At the end of the year, the output of the Rogue One, the first spin-off of the Star Wars saga, a year after The Awakening of the force, is obviously an event. A big machine that generally don’t leave a lot of freedom to his director, be obliged to comply with precise specifications. To Rogue One, this is Gareth Edwards has been chosen. Noticed with her first film with a small budget, the very sensitive Monsters (2010), he then found himself immersed in Hollywood with Godzilla (2014). Present in Paris for the promotion of the film (which will be released on French soil two days before the United States), Gareth Edwards has responded to questions from several media outlets on the web. Here is an account of what has been said.
Criticism of Star Wars VII : The Awakening of the force
You have shot your first film (Monsters, 2010) with up to five people, and here you are with a huge production. What is this changing in your work ?
This is pretty much the same thing in a certain way. On a big production like the Rogue One , or Godzilla, the director is very protected. It is not directly in interaction with the thousands of people who work on the film. So, I talked only with the actors, the director of photography and assistant director. This allows you to find an atmosphere, let’s say almost intimate.
You have especially seen a change in terms of budget.
Yes, I started with a film having a very small budget before heading out to Hollywood for Godzilla. On smaller films, have you often wonder how you have done so much, with so little means. But in the same way I think we should ask how we manage to do good things with AS many ways. Because a big budget does not take that easy but a lot of pressure. Nevertheless, I tried to combine the benefits that can bring the two, namely the freedom of expression to different levels.
Precisely what does this “freedom” on a film so controlled ?
In fact I had a book of rules with the director of photography that would allow us to have more freedom. For example, we decided to not have a mark on the ground for actors. We also made decorations to 360°, with screens that were showing the images recorded, to allow everyone to participate at the same time to the creation of the film. It is therefore on of the details we have been able to work as we wanted to provide the spectacle and emotion, even during the battle scenes.
How do you manage a mythology as rich as that of Star Wars, all the while putting his or her personality ?
In fact, I’ve tried to eliminate all the elements of a science-fiction scenario to treat the story as a historical movie. This is to be found mainly with the black Star which is presented as a nuclear weapon. I am then reminded of my years as a documentary maker at the BBC. I had done a documentary on the inventor of the atomic bomb, and it was expressed to me his regret of having invented it. This testimony, therefore, has been to me the source of the father’s character of Jyn, played by Mads Mikkelson.
So it is again question of a link parent / child.
Yes, to sum up, the rebellion by in search of the daughter of Galen Erso, which is at the origin of the construction of the black Star. He hoped that she could find her father to be able to destroy this weapon. In Star Wars it is often a matter of the relationship between a parent and his child, in the form of rebellion, redemption, betrayal… It is showing the spine that has built our film which we already knew the end (as discussed in episode IV). It has, therefore, taken the issue of the film upside down, from his purpose and tried to go back to the way things were.
How did your work with the director of photography Greig Fraser, who worked on Zero Dark Thirty ?
Greig has a feeling very organic in her work and a sense of composition is extraordinary. When I started working on Rogue One, I said to the people with whom I would collaborate that I didn’t want the film to have a hollywood-style cold. I really wanted something alive, the realism, almost a semblance of documentary, or at least a sense of truth. Greig told me exactly the same thing. And it has managed to combine an objective anamorphic 70mm which had been used on Ben-Hur, in the amount on a digital camera today. It is this that has allowed us to give the film a look of the 1970’s with this peculiar grain. I think all the visual beauty of the film comes from the collaboration with Greig.
You have been able to introduce new elements to the mythology of Star Wars, as the Deathtroopers.
Yes, I wanted the Stormtroopers really intimidating. But I found their look original not scary enough. I needed something more imposing. When we started to change this, it was explained to me that, by putting armor on someone, inevitably it would seem more round. So we have designed the Deathtroopers for actors great, ready to two meters, and thin enough, to have a silhouette different. Today I already see the Deathtroopers in the stores and I will see during my entire life. Moreover, if in fifteen years I see a child in the street with a t-shirt of Deathtroopers, then I could say that it was successful. (laugh)
The movie features a large number of characters, interpreted by excellent actors. How have you managed to make them all co-exist in the film ?
First of all, I wanted to make a film of characters. There is a lot to present in the film and they are all different, with a purpose of its own. Each time it was felt that a character was not strong enough and appeared too far back, they decided to rework it to find a balance between all the protagonists. But first I started with the character of Jin. From there it was felt that there needed to be a character by which we could bring the belief in the force, since there are no Jedi. It is then reassembled to one of the influences George Lucas, The hidden Fortress of Kurosawa. It was this film that inspired C3PO and R2D2. This inspiration has written two characters who embody the belief and the distrust in the force. Also we wanted to have a protagonist propelled almost in spite of himself in this adventure. We then thought of the character of the journalist played by Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.
How have you managed the craze inevitable around a Star Wars film ?
Already a movie like the Rogue One is still extremely secret. I could not tell, at the end of the day, what I had done with my friends or on facebook. It is therefore constantly in a bubble, locked away without any real contact with the outside world. But to know that finally we will be able to demonstrate it, is really something crazy. I don’t think I could in the future make another film with such a dichotomy.
Remarks collected by Pierre Siclier