What did we learn from the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story panel?

The Rogue One: A Star Wars Story panel took place earlier today at the Star Wars Celebration in London, and it has opened the floodgates on a plethora of information on the upcoming standalone film.

Here we run through some of the highlights.

What are the character names and who are they?

Jyn Erso

Felicity Jones as Sergeant Jyn Erso

Felicity Jones takes the leading role as Sergeant Jyn Erso. Jyn was described by Jones as a lead character distinct from the others in the Star Wars universe in that she is already an established character and as such we don’t go on a journey of discovery with her. This is perhaps because it’s a standalone film and there simply isn’t time to develop a serious character arc whilst delivering an entertaining blockbuster film.

Jones is most famous for her Oscar-winning role as Jane Hawking in the 2015 film The Theory of Everything, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. She also featured in Like Crazy, Breathe In and Cemetery Junction

Cassian Andor

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor

Diego Luna will play a prominent role as Cassian Andor. We learned today that he is a Rebel Intelligence officer. It appears that he will be the second-in-command to Jyn within the film. He has a close relationship with droid K-2S0.

Eagle-eyed viewers may remember Andor’s small but powerful role as Jack Lira in Milk.


Alan Dudyk as K-2S0

One of the most entertaining discussions was with Alan Tudyk, who features as the now-obligatory droid in the film. He is a former Imperial droid that has been reprogrammed by Cassian. However, the reprogramming hasn’t really taken 100% and he has quite a few gaps in his personality. One scene showed him refusing to carry Jyn’s luggage because it wasn’t in his new protocol.

Also, it’s not K-250, it’s K-2S0. Subtle difference.

Tudyk has a rich history as a voice actor for animated films, including Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia and Frozen, as well as starring in Firefly.

Bodhi Rook

Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook

We knew Riz Ahmed’s character name a long time ago, after he accidentally leaked it on his online CV. Bodhi is an imperial craft pilot who is also a member of the rebel alliance. His explanation of this caused much hilarity from the crowd: “You know, people work at big organizations… but they don’t agree with everything they do.”

Ahmed is one of Britain’s finest young actors, having excelled in roles in Four Lions, Ill Manors and Nightcrawler. His presence in this film will doubtless be a huge enhancement to the conviction of the rebel team.

Chirrut Îmwe

Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe

“I can’t see but I can feel with my heart and believe in the Force,” said Donnie Yen of his character Chirrut Îmwe. The clips showed him kicking-ass in some beautifully-choreographed fight scenes, with a distinct hint of Jediism in his grace. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a Jedi.

Unfortunately, a huge spoiler was dropped about this character by co-actor Jiang Wen. I won’t perpetuate it here.

Yen may be vaguely familiar to Western audiences following small roles in Blade II and popular martial arts film Hero, though he should be more fondly remembered for Ip Man.

Baze Malbus

Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus

Baze has a big gun. That’s the line Jiang Wen took when he decided he wasn’t going to reveal much about his character. Yes Wen, keeping the eventual fate of characters close to your chest is very much a good idea when dealing with such a huge franchise.

Wen doesn’t have much in the way of credits that are familiar to the West, other than a directorial position for a segment of ‘New York, I Love You’. If you’re desperate to see him in action, 2011’s The Lost Bladesman would be a perfect place to start as it co-stars fellow Chinese actor Donnie Yen.

Saw Gerrera

Forest Whittaker as Saw Gerrera

Forest Whittaker is a man who needs no introduction, but I’ll give him one anyway. At just 55, he has had a career spanning four decades and has received plaudits throughout his career for mesmerising turns in the likes of The Last King Of Scotland, Platoon and The Butler. His credentials are certainly not in doubt.

Saw Gerrera is a character that has featured heavily in The Clone Wars TV series. His character was very headstrong and a natural leader, regardless of whether or not this was wanted by those around him.

Galen Erso 

Mads Mikkelson as Galen Erso

Mads Mikkelson stars as Galen Erso, whom it was revealed is Jyn’s father. He is also a scientist that “invented something so beautiful, so fantastic, that it might change the universe.” Whatever that means.

Mikkelson will be familiar to anyone that enjoyed Casino Royale back in 2006, though he is perhaps better known for his lead role in TV series Hannibal, which has been around for 3 years.

Orson Krennic 

Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic

Australian Ben Mendelsohn is currently troubling the Netflix airwaves with his starring role in Bloodlines, which recently won him an Emmy. He also featured in The Dark Knight Rises and Starred Up, the latter of which is well worth a watch.

His character is the main protagonist in the film, trying to become the Emperor’s new right hand man at the expense of Darth Vader.

What else did we learn?

Familiar characters?

Alan Dudyk was chatting about how nice it was to meet Anthony Daniels once at the Episode VII wrap party, to which the Rogue One cast were invited. That indicates that C-3P0 is not in film, or they would have more than likely met at some point in the filming or script reading process. 

