Star Wars Celebration: Gareth Edwards reveals ‘Rogue One’ plot details

April 19, 2015 | 1:17 p.m.
Director Gareth Edwards discussed "Star Wars: Rogue One" on the final day of Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Director Gareth Edwards, shown in May 2014, discussed “Star Wars: Rogue One” on the final day of Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim on Sunday. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Just days after releasing the new trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Lucasfilm pulled back the curtain a little more on the future of the franchise at a Sunday morning panel at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, offering a sneak peek at the first of a series of spinoff films, “Star Wars: Rogue One.”

While details were scant — the film is still in pre-production and isn’t due in theaters until December 2016 — director Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”), joined onstage by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, revealed that the plot centers on a small band of rebel soldiers (including actress Felicity Jones) who unite on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star.

The film is set between the last of the prequels, “Revenge of the Sith,” and the original 1977 “Star Wars,” making it essentially “Episode 3.5” for fans scoring at home.

According to Edwards, at the time of “Rogue One” Jedi knights are “extinct,” meaning that the film’s heroes have to take on the Empire without recourse to the Force. The director showed one piece of concept art showing rebel soldiers in battle, reinforcing that “Rogue One” will be, at its heart, a war film.

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"Star Wars" fans Sharon Jackson, left, dressed as Mission Vao, of Las Vegas, and Kyle Jackson, dressed as a Wookiee, pose for pictures during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans from the 501st Legion costume organization show off their Stormtrooper gear during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Costumed "Star Wars" fans Corin Zinninger as Darth Reuan, Sharon Jackson as Mission Vao, Kyle Jackson as a Wookiee, and Brennan Zinninger as Carth Onasi, all of Las Vegas, pose for pictures during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Costumed "Star Wars" fans pose with toy lightsabers during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration held at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Dressed as "Star Wars" character Oola, Moe Hunt of Chicago poses with Roxy the Rancor during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A "Star Wars" fan dressed as Darth Vader leads a parade of characters from the 501st Legion costume organization as they make a dramatic entrance into the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans from the 501st Legion costume organization show off their Stormtrooper gear as they make a dramatic entrance into the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans from the 501st Legion costume organization show off their Stormtrooper gear as they make a dramatic entrance into the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A security guard inspects "Star Wars" fan and Modesto resident Steve Gwin, a member of the worldwide 501st Legion costume organization, during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Star Wars characters from the 501st Legion costume organization parade through the halls of the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Charlotte Davis, 2, of San Diego, plays with bubbles from a bubble-making R2-D2 during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Danielle Young of Salem, Mass., is dressed as Princess Leia during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Molly Ingham of South Carolina shows off her costume -- "Frozen's" Queen Elsa as a Sith -- during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Molly Ingham, right, of South Carolina shows off her costume -- "Frozen's" Queen Elsa as a Sith -- during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans Anthony Lopez, left, of Sacramento and Torri Robbins, right, of Denver show off their Shadow Trooper costumes during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fan Anthony Lopez of Sacramento shows off his Shadow Trooper costume during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Jovan C. of Norco checks his phone while dressed as Luke Skywalker during the 2015 Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center on April 16. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A man who goes by the name of "Hyper" poses as a beach-ready stormtrooper. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Actor, stuntman and performer Lucky McQueede of Santa Clarita performs as Darth Maul cyborg, right. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Youngsters learn how to use light sabers during a Jedi training seminar. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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The Hodge family: Kelly, Milo, 6, and Dave, of Nashville sport their homemade biker scouts outfits from "Return of the Jedi." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A Star Wars Celebration attendee enjoys an exhibit at the Anaheim Convention Center. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans view the Hot Wheels' Life-Size, 150-mph Darth Vader car, based on a C5 Chevrolet Corvette. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Dylan Stalker of Long Beach, dressed as a combination of a spartan and Boba Fett, stands next to a giant Jabba the Hutt model. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Stryder Brown of Los Angeles is the Hip Hop Trooper, whose pumping music gets him dancing at the Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Retired Sidious," otherwise known as Delyn Murie, 74, of Riverside, uses his imperial walker to get around at Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Excitement rises among fans waiting for "Date With The Princess: Carrie Fisher." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Participants in a Princess Leia look-alike contest compete before Carrie Fisher took the stage. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Contestants parade across the stage during the Princess Leia look-alike contest. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Carrie Fisher and her dog, Gary, onstage during the "Date With The Princess: Carrie Fisher" event. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Carrie Fisher onstage during the "Date With The Princess: Carrie Fisher" event. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A youngster is prepared for a lightsaber fight as he walks through the dark shadows at the Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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"Star Wars" fans travel to their next destination at the Anaheim Convention Center. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Jessica Odell of Lisburn, Ireland, is dressed as Maris Broud from "The Force Unleashed" video game. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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William Teague of Austin, Texas. views dozens of Star Wars figures lined up in a display by the Kotobukiya company. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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In tattoo alley, artist Damian Cain of Britain shows off his Luke Skywalker tattoo. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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In tattoo alley, Vinny Romanelli of New York City gives Angela Byrd of Modesto an angelic R2D2 tattoo. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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In tattoo alley, David James of Arcadia shows off his Darth Nihilus work-in-progress tattoo. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Malcolm McNeil of Ventura takes part in the X-Wing Experience Star Wars Battlefront. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Robert Gomes of Walnut, Calif., is Darth Tannos in the Millennium Falcon scene. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Eric Cajiuat, of Fullerton, is Jedi Elvis in the Millennium Falcon scene. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Chandra Chang of Los Angeles poses as R2D2 Hello Kitty -- or R2Kitty -- in front of "The 20th Century Space Opera" oil on canvas by Robert Xavier Burden. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A fan takes photos of some of the extensive collection of Star Wars memorabilia in the Rancho Obi-Wan Star Wars collection booth. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Jennifer Hobart, of Fullerton, creates her own Star Wars character with special contact lenses. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans dress in character and recreate the Mos Eisley Cantina from "Star Wars." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans dress in character and recreate the Mos Eisley Cantina from "Star Wars." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans dress in character and recreate the Mos Eisley Cantina from "Star Wars." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Fans dress in character and recreate the Mos Eisley Cantina from "Star Wars." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Calvin Heins, 12, of Los Angeles, wears a Jawa costume in front of a replica of the Mos Eisley Cantina from "Star Wars." (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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A young girl readies her lightsaber as she walks though the shadows at the Star Wars Celebration at the Anaheim Convention Center. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Members of the 1st Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment of the 501st Legion march in formation through the crowd during Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Members of the 1st Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment of the 501st Legion march in formation through the crowd during Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Members of the 1st Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment of the 501st Legion march in formation through the crowd during Star Wars Celebration. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“It is called ‘Star Wars,’ ” Edwards told the crowd.

