NL Meets the Cast of Rogue One

To celebrate the release of the latest Star Wars movie, we popped down to an exclusive event at the Tate Modern where we spoke to the cast about film locations, Beyoncé as inspiration and what makes this movie so special.

Felicity Jones

Your character seems like one tough cookie, what was it like to play her?
“Well with the physical side of her character, I just threw myself into it. Jyn is someone who brought herself up. She’s not hugely rich, and she doesn’t have a lot of privilege – she’s been on her own, so we wanted her fighting to be quite scrappy. There was a lot of Thai boxing and Kung Fu involved with the idea that she had just copied people along the way.”

Rogue One is the first and last movie of its kind – does that mean that your character’s journey is going to come to an end? 
“You never know, it depends on how everyone feels about the film. Our sequel is really A New Hope, so it’s already been done!”

We heard you mention Beyoncé as an inspiration for your role…
“Yes definitely. In terms of her being a leader, she’s someone who leads through brains. She’s not a diva and you can see that she’s just good at what she does, so she’s definitely an inspiration.”

What would you say makes Rogue One extra special to fans of the originals?
“We were like students of the early Star Wars movies, and we kept watching them and asking ourselves what is it that makes them so good? We wanted to do everything they had done. I think what’s important is that it’s funny, there’s humour, reverence… It’s also rooted in quite a serious story. You have the Empire, this force of evil vs the Rebels– ordinary people fighting for their freedom. So it’s about trying to capture all of that.”

Do you have any of the Jyn action figures?
“I’m starting to collect them! As we’ve been touring, I keep getting different sizes, but I can’t get over the one I have that comes up to my knee!  Very  strange.”

Does that mean your family will be getting Star Wars-themed Christmas  presents? 
“They’re all getting Star Wars memorabilia!”

Riz Ahmed

What was it like for your first day on set, knowing you were going to be a part of something as huge as Star Wars?
“My first day on set was so surreal. You turn up and there are hundreds of Storm Troopers around, nothing prepares you for that. You kind of just turn into a big kid and in a way the whole experience was about embracing that feeling and riding the wave.”

How important was it that there was a female lead in Rogue One?
“It’s not about it being important, it’s about it being cool and fresh really. I don’t think people tell stories based on what they should do, they tell stories  based on what people want. It’s 2016 so it makes sense”

Do you think that element is what made it special in comparison to the originals?
“There are lots of things that have made things special. Kathy Kennedy [Producer]’s care and attention  as well as Lucasfilm in preserving the Star Wars heritage, but also  empowering a new generation of directors to bring their own thing to the table makes for a great balance between being bold and being respectful. That’s a template that worked really well for The Force Awakens, and they’ve taken it even further with this one, pushing the envelope and making something pretty.”

Mads Mikkelson

Tell us a bit about your character.
“He’s more of a scientist, he’s occupied with finding the truth about whatever he’s dealing with and throughout that journey- just like a lot of scientists he loses sight of everything around him and doesn’t realise what this can lead to. He’s too curious to stop.”

What was it like being on location? 
“It was almost all real! They  built the most amazing sets, and we also had a lot of location work in Iceland and the Maldives. It’s impossible not to have a fan hat on.”

Other than this film, which is your favourite Star Wars movie?
“It’s hard, but I would have to say A New Hope. It was the first one we saw and it completely changed our views on what cinema can do.”

What makes this movie so special?
“They’re all special movies, and that’s a fine balance. You have to create the Star Wars universe and be truthful to that but also at the same time make your own film. What differs with this film is that it’s more gritty than anything we’ve ever seen, it’s more character-driven, and we’re spending way more time in the midst of the action.” 

It seems as if a lot of characters have their own individual reasons to rebel…
“Yes there are a few ones left unexplained but the ones we follow we touch bases on what their story is. I mean, we have two hours for this don’t we! It makes us all care for the characters”

Gareth Edwards [Director]

We’ve heard you talk about how much you loved Star Wars as a child, if you had known you’d be in this position, would you have prepped yourself?
“If I’d have known I would be here, I would have planned it, storyboarded it and then I would have realised on day one that I’d have wasted 35 years of my life! The best art is when it evolves and you mould it and shape it- it’s not a dictatorship. There are two ways of making a film, there’s the imperial method where you go ‘it’s going to be this, this and this and I’m not listening to anyone’ – that’s how Darth Vader would make a film. But the Rebels would experiment and take risks. We were a lot more organic with it and that’s how I like to make films.”

You directed Godzilla too, how does a big blockbuster differ to your independent movies?
“I did a really low budget movie first, and there are a lot of benefits to that. You have a lot of freedom and I think it’s harder to make a good film with lots of money because there’s so much pressure. So going from the independent movie to a blockbuster like Godzilla meant that I learnt a bit from both. 

There seems to be a great balance between character focus and action in the movie; catering to all…
“When the character focus is combined with the classic Star Wars’ epic, cinematic consider camera work, really stable and beautiful  I think it’s an exciting contrast. The movie is constantly changing gears between styles.”

Did you have any particular influences that inspired you? 
“It was just all about trying not to dictate what the shots would be and letting the behaviour of the actors be more freestyle. So having that freedom in the battle scenes, but also find the beautiful shots.”

What was it like being on-location?
“I find it easier than the studios. What you have as a backdrop is right in front of you so you can change it up and you know at the end of the day you can lean on the computers to help make things a little better. We had this rule where everything within 30 metres of the camera was real, what we tried to do was film on-location, so that even though mountains got deleted, they were still running through a desert and reacting to that.”

That’s bound to enhance the gritty element of the movie
“Yes, it’s a better starting point that doing everything with a computer. As an adult looking back on Star wars, it felt so real as a kid. We wanted to make Star Wars as you remember it, not as it literally  was. Realism was one of the most often-used words as we were filming”

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