Whilst this may mean that our favourite droids and other original trilogy characters have been left out this time, we did get a glimpse of Darth Vader at the end of an exclusive short trailer. James Earl Jones will return to voice him. It was very cool.

Familiar Faces?

Warwick is a big fan favourite and has been all over the Celebration event, hanging out with fans and keeping people happy. It was a great moment when he was glimpsed in the behind-the-scenes footage, much like the brief appearance a couple of years ago by Simon Pegg in the Episode VII sneak preview.

That takes his film tally up to four, which means he still has some catching to do to overtake Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels.

Gareth Edwards likes George Lucas…

… And so should we. It was great to see him offer his support to Lucas, whose name has been mud for the last 17 years. It’s easy to forget that he created this massive universe and has brought joy to millions of people worldwide for the last 40 years.

Secret Cinema: 28 Days Later Preview

It’s back and it’s hungry for flesh!!

Secret Cinema have announced their next big event. It’s a good one! Read on for more details.

What is Secret Cinema?

Secret Cinema is a company that specialises in totally immersive cinema experiences. You spend an evening totally absorbed in surroundings typical of the film on which the night is based.

There are two types of event Secret Cinema organises. Both are highly similar but with subtle differences.

Secret Cinema: Tell No One (not this event)

The first is the kind they made their names doing – completely secret smaller events for films many would consider to be cult classics. Nobody knows the film until they show up, and from then on anything can happen. 

When they tackled The Shawshank Redemption, for example, people were snarled at by an angry police officer who informed them they were all convicts. He then walked them, single-file, through a busy shopping centre to their transport to a local high-security prison. It’s all good-spirited and great fun for those with an interest in surprises and adventure. The recent Tell No One event falls into this category (and is still going on so the name of the film won’t be revealed). 

Secret Cinema Presents (this event)

The second type tend to be larger in scale and the film is announced well in advance. This is the category last year’s Empire Strikes Back event falls into, along with the previous year’s Back to the Future. Both were excellently received and left people wanting more large-scale events.

The latter type is better for those unfamiliar with more obscure films who want to know that they’ll enjoy the night before they attend and pay for the tickets.

Either way, whatever they do the nights are always highly immersive experiences and well worth the money. They have carved out a massive area of the market that most people didn’t even think existed.

What’s the next event?

This next event in their calendar is Danny Boyle’s zombie survival horror 28 Days Later. It is a Secret Cinema Presents night, so the film is common knowledge. No surprises this time around!

What’s the film like?

28 Days Later revolutionised the popularity of zombie films as a genre. It was a shift in terms of the technology used. Boyle used Canon XL1 digital video cameras to allow the manoeuvrability to shoot the desolate London scenes, but they had a knock-on effect that gave the film a sort of CCTV-type feeling to it, like it was recovered footage. It starts with the lead character Jim (Cillian Murphy in his breakthrough role) waking up from a coma in a hospital with no knowledge of how he got there.

We learn what’s happening as he does, finding fellow survivors along the way and hoping to reach some kind of freedom. It captured the imagination of cinema-goers during its original release, instantly becoming a hit in both the UK and USA.


What can we expect?

It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that it is really just any excuse to do a zombie-themed event. Anyone who has experience of Secret Cinema will know that this is very unlikely.

The event will, inevitably, involve hoards of zombies. One way that the film kept us gripped is the constant use of impending terror. It was the first film to use running zombies, so expect these to be present at the event too. Better take your running shoes!

I imagine it will incorporate the military as a key element. In the film they weren’t necessarily to be trusted, and there’s a fantastic scene in a fortified mansion that could utilise the open-air quite well if that’s the path they choose to go down.

Whether or not we’ll be killing zombies or just avoiding them remains to be seen. If we are doing that, it will need to be reasonably safe or there could be some serious injuries. No head-shots people!

Clothing is always a key part of the events and advice on outfits will be sent out in advance. It’s possible that it will be one of the easiest Secret Cinema events to dress for. The film is set in the present day (or ten years ago at least) and presumably we won’t be asked to dress up as zombies. I’d imagine it will be a case of wearing anything for once rather than trying to get hold of any specific costumes. No desperate searches for tan and black scarves required this time! Perhaps a medical outfit will be required for some people.

It will be a great experience to witness a modern cult classic on a massive screen with an enthusiastic audience.


How do I buy tickets?

Tickets are on sale for the event right now and are selling fast. Head to the official webpage for more details.

Secret Cinema February 2016 Preview – Update

Well, tomorrow’s the day that the Secret Cinema 2016 Tell No One event kicks-off. If you’re taking part this year you’ll no doubt be fully engrossed in the messages we’ve all been receiving as part of the D. O. C. S. organisation. 

