Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 – Day 3

Today was the third and final day of the Star Wars Celebration Europe event in London, and they really saved the best to last. In the build up to the hugely popular final panel, there was plenty on offer to keep even the most exhausted Star Wars fan happy.

Panel – Carrie Fisher: The Princess Diaries

Trumping even Anthony Daniels on the bizarreness levels, Carrie Fisher (with her equally loving and loved pet dog Gary Fisher) joined Warwick Davis on stage for an hour-long interview. Or so we thought. The real star of the show was Gary, and at times I wasn’t sure which one Warwick was having more time keeping an eye on.

Exhibition – ILM X LAB: Trials on Tatooine

This exhibit was a VR experience that was exactly what it says on the tin. Clearly this technology is in its infancy in terms of how general public will interact with what they see on the headset goggles, but it was a fun way to spend 15 minutes and provided a glimpse of the fun to come.

If someone can work out an affordable way to put it in everyone’s living room they’ll make a lot of money.

Panel – The Future Filmmaker Discussion

Fascinating panel discussion on future Star Wars films


There was so much discussed here that I put it in a separate article. Well, two actually with a third on the way.

Star Wars Episode VIII – What did we learn at SWCE?

Han Solo actor confirmed!

Panel – Closing Ceremony

And with that, Warwick Davis concluded the proceedings and the mad dash to the exit doors commenced. 

For a lifelong Star Wars fan, this weekend was a dream come true and if you can afford it it’s something you should try at least once.

Thank you for reading. May the force be with you.

Star Wars Episode VIII – What did we learn at SWCE?

With a December 2017 release date, the eighth instalment of the main saga might seem a long way away. But as we know from recent experience, these dates can rapidly creep up on us and we’ll be at the midnight screening before you can say “Sans Han Solo”.

The Star Wars Celebration Europe event was very Rogue One-focused and as such there wasn’t a great deal of information handed out. That didn’t deter the legions of fans from repeatedly asking for snippets of information and this meant one or two pointers were revealed.

I’m not going to apologise for spoilers but I will apologise for the speculative nature of the post, especially if I’m wide of the mark. Let me know if I missed anything!

Starting Point

Let’s have a Luke around


The opening scene of the film will take place exactly where we left our heroes, with Rey holding out her lightsaber-wielding hand to Luke and Luke responding with a knowing stare. 

Director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) confirmed the filming took place on Skellig Island off the coast of Ireland over a two day period before any pre-production had taken place.

Presumably the opening line will therefore be Luke saying “I’m sorry, but there was a hand attached to my lightsaber.”

Han’s Funeral?

In Carrie Fisher’s bizarre Princess Diaries panel with Warwick Davis, she misunderstood a question about what had been going on between Han and Leia between Episode VI and VII, answering as if the question was about VII and VIII. 

At this point she seemed to mention Han’s funeral, thus either ruling it completely in or out depending on what she thought the question meant (she was busy with her dog Gary at the time). I initially thought it was a joke but given there’s no time gap between the two films it seems plausible that it would appear.

If there’s a funeral, then surely some of his closest friends would show up. You know, like Lando?

Finn is Awake

John Boyega joked with the various filmmakers in the final panel discussion about the state we left him in VII.

Director Rian Johnson fuelled the joke: “We did at some point think it would be cool to have him in a coma for the whole film… You just keep coming back to him.”

I’m pretty sure he’ll feature quite prominently.

BB-8 will appear!

Not a big surprise but during a segment on the Star Wars Show Live!, Matt Denton and Josh Lee stated that for the Celebration event they “brought along one of the real film versions [of BB-8]… that came straight from filming Episode VIII”. 

So that’s that cleared up then! Phew!

Kelly Marie Tran

Kelly Marie Tran has a key role in Episode VIII


A complete unknown for the new film is Kelly Marie Tran. Her name was mentioned again in the final panel. 

Director Rian Johnson had this to say:

“I’m so excited for you to meet Kelly… In good time. I don’t want to say too much because I want her to come out and present herself properly, down the line. She’s really something special.”

Cinematic reference points

Arguably the most revealing comment was the cinematic reference points mentioned by the director. These included two World War II films: ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ and ‘Twelve O’Clock High’. Both of these films involve tension due to an individual with control/seniority issues and may point to a psychological struggle for one of the characters in VIII.

Also mentioned was Japanese ‘Three Outlaw Samurai’. This was an interesting film to bring up. Hideo Gosha’s 1964 samurai battle film has been reissued and restored by Criterion so can be picked up and enjoyed in its best quality. This film will likely influence the fighting style seen in VIII, with plenty of location shots of samurai battles that would serve as a perfect reference point for some large-scale battles involving teams of Jedi.

