After what seems like an eternity in fan-years, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has finally opened in theaters with the biggest opening day of all time, on its way to set a new opening weekend box-office record. None of this is particularly surprising, given the new generation of filmmakers now in creative control of the iconic franchise, but it helps that the movie is actually really good. Now that The Force Awakens is a certified commercial and critical hit, stretching the franchise off into the horizon forever no longer seems like a hypothetical gamble.
Rather than three years in between films, fans will revisit the Star Wars universe again next year, albeit in a very different way. 2016's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), is as veiled in secrecy as any other part of the franchise but we know that it will feature a lot of practical sets and effects, Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen as a good guy and probably the classic stormtroopers and Darth Vader himself.
Rogue One has been described as both a heist film and a war film, and as a franchise entry which does not focus on the Jedi or the Force, it seems that the filmmakers are reaching for a different overall tone than the main narrative entries. Now, a new report from Forces.tv (via Cinema Blend) reveals that director Edwards seems to be aiming for a certain level of authenticity by casting roughly 40 members of the British military as Rebel background extras on the set in Cardington in Bedfordshire, England.
The extras are comprised of members of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, and part of an Army Air Corps Apache helicopter unit - all of them unable to talk about the specifics of what was shot on the set When told that military personnel were wanted as extras on Star Wars, the squad were highly skeptical. According to one anonymous source:
“When our Officer Commanding asked us if we wanted to be an extra in the next film during a morning brief, nobody put their hands up. We all thought it must be a wind-up. It took him most of the day to convince us that he really did know someone who was looking for a body of men to mill around in the background and do what they were told.”
The extras were essentially cast as themselves: pilots, mechanics and ground crew included to give the background the lived-in sci-fi feel that the original trilogy is famous for achieving - and that The Force Awakens is said to have continued. Everyone involved naturally had to sign non-disclosure agreements and have their phones and cameras placed under lock and key.
The extras were also cautioned not to approach the stars on set, and were kept separate from other members of the cast and crew as well. Apparently they found this more funny than annoying, and it reminded them of their usual military routine. According to the source: “That sort of thing is normal for us, it’s just like the officers’ mess versus the other cookhouses.”
With few (if any) Force-using characters in Rogue One, the emphasis will be on the nuts-and-bolts operations of the Rebel militia, and selling the minutiae of the Alliance will be crucial to making that approach believable. The Force may have awakened, but next year fans will be thrust back in time to when the Dark Side ruled the galaxy. Rogue One will have to work in order to firmly established this two-pronged future approach to the franchise.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is currently in theaters. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.