Nightline Spotlights The Groundbreaking CGI Used in ‘Rogue One’



Rumors swirled around the internet for almost a year before the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that the film would include a digital resurrection of Peter Cushing’s character Grand Moff Tarkin from original Star Wars. Given the film’s plot, the involvement of his character was essential to not only for Rogue One to make sense but also for it to seamlessly connect to A New Hope.

Last night, Nightline debuted a short special which spotlighted Chief Creative Officer and Senior Visual Effects Supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic and what the team went through in order to include not only Tarkin but also Princess Leia in the film. The special gives us a look at both Guy Henry and Ingvild Deila, the actor, and actress who were used on set to perform the motion capture for the characters. If you’ve seen the film, you know just how incredible of a job ILM did even if the resurrections fell into the uncanny valley for you. For me personally, I thought Tarkin looked absolutely incredible. Not only did I find his likeness to be impeccable, I was tremendously impressed by the performance that came through for Peter Cushing.

The special also includes a few glimpses at the incredible use of projection screens Gareth Edwards opted to use instead of green screens for the filming of pilots in cockpits for the climactic space battle on and over Scariff.


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Gareth Edwards on The Incredible CGI Accomplishment in ‘Rogue One’

Full spoilers ahead.



Die hard Star Wars fans had heard rumblings of a CGI version of Grand Moff Tarkin appearing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story for a while now. Considering Tarkin is in command of the Death Star during A New Hope, it made sense that his character would be around during the direct prequel to the original Star Wars. Without him, Rogue One could have felt neutered in the way Marvel and especially DC limit or completely restrict their television series from connecting with their respective cinematic universes.

Tarkin’s inclusion in the film presented a major risk for Lucasfilm. Not only would the Grand Moff appear, he would be featured as a key character in Rogue One. Gareth Edwards told IGN how nerve-wracking it was to take the risk of resurrecting Peter Cushing (who passed away in 1994) through CGI to play a major role in the first Star Wars spinoff:

“We were all very nervous about it and kind of, ‘Can we do this? Is it crazy? Because we can’t get it wrong, it has to be spot-on.”

And it was spot on. The risk has paid off in some major ways. Not only is it a groundbreaking accomplishment in computer graphics animation but it also serves to inform his character in the original Star Wars in some quite remarkable ways. John Knoll and the wizards at Industrial Light and Magic didn’t just recreate the likeness of Peter Cushing, they truly brought him back to life in the film so well that he was actually able to give a performance. While I could still tell he was CGI because my brain was telling me so, I was in shock because I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe he was real because he looked it. Some of the people I saw the film with who weren’t Star Wars fans wouldn’t even have known he was CGI had I not told them.

But the risk didn’t just pay off in the form of a technical accomplishment, it also provided new context to a film Star Wars fans have known and loved for years. I would strongly recommend watching Rogue One and A New Hope as a double feature. The direct prequel serves to inform the classic Star Wars on so many levels from raising the stakes even higher in the opening scene to plot holes to smaller moments like when the high-level Imperial officers are sassing back at Grand Moff Tarkin after he informed them the Imperial Senate had been dissolved. Originally it had been a bit odd that the Imperial officers were being rather insubordinate to Tarkin but now it makes a lot more sense. Considering Tarkin had taken Krennic’s command away from him, those officers had to have been harboring some serious resentment over a position they most certainly had ambitions of attaining themselves.

Whether you thought Tarkin looked perfect or fell into the uncanny valley, there’s no denying that Lucasfilm has delivered exactly what audiences wanted this year. Summer 2016 saw every reboot, remake, and sequel rejected by audiences at the box office. It is clear people are sick of the risk-averse nature of Hollywood. People want brave and bold chances taken in the cinema again and the biggest franchise of them all just took some major risks and delivered a film that manages to be one of the greatest Star Wars stories ever told even with some pretty major flaws with its lack of characterization and sometimes sluggish pacing.



Did the Latest ‘Rogue One’ TV Spot Tease Grand Moff Tarkin?

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It looks as if Darth Vader might not be the only major villain making an appearance in the upcoming Star Wars spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The latest TV spot titled “Breath” offers an interesting shot from behind an Imperial Officer overlooking the dish of the Death Star as it is being placed into the battle station. The character appears to be Grand Moff Tarkin himself.