Check out the trailer here:

‘Letter Never Sent’ is a Soviet survival drama about a team of geologists being isolated by a forest fire. Perhaps Rey and Luke are isolated together for longer than they planned and Luke is going to show off some Ray Mears survival skills. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched – Johnson stated that they filmed a lot of the film on mainland Ireland after the Skellig island shoot had finished. This would help create a vaster planet than achievable if the shoot remained solely on the small tourist attraction.

Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 – Day 2

Day two at the Star Wars Celebration was far more busy than the first. A sold out ticket allocation meant that queues were slightly longer, walking from A to B was slightly more stressful and events were slightly more over-subscribed. That didn’t really matter though. Because Star Wars.

The day kicked off with the familiar dash for wristbands for the headline events in the Celebration Theatre. If you’ve never experienced this at a convention before, it is my understanding that this is about as mellow as it gets. You just need to be there on time and know what you’re looking for.

Panel – ‘The Creatures, Aliens and Droids of Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Chancellor Villecham, Wollivan and Quiggold


The first port of call was the panel discussion titled ‘The Creatures, Aliens and Droids of Star Wars: The Force Awakens’. Hosted by Warwick Davis (who acted as Wicket and Wollivan, amongst others), this was truly spectacular. Where else would you get a chance to hear an hour-long discussion with several members of the team behind the practical special effects in Episode VII? The panel included Neal Scanlan (Creature Effects Supervisor, Force Awakens); Brian Herring (BB-8 puppeteer, The Force Awakens); Vanessa Bastyan (Supervising Animatronic Designer); Chris Clarke (Animatronic Designer); Maria Cork, (Hair Department Supervisor).

The key moment here was the reveal of a new character from Rogue One, provisionally called Space Monkey. Portrayed by Nick Hennings, he had a bit of fun misbehaving on stage and throwing some of Warwick Davis’s Ewok paraphernalia around.  

There was also demonstration of some Force Awakens characters, including Wollivan, Chancellor Villecham and Quiggold. The intricacy of the animatronics involved were easy to be missed in their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances just didn’t do them justice.

Exhibition – The Costumes of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Three Shoretroopers line up in the costume exhibition

There is an exhibition all weekend featuring the costumes of Rogue One, which was fascinating for anyone keen to get more of a glimpse of the new film.

Moon?

The detail in the costumes is something missed when watching films anywhere but in a cinema so getting a chance to take my time with them was a unique experience that was only really afforded due to the close proximity of the venue to the recently-wrapped filming at nearby Pinewood Studios.
Panel – ‘Anthony Daniels: Without Protocol’

Anthony Daniels provides a reading from C-3PO: The Phantom Limb

‘Anthony Daniels: Without Protocol’ was a wholly different and bizarre experience. It started off like any other Q&A session before quickly descending into chaos, with Daniels and Warwick Davis trying to direct audience members on stage in a recreation of a scene from A New Hope. He then gave a reading from the recent C-3PO comic book that finally explained the red arm that has been on everyone’s minds since the film was released. 

Exhibit – Star Wars High-Performance RC Experience

The RC Experience was, in all honesty, not worth checking out. It was something a bit different, but unless you’re a huge fan of remote control helicopters it will pass without any wow factor. Sorry guys!

Panel – ‘The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The concept artists behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens


The final panel of the day was a discussion between some of the concept artists behind the development of The Force Awakens. This was a really interesting one hour that I’m glad I attended. Hosted by, there were several artists involved in the discussions, including Doug Chiang (Executive Creative Director, The Force Awakens); Rayne Roberts (Lucasfilm Story Group); Phil Szostak (author, ‘The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens’).

There were a few revelations. One image seemed to reveal that Rey used to be called Sally in an early stage of the film. It was interesting to hear how many ideas were scrapped along the way, but the artists didn’t seem to care about that and were candid in explaining their thought processes around each of their drawings.

There was a surprise visit from Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, who were spotted looking uncomfortable in a Stormtrooper outfit throughout the panel. He asked a ridiculous question in a very broad northern-England accent (I think) and laughed as the panel looked on nonplused. A great moment!

Gareth Edwards creates a storm


Mark Hamill?

Stop! Hamill Time!


Mark Hamill surprised fans as we left by appearing on the Star Wars Show stage and entertaining guests until we were all ejected. A nice surprise given we were heading for the exit anyway!!

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.

K-2S0

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.