To hear Gareth Edwards tell this story, it was early 2014.
He was right in the middle of working on "Godzilla," his first huge Hollywood
franchise film. And given that this $160 million Legendary Pictures / Warner
Bros. co-production was supposed to open in nearly 4000 theaters nationwide on
May 16th ... Well, Edwards just didn't have a second to spare for
But then - as Gareth recounted back in April of 2015 during
Star Wars Celebration Anaheim - he got a call from Kiri Hart. Who's the Vice
President of Development for Lucasfilm Ltd.
"Kiri wanted to know if I'd be willing to drive over to Disney
- which is just down the street from Warners - for a quick meeting. And given
where we were right then at that point in 'Godzilla' 's production, I literally had to escape
from Warner Bros.," Edwards recalled. "I think I made up some lame excuse like 'I
have to go use the toilet' and then ran down the street to meet with Kiri."
Gareth Edwards with Bryan Cranston on the set of "Godzilla." CopyrightWarner Bros. / Legendary Pictures. All rights reserved
Once Gareth got on the Disney lot, Kiri revealed that his
name had come up in conversation as Lucasfilm executives had been discussing possible
directors for future projects. But since Hart wasn't at liberty (at that point,
anyway) to reveal what these "future projects" might be, Edwards came away from
this meeting almost relieved because ... Well, I'll let Gareth explain why:
"I was just coming to the end of 'Godzilla.' And the last
thing that I wanted to do at that point was jump into another big film,"
Edwards stated. "My plan was - once I finished this film - I was going to take
six months off. Not do anything for a while."
But then when Gareth got home that night, there was an
e-mail from Kiri waiting for him. And attached to that e-mail was a pitch that ILM
Chief Creative Officer John Knoll had written which then outlined the story of
(L to R) ILM Chief Creative Officer John Knoll, Lucasfilm Senior Vice President ofDevelopment Kiki Hart, "Rogue One" Director Gareth Edwards and LucasfilmPresident Kathleen Kennedy at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.
"Now you have to understand that - when I was a kid - I watched
'A New Hope' so many times on my family's Betamax player that I actually wore
that tape out. I must have watched that 'Star Wars' film at least 200 or 300
times," Edwards said.
So taking that into account, is it any wonder that - when Gareth
turned 30 and his girl-friend said that they could go anywhere in the world to
celebration this auspicious occasion - Edwards suggested a trip to Tunisia. So
that he could then visit the locations where his favorite movie had been
"I actually spent the night at the Hotel Sidi Driss in
Matmata. Which is where George Lucas shot Luke's scenes with Uncle Owen &
Aunt Beru. I even brought along some blue food coloring so that I could buy
some milk and drink blue milk right where Luke had drunk blue milk," Gareth
So now knowing how Edwards feels about "Star Wars IV: A New
Hope," that it's been his favorite film since Gareth was just four years-old ...
Well, it's honestly hard to imagine how Edwards must have felt when he learned
that he was being offered the opportunity to tell the story that came before "A
"I was honestly hoping that I would hate it," Gareth
admitted. "But then - as I was reading John's pitch - I knew that I wouldn't be
able to sit in a cinema and know that someone else had made this movie."
So even though Edwards was obviously exhausted from working
on "Godzilla," he agreed to direct the first "Star Wars Story." Which was to be
the first of a series of stand-alone films that - while they would also be set
in that galaxy far, far away - would still be separate from the on-going "Star
"I then had to keep that news secret for six months. Which
was really hard. I didn't tell anyone. Even my Mom & Dad had no idea,"
Gareth said. "I even went home for Christmas where I was then given Star Wars-themed
presents. And all that time, I'm thinking to myself 'I'm directing the movie'
in my head because I was still not allowed to tell anyone."
Finally in early 2015, Edwards got a call from his agent.
Who then let Gareth know that not only did the Hollywood Reporter now know that
he had been signed to direct "Rogue One" but that this industry daily would be
breaking this news shortly. So if Edwards wanted to give his family a heads-up
before this news officially broke, he needed to hop on his phone ASAP.
"So I Facetimed my Mum because I wanted to see her face when
I told her the news. I said 'Imagine what would be the perfect movie for me to
direct?' And she said 'I don't know.' And then I was like 'Come on, Mom. It's
really obvious. What film would I want to make more than any other film?' She
still couldn't figure it out," Gareth laughed.
Gareth Edwards on the set of "Rogue One: AStar Wars Story." Copyright Disney.All rights reserved
But once the loth-cat was out of the bag, then began months
& months of hard work. As Edwards and the team at Lucasfilm kept trying to
get their arms around "Rogue One." By that I mean: Anyone who's ever read the
opening crawl of 'A New Hope' knows what this "Star Wars Story' is about. It
follows a brave group of resistance fighters who - at some point between
Episode III & IV - somehow manage to steal the plans to the Death Star.
"But what makes 'Rogue One' really challenging is that it's
set in an era where the Jedi are all but extinct. Which means that this
seemingly impossible task has to be pulled off by a small group of individuals
who don't have magical powers," Gareth stated. "So this meant that we had to
take a far more realistic approach when it came to these characters and this
Which is why "Star Wars" fans who are heading out to see "Rogue
One" this coming weekend should probably be aware that this Lucasfilm
production is somewhat more adult take on that galaxy far, far away. Which isn't
to say that there aren't a few items hidden in plain sight that would then please
Gareth's 4 year-old self. Or should I say Edwards' 30 year-old self?
What am I talking about? In the opening moments of "Rogue
One: A Star Wars Story," we get to visit Jyn Erso's childhood home. And as
(SLIGHT SPOILER AHEAD) her family is rushing about, getting ready for an
unexpected visit from the Empire, the camera lingers on the kitchen counter for
"And what do we see when the camera lingers on that counter?,"
you ask. A pitcher of blue milk.
Hmmn. Maybe if Gareth had served his Mom some blue eggnog
two Christmases ago, she might have then guessed what his next project was
going to be.
This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Wednesday, December 14, 2016