Without revealing any spoilers, one of the major takeaways we had from watching 30 minutes of footage from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a few weeks back was just how much context and character development author James Luceno’s “Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel” adds to the film. The book is primarily focused on the relationship between Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) over many years of time from when they went to school together up until not long before the prologue of the Rogue One movie.
It’s this relationship and how Krennic used Galen’s knowledge and expertise to help with his pet project (the Death Star) over years of time that directly impacted the rough upbringing of Rogue One protagonist Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). It’s also how she gets pulled into the Rebel Alliance.
As the most “real” Star Wars movie to date where much more of the morally grey areas of the Rebel-Empire conflict is explored, we fortunately had the opportunity to sit down with Mendelsohn and Mikkelsen to talk about their connections and roles in the movie – and how this movie is the most “modern” Star Wars movie yet.
When we meet [Director Orson] Krennic and Galen [Erso] in the film, it’s clear they have a lot of shared history – how much of that background story was given to you guys to prep for the role?
Mads Mikkelsen: I would say most of it. I spent a fair amount of time figuring out what the storyline was and how they started out together on something that would make the world a much better place and how that kinda took a different path.
And for your character of Galen, having to work for the Empire for a very long time, does he ever start to feel that for Krennic or the Empire, maybe not everything they do is a 100% evil, or is he determined that they’re wrong and he wants to stop?
Mads Mikkelsen: I don’t want to say that really it’s a hundred percent evil, but I think that he sees a different light, which is this can be used for something that not the beginning idea. And in the hands of the wrong people, obviously, it will be disastrous. But I don’t believe that’s its pure evil but I believe they’re not aware of what they’re having in their hands.
Ben, for Krennic, does he ever question the ideas of what the Empire or the Death Star represents, or is he just concerned about getting up the ranks?
Ben Mendelsohn: Yeah, I think Krennic is a fairly bought and paid up member of the Empire and very much “We’ll get this done and then I’m moving on to the next rank – I might even skip a couple along the way.”
With that in mind, what’s Krennic’s working relationship with characters like Tarkin and Darth Vader?
Ben Mendelsohn: Well, the Imperial structure looks like it’s very, very clean but it’s a corporate ladder, if you like, where you can really jump several, several rungs by just *mmmMMMM* by [stabbing] someone else. There is a constant power struggle and you see that in the Star Wars films. It’s a very tight power struggle that’s going on. Sort of like an ancient Rome or something like that. Yes, you’ve got an Emperor but you’ve got a lot of people that can jockey for position underneath that.
For both of you: The original Star Wars movies… it’s very black and white, good versus evil – this film, does it start to question that and explore a morally grey area?
Ben Mendelsohn: I think so. I think the shades of grey between black and white are looked at. Certainly there are more characters that have conflicts but we start to get into that to in the last Star Wars film. I think that’s very much the temper of the times as well.
Mads Mikkelsen: Yeah, I was just about to say that. I don’t necessarily think it’s a…if you look at film forty years ago that would be the case – Luke wore black and white – and this is just a reflection of how we make films today, to a degree. I think that what is different about this film, maybe it’s focusing a little more the characters, the story itself as opposed to the CGI – we do have CGI – but I think the focus is in a little different place this time.
Is that what you would say is what makes Rogue One different that other Star Wars stories?
Ben Mendelsohn: Yeah, but it’s still a Star Wars story. It’s very important to emphasize that. Everyone who makes a Star Wars film wants to make it their own but they also have to be true to the concept, right? That’s a fine balance and I think you nailed that Gareth.
Last question: Now that your guys are embedded in this very large franchise that’s going to be ongoing, what are you personally most excited to see next or the future of Star Wars?
Mads Mikkelsen: Well, it’s interesting, we some of the films that are going in order and then you have some of the standalone films – I enjoy watching both of those journeys. I’d just love to see the next Star Wars films when they come out because I’m very into the whole universe and the stories. So they’re always rewarding.
Thanks guys. Thank you for your time. Cheers!
From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, with Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel are producing, with John Knoll and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The story is by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and the screenplay is by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.