Though shooting has not yet begun, Edwards showed a brief teaser for the film, which fans gave a standing ovation.

In the teaser, the voice of Obi Wan Kenobi is heard as the camera pans over a jungle planet.

“For more than a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic,” Kenobi says. “Before the dark times. Before the Empire.” The camera then pans up to reveal the Death Star looming above the planet’s surface, as the overlapping voices of soldiers shouting out battle commands is heard.

Director Josh Trank (the upcoming “Fantastic Four” reboot), who will direct the next of the standalone films, had been announced as a guest at the panel but did not attend due to illness, the panel’s moderator explained — an absence likely to set off a round of chatter among more obsessive “Star Wars” watchers.

The notion of expanding the “Star Wars” franchise to include what Lucasfilm is calling “anthology films” initially came from series creator George Lucas, Kennedy explained.

"Star Wars: Rogue One" will detail  a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star, above. (Lucasfilm)

“Star Wars: Rogue One” will detail a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star, shown under construction. (Lucasfilm)

“There’s so much happening in the world of franchises and sequels — really in the last 10 or 15 years that’s dominated what’s come out of the movie industry,” she said. “George was really interested in exploring all the stories that might exist within the Star Wars universe.”

That said, when visual effects supervisor John Knoll, chief creative officer at Industrial Light and Magic, first pitched the idea for “Rogue One,” Kennedy was hesitant. “My first thought was, ‘Oh, my God, I’m opening the floodgates if I say yes,’ ” she said.

But Kennedy quickly came around to the idea that, even in an expanded universe, “Star Wars” films could still remain just as special. ” ‘Star Wars’ stories are not a dime a dozen,” she said. “This is really hard to do and really hard to get right.”

Though Edwards was just a toddler when the first “Star Wars” came out in 1977, he proved his fan cred by showing photos of himself celebrating his 30th birthday at one of the locations in Tunisia where “Star Wars” was filmed (the home of Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, to be exact).

He recounted first getting the pitch for “Rogue One” while still working on “Godzilla,” when he was feeling burned out and drained from the experience of making a giant, effects-heavy tent pole movie.

“I was honestly hoping I hated it because I needed a break,” he said. “I was like, ‘Please be rubbish.’ … But I couldn’t sit in a cinema and know someone else had made this film. If you believe in the Force, it was like everything was destined for this moment.”

— Josh Rottenberg  |@LATHeroComplex

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Comments


2 Responses to Star Wars Celebration: Gareth Edwards reveals ‘Rogue One’ plot details

  1. Scott says:

    Oh, so close. The Wookiee accompanying the Mission Vao cosplayer is her companion Zaalbar, who wears the same kinds of straps.

  2. John says:

    With regard to the photo slideshow, the Wookiee in the first two pictures is Zaalbar, who is a close friend of Mission, and not Chewbacca. Also, it is Darth Revan, not Reuan.

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