says and does. Whether it's a charming story about going to Luke's Tattooine home set in Tunisia for his thirtieth birthday (yes, he drank blue milk while he was there, yes, he personally decided to include blue milk in Rogue One), or just the way he walked into the Skywalker Sound theater when press went to screen the first half hour of the movie, nonchalant, talking about how cool it still was for him to be on "The Ranch," there's never any doubt he's a fan.
So, for Edwards, the day he got to walk around the archives at Skywalker Ranch had to be an incredible thrill. When he stumbled upon archived footage of the X-wing pilots from the original movie, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, Edwards flipped out.
"Very early on we talked about, 'well, in theory the [original] X-wing pilots should be here.' On our tour around the archives at Skywalker Ranch, at the very bottom of the basement there’s all these cans of film, and they said, 'oh, they're the negatives from Star Wars.' And you're like, 'what? They exist? Have you gone through them all?'" Edwards said on the Empire post-release podcast. The answer to that question was no, and he wasn't having it.
"You're like, 'oh my God, someone should sit and digitize all of this stuff, and I'd pay for it, I'll sit and watch it, can I do that?'" Yes, Gareth Edwards personally went through the archive footage to find unused shots of the X-wing pilots "and some other bits and bobs" and got them all re-scanned and digitized.
"They weren't perfect, obviously you can imagine they aged quite a bit, and they need a lot of clean up from Industrial Light & Magic," he said. But his vision included that footage. "I really wanted to have Gold Leader and people like that in there - just as a nod. It was funny, because you do it for yourself as a fan, and you think, 'I wonder how many people will notice?' But at the premiere, it got one of the biggest cheers when he showed up. I actually air-punched."
Rogue One was truly a mix of visual effects, from practical alien builds to archive footage to the latest in motion capture and CGI technology, all resulting in the film we saw hit the big screen.
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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."