Since the first moment we saw his white cape flow, Orson Krennic has been at the heart of Rogue One speculation. While many speculated that he was a younger version of Wilhuff Tarkin, this unknown and incredibly ambitious Imperialist proved to be quite different than the Death Star executives in A New Hope.
Orson Krennic is everything you would want in a new villain. While menacing, unpredictable, and twisted like so many others in the Empire leadership, Krennic does things differently. He’s not a team player; he’s a one-man army with aspirations he could scarcely define without grimacing or yelling. Darth Vader calls him out on it, and if it weren’t for his Force-driven death grip, you’d think the mouth-breather was doling out thoughtful advice to a troubled friend.
Despite his prominent presence in Rogue One, there’s still much to discover about Director Krennic that might not have made it into the movie’s final cut. Here is Everything You Didn’t Know About Orson Krennic:
15. He Refuses to be Anything Other Than A “Rear Admiral”
Krennic knows what he wants. Though ignited by the potential of the Death Star, he’s also driven to achieve the high military ranking of Rear Admiral. In James Lucerno’s Rogue One prequel book, Catalyst, it’s clear that Krennic has long dreamt of an illustrious career. Despite his aspirations, Krennic found the Death Star project repeatedly crippled by delays, causing his own leadership abilities to come into question. Following the explosion of the research facility on Malpaz, Krennic saw his well-earned reputation begin to crack. While attempting to frame the tragic loss of life as a deliberate rebel attack, Krennic asked Mas Amedda for a promotion to convince others that the Death Star was on schedule.
Though Mas Amedda relented, he only raised Krennic’s rank to Commander, a move that made Orson apoplectic. He demanded that he receive the Rear Admiral designation, but his superior still refused. Later, when Mas Amedda sought to demote the Commander (due to continued Death Star delays), Krennic objected yet again. His impossibly high standards for himself have left him perpetually dissatisfied.
14. Ben Mendelsohn Blended Accents For the Role
Those familiar with Ben Mendlsohn’s work know the depth of his performances. He’s an unpredictable and instinctive actor who makes a habit out of stealing scenes. Though he has long been a force in the world of Australian cinema, he first made waves stateside with Derek Cianfrance’s underrated The Place Beyond the Pines. After popping up in The Dark Knight Rises, and dominating Netflix’s searing series, Bloodline, Mendelsohn then joined the galaxy far, far away. Though his daily speech carries a thick and expressive Aussie accent, he was careful to find the right balance for Orson Krennic.
Mendelsohn didn’t want his own Australian sound to distract audiences, so he blended it with a more refined and British RP sound. Coming from Mendelsohn, that upper-crust tone still took on an appeal of its own, fully eccentric and inimitable in its own way. As an actor with a diverse resume and range of roles, he’s been diligent about perfecting his accents across the board: “I believe that having to work on it has made me better at what I do. Having to spend a lot of time making sure I’m not taking people out of Bloodline or film stuff, you need to put the work in.” His dedication certainly paid off.
13. He’s Blue Collar (Unlike Most Imperial Officers)
Mendelsohn didn’t rely exclusively on his accent to uncover the ethos behind Orson Krennic. Given the character’s blue-collar background, Krennic bears little resemblance to the well-heeled and upper-class lineage of most Imperial Officers. As the actor himself revealed, “Krennic doesn’t come from officer material, so I thought maybe I could use a version of my own accent.” Director Gareth Edwards spearheaded the idea that Krennic toiled from the ground up, thus explaining his ravenous ambition to reach the top of the proverbial ladder.
“It feels like if the Empire ever has a job vacancy, they go to the Royal Shakespeare Company to headhunt people,” Edwards said. Instead, Krennic is a working-class man who clawed his way to prominence “through sheer force of personality and ideas.” He has no fallback plan, no wealthy family upon which to rely, and only his reputation and wits to guarantee his future. Establishing Krennic’s character helped expand the Star Wars mythology in colorful ways, enhancing the range of characters and their socioeconomic backgrounds throughout the galaxy.
12. He Has Historical Parallels
In many ways, the rivalry between Galen Erso and Orson Krennic is based on the internal drama of the Manhattan project. Krennic in particular bears resemblance to the fiercely ambitious Leslie Groves, who spearheaded the development of the atomic bomb alongside Robert Oppenheim, a potential Galen Erso analogue. Whether in New Mexico or outer space, jealousy and competition are patently human phenomena, and Rogue One uses Galen and Orson to portray both sides of the same coin.
According to Pablo Hidalgo himself, the head of Lucasfilm Story Group, “It’s no accident that we’ve taken a look at the Manhattan project and what was happening at Los Alamos laboratories during the tail end of World War II.” That sense of urgency and ambition that pervaded the creation of nuclear arsenals fills the unspoken space between Galen and Orson. Hidalgo thoughtfully crafted that interpersonal drama into George Lucas’ sandbox, finding that the ability to “look at that kind of thing through history and then apply the Star Wars filter to it is really fascinating.” Yet again, science fiction proves to be a perfect vehicle for human reflection.
