Meet the new Star Wars squad
On December 16, 2016 in the US and UK, something special begins. The Star Wars story movies - spin-off tales that flesh out the classic series’ recently unexpanded universe - kick off with Rogue One. Directed by Godzilla and Monsters' Gareth Edwards, it tells the story of the resistance fighters that stole the plans for the Death Star (referenced briefly in the opening crawl of Episode 4) which allows for the climactic events of A New Hope.
But who's going to get all that good work done? With news on the film still very much in the vague and early phase, we've put together this list of all the major cast members, their roles and anything else we could piece together from announcements, interviews, rumours and good old-fashioned leaks.
Felicity Jones is Jyn Erso
Leading the group in their mission to get plans for the Death Star is Jyn Erso played by British actress Felicity Jones. While there aren't that many details about her just yet, we know from the first trailer that she's definitely the rebellious type. She has a criminal record, she's been alone since she was 15, and she's been described as "reckless, aggressive and undisciplined." Just the type of person you need to infiltrate the Death Star.
Her name also marks her as entirely separate from any of the established Star Wars dynasties. We could have another brand new hero in the making. "She's got a checkered past," Lucasfilm president and Rogue One producer Kathleen Kennedy told EW. "She has been detained [by the Rebellion] and is being given an opportunity to be useful. And by being useful, it may commute her sentence… She's a real survivor. She becomes a kind of Joan of Arc in the story."
Diego Luna is Captain Cassian Andor
The Mexican star of Y Tu Mamá También and Milk, Luna's another actor taking a big step up. He's been confirmed as Rebel Captain Cassian Andor, accomplished Rebel Alliance Intelligence Officer. Early shots from the trailer suggested he could Jyn Erso’s Commanding Officer during the mission to steal the Death Star plans, but more recent footage seems to put Jyn firmly in charge so he might just be a liaison or part of the team.
"He conveys a fair amount of experience and the reality of what it's like to do this every day, to try to figure out how to resist the Empire effectively and intelligently," Kiri Hart, Lucasfilm’s chief of story development, tells EW. We also know from the recent Star Wars Celebration that he "commands respect from his Rebel troops with his ability to keep a cool head under fire and complete his missions with minimal resources".
Ben Mendelsohn is Director Orson Krennic
Meet our bad guy. The Australian actor, who's played villainous roles in The Dark Knight Rises, Animal Kingdom, and The Place Beyond the Pines, is playing Director Orson Krennic. He's the Imperial Military Director in charge of weapons research and obsessed with completing the Death Star. We know there's some rivalry between him and Vadar and he's been described as "cruel but brilliant."
"The bad guy is a lot more terrifying when he’s really smart, and really effective," says executive producer John Knoll. "There is a lot of palace intrigue going on in the Empire, with people conspiring to move up the ranks and sabotaging each other. There’s not a lot of loyalty there".
EW have confirmed that he is in charge of the Deathtroopers who act as his specialist Imperial Intelligence and his personal guard. he also has his own personal shuttle, which is a unique design seen in the trailer. (the new... or old? Stormtroopers) and that Darth Vader is his enforcer.
Alan Tudyk is K-2SO
Already a sci-fi cult hero thanks to Firefly, Tudyk was actually missing from the original cast image. That's because he won’t be appearing as himself - Tudyk’s playing a performance capture role of a new Star Wars droid called K-2SO. Edwards has described him as "the antithesis of C-3PO," telling EW that he's definitely not interested in "human/cyborg relations."
As a repurposed and reprogrammed Imperial enforcer droid robot "Kaytoo is a little bit like Chewbacca's personality in a droid’s body,” the director adds. "He doesn’t give a shit about what you think. He doesn't fully check himself before he says things and does things. He just speaks the truth".
Riz Ahmed is Bodhi Rook
Ahmed's shown off his dramatic chops in The Road to Guantanamo, but possesses equal comedy skills as proven by Four Lions, so I really wasn't sure which way he was going to go in Rogue One. In interesting conflict of interests Bodhi is, at least for some of the movie actually an Imperial pilot (check out that patch). "He flies a lot of cargo," explains LucasArts president Kathleen Kennedy. "And he tends to be a little tense, a little volatile, but everybody in the group really relies on his technical skills."
However, according to EW, Bodhi Rook is the Rebel squad’s lead pilot, and "tends to be hot-headed, but any abrasiveness is overshadowed by his skills in the air". So either he defects entirely, or works as a double agent.
