Last year's record-breaking holiday blockbuster, Episode VII - The Force Awakens brought the Star Wars saga back to the big screen and relaunched the universe that came from a galaxy far, far away, and it did so with a female lead who learns she has Force powers. This character, known only as Rey (Daisy Ridley), is readily thought of as the modern day Luke Skywalker for the next generation of fans.
With that in mind we can better compare the female lead of the first live-action anthology spinoff, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, to Han Solo. No force powers or lightsabers, just bravery, wit, and a natural born rebel. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) was raised as a fighter and it's up to her and her team to pave the way for the Rebel Alliance to stop the Galactic Empire from spreading terror across the galaxy with their Death Star superweapon.
During the Rogue One press junket in San Francisco last week we had the chance to watch early footage of the film and sit down with Felicity Jones to talk about her heroic character and the development of the unique film. We talk comparisons between Jyn and Luke Skywalker, Jyn's tough upbringing and the Star Wars franchise as a whole and its future.
What was Jyn's life before being arrested, before joining the Rebellion? What was her upbringing as a teenager like?
Felicity Jones: That's interesting. I spend a lot of time thinking about that. Can you fill in the gaps? [laughs] Well, she's definitely been alone for a lot of it. She's a bit of a child delinquent. She has grown up without her parents. She's had to survive. She's had to survive on her own a lot of the time. She has a mentor is Saw Gerrera, who you would've see in the opening of the film. He's someone who's very much been her guidance. Her spiritual and emotional guidance. But even within that, she's had to learn about life as she goes along. She's had to really be quite defensive, in a way. I think there's been a lot of struggle.
With that in mind, and knowing that she seems like a natural rebel fighter, in a way she's also trying to redeem her father in this story. That to me draws comparisons to Luke Skywalker obviously. How would you compare Jyn to Luke?
Felicity Jones: That was such a huge reference, Empire Strikes Back, particularly that scene where he's hanging on - it makes me cry every time - at the end of the film. But that's very emotional, it's rooted in the parent/child dynamic. Particularly in Rogue One, it's a father/daughter relationship which we haven't seen a lot of in cinema. But absolutely, it's an adventure, a quest to understand who you are or to understand that relationship with your parents.
From when Gareth first pitched to you the character of Jyn and the whole story way back when, how much has the character's arc or development changed during the whole process? Because it was a very lengthy production with additional reshoots, etc.
Felicity Jones: We very much stayed true to the core story and Jyn actually remained the same from the very beginning. Jyn's very perceptive. She kind of has an animal awareness. She's quite instinctive. She acts on her feelings. She knows when she's meeting the team and the other rebels, she’s kind of instinctively, "I get you. I like you and I get you and you can be on the team." So she actually stayed pretty consistent throughout everything.
What would you say makes Rogue One different or special from other Star Wars stories?
Felicity Jones: I think it's just going to be a such an adventure! It's a film on a huge scale but it's also a film rooted in a genuine simple story.
Now that you're in this massive franchise that could go on forever, is there you’re personally excited to see come next in future Star Wars movies or tales?
Felicity Jones: I'm actually really looking forward to all of them. I feel like there's such braveness in what they're doing, that they're allowing each of these spinoff films to be completely different and to have its own identity and to trust the vision of a filmmaker. I think there's something quite '70s about it.
One more question from a reader of the site: They want to know, "If you could pick any classic character to share a scene with, who would you pick?" If there were another Star Wars movie and you could share a scene with anyone...
Felicity Jones: I was going to say Scarlett O'Hara *laughs* - Maybe she could've been in Star Wars? That would've been cool. The forties, the nineteen forties Star Wars. I think, actually, Princess Leia. Carrie did such a, quite politically, quite difficult times to be making that film in terms of gender politics. I think she actually brought such kinda heft to Princess Leia.
Perfect. Thank you for your time. Cheers!
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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.
- Star Wars: Rogue One / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) release date: Dec 16, 2016