Rogue One: A Star Wars Story launches the next chapter in the Star Wars galaxy - but not the next episode in the saga. Instead, it takes us to an untold story within the Star Wars timeline, namely: how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans to the first Death Star. The story, ripped out of the opening crawl of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, is directed by Gareth Edwards and shows us a new take on Star Wars with more of a grounded war movie-style focus.
It may be surprising, with this film launching four years and change after Lucasfilm was sold to Disney, that they idea of this style of film came from the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas. The creator parted ways with the company entirely when he sold it to Disney for just over $4 billion in 2012, and had no creative control or input in their future films. However, Kathleen Kennedy, who took over as President of the company (and was hand-picked by Lucas for the job), says his reach is still felt.
"George talked to me about doing [standalone films] when I first came aboard," Kennedy revealed in an interview with EW. "He had often thought about doing it and he had actually written down three or four thoughts and ideas, directions you could go. Obviously inside the mythology there were lots of opportunities. So that was the first conversation I had."
However, Kennedy revealed, the young Han Solo film was not one of those ideas - that came after Lucasfilm officially decided to pursue the new branch of Star Wars films. Neither was Rogue One - that was actually a pitch from John Knoll, visual effects supervisor from ILM, before it went to the writers who realized it.
"We certainly talked about origin type stories, but we didn't get into the specifics of that. We talked a lot about the Jedi and the foundational ideas that George had thought about when he created the mythology. It was sort of spit-balling ideas," she said.
If that sounds familiar, you might be a fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels. Showrunner Dave Filoni talks about his conversations with George regularly, intimating that their talks have led to his advanced view of the Force and how he's explored it on those shows.
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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."