As the Hollywood holiday movie season gears up for action, it’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that likely holds the title for most anticipated upcoming release. The first standalone Star Wars film in the iconic franchise’s history has faced its share of obstacles since it was first announced – including reshoots that kicked off a flurry of concern, as well as Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel) having to pass on the project.
But despite these apparent setbacks, Rogue One has continued on its course undeterred. After completing reshoots this past summer – reshoots which were, according to director Gareth Edwards, “always part of the plan” – Disney set its sights on Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino (Doctor Strange, Jurassic World) to score the sci-fi epic. While Giacchino’s skills are undisputed, he was presented with a mere four and a half weeks to complete his orchestration.
In a new interview with EW, Giacchino speaks about the challenges of taking on such a beloved franchise with so little time, but also goes into just enough detail about the new score without giving away too much. He maintains that the Rogue One soundtrack borrows from the traditions that John Williams and George Lucas gave fans with A New Hope, while assuring us all that 95 percent of his Rogue One soundtrack is original, but that there are “little moments” of Williams’ classic score to “accent” the new material. Elaborating on the film’s plot as being in many ways like a “really great World War II movie”, Giacchino explained what he liked about the film and how that influenced his compositions:
What I liked about this movie is it didn’t feel false to me. It felt real, and I was able to just draw upon those emotions, whether it be sadness, loneliness… All of those things wrap into what we’re doing within the score. That was important to both Gareth [Edwards and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy] as well.
As far as having a favorite theme out of the entire composition, Giacchino confesses that it’s the theme for Felicity Jones’ character, Jyn:
I really enjoyed working with Jyn’s theme, and tying that into the movie, and having it slowly develop. And it’s sort of a very emotional sweeping thing, which was really nice to do. Now, I feel like there is this interesting sort of thing going on in film scoring where it’s all about restraint. And at times I totally agree with that, but at other times it’s just nice to unleash everything and just let 110 players go for it.
The fact that Giacchino had only four and a half weeks to come up with the film’s soundtrack is an amazing feat in itself. All too often the original score of a film is overlooked, but in the case of something as colossal as the Star Wars franchise, the score is instantly recognizable and vital to the story itself. Giacchino maintains that he was not told to do what was done before in terms of music, but at the same time he understood that a balance needed to be struck between what came before – particularly in terms of what the Star Wars universe is – and his own personal touches as a composer to that universe.
At this point, Rogue One is expected to pull in an impressive holiday season box office haul. Should it deliver in the many ways in which fans everywhere are hoping it will, little touches that make the film its own standalone treasure will be all the more noticeable. If that ends up being the case, then Michael Giacchino’s score might one day find itself as instantly recognizable and beloved as the Star Wars anthems of the great John Williams.