The picture has become much clearer since I first wrote about the event in December. There have been a heap of clues left across social media about what film it will be. Based on my character description – Montgomery McCord of the Data Operations Department – and the costume I’ve been recommended to wear, I’m fairly confident of the film it will be.

However, playing along with the game doesn’t involve telling everyone what the answer is. I will be reviewing my time there, but that review will go live on 13th March 2016 so I don’t ruin it for anyone.

I may provide a spoiler-free guidance sheet after I attend, but the important thing is to get involved, take part, make a half-decent attempt at your costume and have a great time.

Enjoy it!

Secret Cinema Presents: The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)

The Secret Cinema Presents: Empire Strikes Back event was easily the most immersive cinema experiences I have ever been involved with, and it will probably never be beaten. Having spent £70 on each of the two tickets, my wife and I understandably had a bit of trepidation. I can honestly say that it was worth every penny.

The event actually kicked off way before the day with a steady trickle of emails about the rebellion, the empire and things like that. We had to fill out a personality test, which resulted in me being a Galactic Explorer. This drove the costume recommendations, which consisted mainly of a white-to-cream loose shirt, beige trousers, a utility belt, boots, goggle and, most importantly, a tan and black shemagh scarf.

We were provided with precise co-ordinates to go to, near Canada Water Tube Station in London. We arrived early and were amazed to see that most cafes were shutting long before the 5:30pm entry time. This was clearly a ridiculous move as hundreds of people descended on the site every day hoping to get something to eat or drink. Never mind. Just a few thousand galactic credits lost there over the summer.

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Once there, we were lined up by reasonably aggressive security guards, moved into a holding area and quickly briefed about what the situation was. We were told we were under surveillance by The Empire and they’d released a toxic gas into the atmosphere. We therefore had to cover our faces up with our scarves and keep low as we ran through a couple of corridors into a large hangar, where our phones were heat-sealed [1].

Once in the hangar we received rudimentary training and had a quick physical fitness test before being put into a spaceship (a simulator ride) and transported to the next area. This is where the real fun began as we all realised we were at the space port Mos Eisley on the planet Tatooine.

The moment of realising we were now IN the film at this point was overwhelming. Basically, the plan was to live in A New Hope before we watched The Empire Strikes Back on the big screen. It was impossible to take in at first. My wife is a ridiculous addict to Star Wars and was giddy with excitement for a good twenty minutes. The attention to detail was superb.

We went straight into interacting with actors in character. We chatted with Obi-Wan Kenobi, who informed us where we needed to go to trade spice to board the ship to leave Mos Eisley. We traded our seeds with Luke’s Uncle Ben for a circuit board, which we then traded with a Jawa, who we annoyed by stealing our original circuit board back and re-trading for a second pack of spice. We got cheated out of a game of Sabacc by Lando, before he was busted by a security guard and put in prison. We nipped into the Cantina to see the band playing away and grabbed a glass of some space-themed odd cocktail, before witnessing the famous Han v Greedo scene. We chatted with Han and Chewbacca for a while. I even got taken aside by a guard at one point and had to sing Moon River to get out of trouble. Very bizarre!

It was just great fun to be in there and the fact that everyone was in character and stuck to it just added to the occasion. Very quickly all the general punters were fully in character too.

The reason the scarf was important was that it sort of overruled the exact costume choices – we were given a goal once in there to trade some spice to get onto a spaceship and the trading material was dependent on the colour of your scarf. It was quite a simple means for the actors to identify the faction each person belonged to, especially since some people had made no effort with their clothing.

When the time came, we departed to the Death Star as we neared the end of A New Hope. Apparently the time at which we left drove what we saw when we arrived at Alderaan – we were in the middle so flew straight into an asteroid field (just like the film), though some saw the explosion happen and others arrived to find nothing there. Once on the Death Star, we were put in prison briefly before breaking out and witnessing the end of the film, lightsaber battles and all [2].

When the film began, everyone quickly settled in. Throughout the film actors and actresses appeared on the stage to act out key scenes and segments for us all to enjoy. This was a nice touch. It was a pleasure to be able to watch the film (if you’re interested, it was the 2004 version with Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor) with such a large group of avid Star Wars fans, all cheering and booing at the same time. It created a unique atmosphere that won’t be forgotten for a long time.

The best thing about the event was rejuvenating our love for Star Wars. As soon as we got home, Return of the Jedi was straight on the television (the original theatrical cut, if you’re interested). This Secret Cinema event has done wonders for the interest in The Force Awakens.

There hasn’t been an announcement about the next Secret Cinema event but regardless of the film choice it will be something to look out for next summer.

[1] This was probably the smartest move of all. Sitting there in the Cantina in a completely different world only to look over to see someone uploading a selfie to Facebook would have completely ruined the immersion. Well played Secret Cinema. You pre-empted the douchebag idiots.

[2] A special mention has to be said for the choreography and abilities of the actors during the battles. Perfectly in sync, excellently executed.