11. He Has Always Led the Death Star Project
In the years leading up to Rogue One, Krennic developed a paranoia. The Death Star represents his past, present and future in the Empire. He has been there almost every step of the way, guiding the project from inception to completion. If it succeeds, and it meets the demands of the Emperor, he becomes an indispensable asset to the Imperial cause. If the Death Star fails in any way, however, he will likely lose far more than his reputation and claim over the planet killer. That’s why he resorts to desperate measures when word leaks of Galen Erso’s fatal design flaw in its construction. To Krennic, the Death Star isn’t just a weapon. It’s his ticket to greatness.
When we meet him in Rogue One, Krennic is like a kid on Christmas morning. He has waited nearly 20 years for the Death Star to fire its first shot, and finally, the time has come. When he looks on at its planetary destruction and marvels at its beauty, he leaves the stiff upper lip to Tarkin and shows more emotion than any other Imperial officer on the job.
10. He Hates Lyra Erso
If his introductory scene was any indication, Orson Krennic has long despised Lyra Erso. Despite Galen’s (admittedly unconvincing) lies about the absence of his family, the baddie swiftly ordered the Death Troopers to hunt down his old friend’s wife and daughter, Jyn. When Lyra moved through the dewy grass with blaster in tow, Krennic wasn’t all that frightened. He relished her fear, and perhaps even anticipated her sudden arrival.
According to Star Wars: Catalyst, Lyra had long recognized the deceit in Krennic’s ways after he convinced her husband to join the Death Star project. While assuring Galen the mission was purely altruistic, Krennic mined his incredible skills to hasten the Death Star’s completion. When Lyra caught on to the director’s lies, however, she pulled her husband off the project and effectively stalled the Death Star’s production for years. Furthermore, Lyra’s retribution gave the Rebellion a cushion to grow their ranks and expand their resources. It’s little wonder, then, that Krennic hardly hesitated to execute Lyra shortly after their confrontation.
9. He’s A Hands-On Villain
When Darth Vader ripped through Rebel forces at the end of Rogue One, he embodied the fearless leader of the frontlines. In the world of Star Wars, however, that willingness to fight in the trenches is absent from most villains. Orson Krennic, with all of his maniacal ambition and desperation to “win,” presented a surprisingly hands-on foe. We never once saw him sitting in his ivory tower plotting, nor holding court far away from the battle.
Krennic brought the war directly to his enemies. From tracking down Galen Erso for a face-to-face, to later threatening him and then massacring his technicians, Krennic shows a willingness to put out the fires he himself has started. When Jyn and Cassian threaten to expose the weaknesses in the Death Star, he doesn’t send mercenaries on his behalf. No, he hurtles himself headlong into battle and gets himself killed as a result. Orson Krennic lives and dies by the sword.
8. He’s Former Classmate of Galen Erso
The heroes and villains of Star Wars are a hallmark quality of the series. Blood ties, histories, and family feuds enrich the struggle between light and dark in the galaxy. For Krennic and Galen, Rogue One starts well into their contentious dynamic, reaching its fatal conclusion at a fast clip. In Star Wars: Catalyst, however, we learn that the two men were childhood friends who both attended the Republic’s Futures Program for prodigious young minds.
While Krennic showed an early aptitude for the sciences, he always knew Galen had a rare gift that few could match. These early seeds of genius would not be lost on Krennic, who would later remember his friend’s expertise on harnessing the energy of kyber crystals. Rogue One shows a fleeting flashback of happiness between Krennic and Galen, sharing libations with great joy. Though their friendship began innocently enough, Krennic would slowly pervert their relationship into something far more malicious.
7. He Duped Galen Into Building the Death Star
From his early days to his end, Galen Erso was a pacifist. His main involvement in the sciences was purely to create renewable energy, not enable the “immeasurable power” of a planet-destroying weapon. Galen put his foot down regarding all manner of military work, even from shield research that might benefit bigger ships at war.
Krennic ascribed to no such peaceful philosophy, seeking first the fulfillment of his ambition. Still, Krennic knew the potential of his friend’s genius, so he needed to carefully mulct him into joining the Death Star project. Knowing Galen’s fealty to family, Krennic started by building a “life debt” that his friend would eventually have to pay. After Galen and his pregnant wife are taken captive by Separatists on the remote planet of Vallt, Krennic rescues the family from their imprisonment. Just like that, the seeds of the debt were planted.
Not long after, Krennic successfully recruits Galen to the Death Star project under the guise of harnessing power resources on developing worlds. Behind the scenes, all of the work Galen accomplished was being perverted for the super-laser, an act of betrayal that would soon be brought to his attention.
6. It Was Krennic’s Idea to Enslave the Geonosians
Krennic’s personality may be divisive, but it was the perfect fit for the traitorous and self-serving Poggle the Lesser, archduke of Geonosis. Having studied the nature of the Geonosians and their hive-minded culture, Krennic approached an imprisoned Poggle with a grand idea. Knowing the Geonosians craved labor projects and work, and not wanting them to discover that their leader was bound by the Republic, Krennic proposed that Poggle commit his people to the construction of the Death Star. The duplicitous leader agreed.
