Most moviegoers know that Mads Mikkelsen can knock a villain role out of the park. Whether he’s torturing James Bond as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, bringing famed serial killer Hannibal back to life, or plotting to ruin Marvel’s Doctor Strange, the actor has carved out an antagonistic niche for himself throughout his career. This is why his performance in the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story seems like a refreshing change-of-pace. In the spinoff film, Mikkelsen portrays Galen Erso (father of Felicity Jones’s Jyn), a scientist who is forced by the Empire to help complete the Death Star project.
Rogue One gives Mikkelsen a chance to play a sympathetic character, as the earliest rumors about the movie suggested that Galen felt tremendous guilt over what he had done. Official marketing materials indicate that it was the elder Erso who reached out to the Rebel Alliance to warn them about the super weapon so they could plan the daring mission to steal the plans, and it looks like his relationship with Jyn will be the emotional center of the movie. In a new interview, Mikkelsen provided further insight on Galen’s mentality.
Speaking with IGN, the actor explained the rough spot that Galen is in as he works on the Death Star, revealing that he has trouble dealing with the situation:
“He’s not in a super nice position. So, I mean, leaving is a big word. I mean he didn’t really have a choice. But, I think he’s the most guilty man in the world and I think that’s been very hard to cope with. But, if there was a way out of there, he would have taken it.”
In his response, Mikkelsen is most likely referring to the Star Wars novel Catalyst, which is a prequel to Rogue One. The book details the dynamic between Galen and Director Orson Krennic, revealing that the two are old friends. According to the Catalyst synopsis, Krennic rescued Galen, Jyn, and Jyn’s mother Lyra from Separatist kidnappers during the Clone Wars, and as repayment for the debt, offers Galen an opportunity to continue his scientific research with all of the Empire’s resources as his disposal. The Ersos are apparently caught off-guard when they discover their work is being used to power the Death Star, which of course has several nefarious purposes. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why Galen “didn’t really have a choice;” if he refused to aid the Empire, his family may have met their end.
The third Rogue One trailer alludes to this by showing Galen tell Jyn that whatever he does, it’s to protect her. Even though the elder Erso doesn’t agree with what the Empire is doing, he understands that aiding in the Death Star’s construction is a necessary evil to keep his family safe. It’s a fascinating dilemma for someone to be in, and should provide Mikkelsen with a meaty, complex role that has multiple layers. Even though Galen has had a limited presence in the promotional materials, he’s being set up as a highly important part of Rogue One and will most likely have a tremendous impact on the story. Lucasfilm has done a phenomenal job casting their new Star Wars movies, and a talent like Mikkelsen should be a treat to watch.