The actor who originally portrayed Tarkin, Peter Cushing, passed away in 1994 due to prostate cancer. Since Cushing’s death, Tarkin has only appeared in The Clone Wars series and Star Wars novels (both EU and new canon). But considering Tarkin was charged with oversight of the Death Star per Emperor Palpatine, it wouldn’t make sense for Tarkin not to appear in Rogue One.

There have been rumors of Tarkin appearing as a CG character, but it’s also possible Lucasfilm could have cast another actor to portray the Grand Moff. In Revenge of the Sith, the character was portrayed by actor Wayne Pygram. It would come as no great surprise if Pygram reprised his role as he wouldn’t be the only classic character returning in Rogue One played by a new actor.

Actress Genevieve O’Reilly is reprising her role as Mon Motha, the political leader of the rebellion. O’Reilly first appeared in Revenge of the Sith as a younger version of the character who was originally introduced in Return of the Jedi, portrayed by actress Caroline Blakiston. O’Reilly’s portrayal of the character seen in the trailers so far has been uncanny. It’s incredible how she not only looks exactly like Blakiston but sounds like her as well. If Rogue One were to bring back Pygram as Tarkin, it’s possible Lucasfilm could bring on voice actor Stephen Stanton who lent his talents to the character in The Clone Wars animated series. Stanton manages to sound identical to Cushing while not delivering an impression.

Lucasfilm hasn’t confirmed that the character is indeed Tarkin, but given the deliberate placement of the tantalizing image in the new spot, I would be willing to bet the officer seen overlooking the placement of the dish is Tarkin himself. We’ll know soon enough.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters December 16, 2016.

Produced by Lucasfilm, the film stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelson, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. Written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. Directed by Garreth Edwards.

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. In theaters December 2016.


‘Rogue One’: Final Trailer Breakdown

The biggest moments from the incredible final trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

This morning we were delighted to the final U.S. trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The new trailer gave us more insight to the story than previous trailers and confirms the rumor that Jyn Ero’s father, Galen is the scientist who invented the original Death Star — which was alluded to by Mads Mikkelsen at the panel during this past Star Wars Celebration.

Here is a break down of the trailers most remarkable moments.


The trailer opens with some gorgeous cinematography that screams Saving Private Ryan. Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) arrives on an unknown planet via a delta class shuttle to collect the scientist Erso against his will. Krennic is flanked by his squad of Deathtroopers and he’s not taking no for an answer. Considering Jyn’s mother is nowhere to be seen but is rumored to appear in the film, my guess is that she does not make it off the planet alive and that Galen is forced to do whatever he has to in order to protect the only family he has left.


Next we get see Jyn being broken out of Imperial jail by the rebel alliance. Things are starting to make a lot more sense now that we understand the familial connection she has to the Death Star. It’s smart for the rebellion to exploit this and it doesn’t hurt that Jyn is already a bit of a rebel herself.


Giant Jedi statue people. It has been said that the planet Jedha will serve as the Mecca for the Star Wars Universe. Nothing could symbolize the fall of the Jedi Order in the galaxy better than this.


Jyn is escorted by the rebels to the base on Yavin IV where she is briefed on the current crisis. Through Star Wars Rebels and the new canon novels, Lucasfilm has been shaping things up so that the Empire was on the verge of annihilating the rebellion before it could pose a real threat. It would add a lot more weight to Luke Skywalker destroying the technological terror in A New Hope if the Rebel Alliance really is on the brink of complete destruction just before Jyn steals the plans to the Death Star.


Not much is known about the planet we see next other than the fact it will serve as the location for a major action set piece in the film. In previous trailers, rebel soldiers can be seen making a ground assault with X-Wings providing air support. This unknown facility seems like it could be Galen’s base of operations.


The Death Star looms over what is most likely the tropical planet Scariff where the super weapon was constructed.


Next we’re treated to the moment the rebel spies are given their callsign. It’s a little cheesy but I love it anyway. We also get to see the shot from the celebration reel from inside the U-Wing cockpit just as it enters into hyperspace. Rather than using a green screen and CGI for this, director Garreth Edwards opted for a composite screen to give the actors something tangible to interact with.


