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Rogue One Director Explains How Real-Life War Photos Inspired the Look of New Star Wars Movie

The first live-action Star Wars movie to be based outside of the official saga since Ewoks: The Battle for Endor in 1985, Gareth Edwards’ upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story looks set to take the franchise in a new and exciting direction after the somewhat lacklustre offering from J.J. Abrams, The Force Awakens. Ostensibly a war movie, Edwards explores the events preceding the original Star Wars picture, in which plans that expose a weakness for a new and deadly battle station are stolen by Rebel spies.

And while previous attempts at telling a prequel to 1977’s A New Hope may have resulted in a trilogy of inferior films, like many directors his age Edwards grew up on the series and has approached it with the sensibilities of both a fan and a filmmaker. Following the success of his breakthrough Monsters, Edwards was announced as the director of the first new Star Wars spinoff in May 2014, the same month that his Hollywood debut Godzilla was released. While the prequels had been the mastermind of series creator George Lucas and The Force Awakens was another franchise revival for Abrams, following his reboot of the Star Trek films, Rogue One allowed a new talent to give a fresh perspective. ‘Ever since I saw Star Wars I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life – join the Rebel Alliance! I could not be more excited and honoured to go on this mission with Lucasfilm,’ Edwards told the Guardian when his involvement was first revealed.

And while at that time the focus of the latest Star Wars movie had not yet been revealed, teaser trailers earlier this year indicated that the story would follow the mission to steal the battle plans from the Galactic Empire. Each Star Wars feature introduced an array of new creatures and planets and among those civilisations to be portrayed in Rogue One is Jedha, a small moon on the galaxy’s Inner Rim that serves as something of a holy lans for followers of the Force. ‘It’s a place where people who believe in the Force would go on a pilgrimage. It was essentially taken over by the Empire. It’s an occupied territory…for reasons we probably can’t reveal,’ Edwards told Entertainment Weekly back in August. ‘There’s something very important in Jedha that serves both the Jedi and the Empire. It felt very much like something we could relate to in the real world.’

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

In a new interview with Collider Edwards addresses the war movie aspect that has been so prevalent in recent trailers. ‘When we started this the studio were obviously like, ‘How do these films differ from the saga films?’ And one of the early experiments we did early on was taking real war photography – pictures of Vietnam, conflicts in the Middle East and World War II – and we literally Photoshopped Rebel helmets on the tops of the real soldiers. And we looked at this stuff and it was really effective and we were like, Oh my God, I really feel for these guys.’ And there was something about the realism of that and we showed it to Kathy (Kennedy; producer) and Disney and everyone was like, ‘Go make that movie, that looks great!’

He continues, ‘We shot the movie, or at least some of it, quite like a documentary like we were embedded filmmakers in a warzone and so we ended up with hours and hours and hours and hours and days of material so the real trick was just getting all that down and to be able to sit and watch it and go through it with a fine tooth comb. And there’s always an assembly, which is always too long and then in the edit you just get it down.’

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