Donnie Yen is Chirrut Îmwe
After playing the eponymous Ip Man in the movies about Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun master, it's fair to say that Donnie Yen’s been brought in as much for his action abilities as his acting ones. Another Rebel crew member, Chirrut Îmwe is blind, a formidable warrior, and has a spiritual connection with the Jedi - it reminds us of the legendary blind swordsman character Zatoichi.
While he can kick stormtrooper ass with stick and his eyes shut, that's not the Force helping him, but rather the fact that he's "honed his body through intense physical and mental discipline."
"Chirrut falls into the category of being a warrior monk," Kennedy tells EW. "He very much still believes in everything the Jedi were about." As Edwards puts it: "This idea that magical beings are going to come and save us is going away, and it’s up to normal, everyday people to take a stand to stop evil from dominating the world."
Jiang Wen is Baze Malbus
Chinese actor, Jiang Wen, is probably the least well-known of the currently-announced main cast in Hollywood circles, but he’s a huge deal in his homeland. He cuts an imposing figure in the cast image and prefers to pack a boatload of weapons than depend on spirituality like his friend and "spiritual compass" Chirrut.
"He understands Chirrut's spiritual centeredness, but he doesn’t necessarily support it," Kennedy tells EW. Baze goes along with this Force business because "it’s what his friend deeply believes," she adds.
He's actually a freelance assassin who's living with the "harsh reality of his Imperial-occupied home world" and a fan of his heavy repeater cannon, making him the heavy hitter of the team.
Forest Whitaker is Saw Gerrera
Star Wars obsessives will recognise Forest Whitaker's character just from the name. Saw Gerrera made his debut in season 5 of The Clone Wars animated series, where he was using guerrilla warfare to fight a droid army of Separatists who had taken over his world Onderon. He fought with a young Jedi named Anakin Skywalker, along with his sister, Steela, and in A War on Two Fronts, they were part of an insurgent group unofficially trained by Anakin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the Padawan Ahsoka Tano. A lot of time has past since those events though.
"Consider him kind of a battered veteran who leads a band of Rebel extremists," Kennedy tells EW. "He’s on the fringe of the Rebel Alliance. Even [they] are a little concerned about him." So, not a bad guy, but not really a good guy either.
Mads Mikkelsen is Galen Erso
When it was first announced that Hannibal star, Mikkelsen, would be in Rogue One everyone thought - baddie - but he quickly clarified in an interview with a Danish newspaper that he played a "very important role" but was "actually not a bad guy". He then let slip later on that he actually plays Jyn Erso's estranged father, which has since been confirmed with the character name Galen Erso.
It also sounds like he has some knowledge that would be useful to the Rebellion and the Empire. "He’s one of those people that has insight into, you know, specific aspects of just how the universe works," Hart tells EW. But we know that Jyn has been on her own since she was young, so where’s he been? "The circumstances of how the family got to the state that it’s in is something that we probably don’t want to share right now," Hart says. Intriguing.
However, since Star Wars Celebration we know that at least part of the movie will show a younger Jyn still with her farther so we'll likely learn all eventually. The earlier time period might also help explain how we might be getting a young Han Solo cameo ahead of the stand alone movie.
After plenty of rumours, speculations, and pleas, we now have confirmation that yes, Darth Vader will be making an appearance in Rogue One. It makes sense given the position of the movie in the Star Wars timeline, but it won't be a huge role. "He will be in the movie sparingly," Kennedy told EW. "But at a key, strategic moment, he’s going to loom large."
It's also been confirmed that James Earl Jones will return to reprise his voice role as Vader, with a "variety of large-framed performers will embody the character behind the mask". And in terms of his position within the Empire and the rest of the galaxy? "Within the Rebellion, it’s not commonly spoken about," adds director Gareth Edwards. "Within the Empire, there is the culture of knowing of the existence of Darth Vader. There’s definitely an underlying feeling that there is a power – a dark power – available to the Empire and that if you overstep your mark, you will suffer the consequences."
Genevieve O'Rielley is Mon Mothma
Politician Mon Mothma didn't get a lot of screen time during the original Star Wars trilogy, but has become a fan favourite anyway as a political leader of the rebel alliance. O'Rielley is also a dead ringer for original actress Caroline Blakiston so she's a fantastic fit for the role. In the first Rogue One trailer she is the one giving Jyn Erso the orders to steal the Death Star plans, but let's hope she's in more than just that one scene. Fingers crossed.