“The power that we are dealing with here is immeasurable,” Krennic says to Darth Vader. No doubt the scenes featuring Vader are the most anticipated moments of this film. From what we see Krennic does not fear Vader. He better check his tone before he gets force choked.

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There is a lot of speculation going around the internet that this is Tarkin. It’s definitely possible. My theory is that Tarkin will make an appearance in the film, however. This shot is most likely a red herring.


My personal favorite moment from the trailer. While I love the new U-Wing, as well as the new tie strikers and AT-ACT’s, I can’t wait to see things from the original trilogy. Seeing this chicken walker as it lays waste to a city street was like reuniting with an old friend.


It’s a bit poetic that Saw Gerrara is now part man, part machine and in need of a life support system to keep him alive just like the man who trained him — Anakin Skywalker. My hope is that we get to see Gerrara come face to face with Vader, however. For their connection to resonate with general audiences, they need to take the time to explain his past connection with Vader within Rogue itself. Otherwise they run the risk of alienating a lot of people.


Rebellions are built on hope. Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe is all smiles in this trailer and I love it. The Jedi worshiper can feel the force is with them as they embark on their mission to steal the Death Star plans.


I find this shot particularly interesting. This is no doubt the manufacturing facility on Scariff where the Death Star was constructed. But it has me wondering whether this trench or tunnel seen in the photo is the same tunnel we see in the other trailer where Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO are being chased by stormtroopers on the train platform. My first thought was that it was the train that runs across the Death Star itself (described in Lost Stars) but this shot has me thinking otherwise. The bunker at the bottom is also where the rebels will come out of just before they charge towards the AT-ACT’s.


Cough, cough Platoon


Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO infiltrate the Imperial manufacturing facility on Scariff. We’ll have to wait until the third act to see Felicity Jones in her badass undercover gear but what has me pumped is that this is just before they throw down and go fist for fist with some stormtroopers as they steal the plans for the Death Star. With K-2SO at their side, chances are we will get to see him kick some ass as well. He certainly looks like he could hold his own.


Chirrut — the blind force worshiper — tears it up with some sort of Bowcaster in this glimpse from the films climactic action sequence. As we just learned on Star Wars Rebels, someone who can harness the force does not need their sight to be able to see. While it has been said there will be no Jedi in the film, this seems to tell us that Chirrut is a force user.


Space battles! This was no doubt the moment Star Wars fans cheered during the trailer. While I loved The Force Awakens to pieces, the lack of space battles was a bummer for me. Not only are we going to get a space battle, we’re going to get a space battle that features the original X-Wings from the classic trilogy. The facility they are attacking is most likely in space just over Scariff. Chances are this facility was used to assemble the Death Star.


Could this be Jedha being destroyed by the Death Star? It certainly seems like it and with the fall of the Jedi in the galaxy it would make sense, however. The destruction of Aldeeran was the dividing point in the galaxy. Causing many within the Empire to defect to the Rebellion even if they didn’t agree with the rebels — they knew the Empire had to be stopped by any means necessary. The destruction of Jedha has never been mentioned before so if it was destroyed by the Death Star, it isn’t something widely known in the galaxy.


Vader is on a mission. If I saw the Sith Lord walking towards me like that I would kiss my ass goodbye.


Given the rain, it’s possible this is from the same scene on the mysterious planet where Krennic confronts Galen. My best guess is that it’s actually from the scene pictured just above where Vader is stepping towards Krennic. Chances are Krennic isn’t getting the job done and Vader has come to handle things himself.


The rebels can be seen making their last ditch effort to escape Scariff with the Death Star plans during the films climactic action sequence.


Up close and personal. Baze and Chirrut make their escape nearly getting crushed by the foot of an AT-ACT. This moment gave me some serious Jurassic Park vibes. It also shows Edwards’ strength as a director as he hones in on the characters with the background of something epic and fantastical.

While this is said to be the final official trailer for the film I would expect an international trailer (or two) to drop before we start getting bombarded with TV spots ramping up to the film’s release.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters December 16, 2016.