Krennic essentially relied on interplanetary slavery to see the completion of his beloved weapon. Basking in his victory, Krennic watched as Poggle decreed the hive’s next major project. Standing before them at the gladiatorial games, Poggle formally committed the Geonosians to the Death Star, an announcement to which they reacted with unrestrained joy. Little did they know what Krennic had in store for them, and the nature of the weapon they would build.
5. He’s a Major Rival of Grand Moff Tarkin
Grand Moff Tarkin didn’t rise to power easily. In the tactical marathon of climbing the Imperial ladder, Wilhuff Tarkin was simply the last man standing. While Rogue One deliciously depicts the enmity between the two men, Star Wars: Catalyst digs deeper into the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin. They loathe each other, and in the pages of James Lucerno’s prequel novel, the gun is loaded long before its firing in Rogue One.
Krennic lives for the Death Star. It’s his reason for being, and above all, he wants to take the credit for ushering it into reality. Tarkin presents a major threat to Krennic’s efforts, which is why he can hardly suppress his desire for recognition when he visits Lord Vader. True to form, Tarkin rebuffs Krennic’s explosive drive with a perpetually cool sneer. His cunning attempt to subvert Krennic has been in motion for years, and when the stars literally align in Rogue One, Tarkin is able to take his shot.
4. He Plunders Planets for Death Star Resources
Long before its super-laser was eliminating planets, the Death Star’s appetite for resources consumed countless worlds. Rogue One popularized the word, “kyber,” but in Catalyst, we learn that these all-powerful (and sentient) crystals were one of the most prized intergalactic commodities around. This wasn’t lost on Orson Krennic, who scoured scores of planets to harvest their resources for the construction of the Death Star. Though he specifically sought metals like Duleum and Dolovite, it is highly likely he also pursued kyber. Because the Empire was still in a fledgling state, however, he lacked the leverage to ravage planets without just cause.
Enter Has Obitt, Krennic’s go-to smuggler who frames innocent planets by secretly placing illegal, Separatist weapons in their command. This provides the Empire with a legal reason to ransack the planet, given their citizens have allegedly been trading on the black market. From there, Krennic oversees a routine strip-mining of the planet until every ounce of kyber and other valuables are plucked.
3. He Massacred Those Who Questioned the Death Star
In Rogue One, the quick bursts of violence surrounding Krennic and his Death Troopers are but a shadow of the atrocities he commits in Catalyst. Not to overstate its history, but the Death Star was a twenty-year odyssey for the budding Empire. When Krennic, Tarkin, and Co. finally got to test its power, they were licking their chops. They had reached the finish line, and the pipe dream of this planet-destroying weapon had finally become a reality.
Unfortunately, the dream is only meant for a select few to enjoy. Promptly after the Death Star’s first laser test (which was fired into the emptiness of a black hole), Krennic proceeded to execute the engineers who worked on the project. Like the Egyptian workers who built the tombs of pharaohs and were allegedly buried to protect its secrets, these poor souls were annihilated to keep Krennic’s pride and joy under wraps. Unlike the Egyptians, however, they didn’t die willingly.
2. Director Gareth Edwards Hand-Picked Mendelsohn for the Role
Auditions may be the bane of most actors, but the occasional director can also be their salvation. For Gareth Edwards, no one but Ben Mendelsohn was ever considered to play Orson Krennic. Prior to making a shortlist of actors for the role, Edwards allowed the fresh character of Krennic to form in his imagination.
When one of his producers asked about the role of Krennic, they both admitted to considering Mendelsohn. As Edwards describes it, “[the producer] goes, ‘I’ve got the guy.’ And he said…Ben Mendelsohn. And I was like, ‘I was about to say Ben Mendelsohn.’ It was really weird.” Shortly after, Edwards invited the actor to a secluded rooftop meeting, where he essentially offered him the role. After hearing of this potentially life-changing opportunity, Mendelsohn confessed, “I was a little concerned, but I was incredibly flattered. I started to get a little bit overwhelmed.” Who can blame him?
1. He Chokes On His Own Aspirations
Mendelsohn may have been anxious about stepping aboard the Death Star, but that sort of raw energy was a perfect fit to channel into his portrayal of Director Krennic. When the ambitious Imperialist visits Darth Vader on Mustafar, he lands in a fit of defensive rage. Tarkin has confronted him and the Emperor’s expectations have risen, yet the Death Star remains unfinished. When Krennic interrupts the Sith Lord’s time in the bacta tank, he comes ready to defend himself. Krennic wants someone to believe in him, to give him the time he needs and the credit he believes he’s due.
He utterly fails to conceal his fear before Darth Vader. Krennic runs his mouth in distasteful fashion, stepping on Tarkin’s name while exalting his own. The Sith Lord sees all, however, and knows that his primary duty is to please the Emperor. Krennic is but a pawn in his path, a tool used to make refine the bigger instrument known as the Death Star. After he pouts like a child for the retention of his command post, and then brashly assumes Vader will speak highly of him to the Emperor, Krennic receives a final warning: “be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director.”
What else should Star Wars fans know about Director Krennic? Where does he rank amongst the galaxy’s great villains? Let us know in the comments!
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now.
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