Diego Luna on ‘Rogue One’ Reshoots, Secrets, and Breakout Characters
It’s almost too perfect that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is about a bunch of rebels trying to steal information from the Galactic Empire. Interviewing one of the film’s stars feels like an act of espionage.
Less than two weeks out from Rogue One’s release, most of the movie’s details are still under wraps, including specifics about its plot and ending. (Journalists were shown just 25 minutes of the movie before the press junket.) When I interviewed Diego Luna, who plays fearless spy Cassian Andor, at Disney’s New York offices last week, he would often take long pauses before answering my questions. He chose his words carefully and deliberately, as if the wrong sentence could bring down the wrath of the Imperial Army.
This much we do know: Rogue One is set shortly before the events of the first Star Wars, and follows the brave men, women, and droids who swiped the original Death Star plans for Princess Leia. In the footage screened last week, the 36-year-old Luna’s Andor looks like a relentless defender of the Rebel Alliance, even killing a sympathizer to prevent him from falling into enemy hands and jeopardizing his mission. Wide-eyed farm boy, this guy is not.
In addition to his busy career as an actor (he recently appeared in Blood Father and will pop up next year in the sequel to Flatliners), Luna is a filmmaker in his own right; his latest effort as a director, Mr. Pig, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. That gave him a unique perspective during Rogue One’s notorious post-production, when Tony Gilroy was reportedly brought in to assist original (and still-credited) director Gareth Edwards with reshoots and editing. I asked Luna what he thought about those reshoots, and about the overwhelming secrecy of Star Wars, along with a few questions about character design and the breakout member of the Rogue One cast.
When you go to audition for this movie do you even know who you’re auditioning for? Lucasfilm is very secretive about these movies; how much information do they give you to work with?
I have to say they trusted me so much. I don’t know why! I’m sure they didn’t do their research.
But they did trust me so much. The first meeting I had with Gareth, he explained the whole film to me. We sat down in — and probably I should not say this, but I’m saying it, so f--- it.
We were in a restaurant and he told me the whole story, and showed me the designs on his computer, which he kept hiding from waiters every time they would come to see if we wanted more of something. And we had a three-and-a-half-hour meeting where he told me, not just the whole story, but what he wanted to do. Then suddenly I understood he wanted me to play this role.
And that was it?
Then he said, “We have to go through many filters now, and if you want to do this journey with me, I’ll be very happy. I cannot assure you’ll do the movie, but I can assure you that I want you to do the movie.” So, I was like, “Yes, I’m in.”
We started the whole process and then I got to England like a month and a half before starting the shoot. They got me a nice dressing room and they said, “Here’s the script.” And it was on a tablet. It was a tablet that had a code and then the person was like [sitting] there, and I was like “No!” I mean, I’m gonna read it alone, right? I mean, I’m not gonna do anything with this! But I had to give that back when I went to the hotel.
Then, after a week I said “This is ridiculous, guys. Print the script for me, because I don’t know how to work with technology.” I take notes and I like to put them on my script and then I wanna go back to those notes when I’m shooting that scene. So, I need a script and they were like [whispered voice] “Okay.” And my script said Diego Luna all over it; it became the most precious object for seven months.
What’s it like having to protect those secrets?
The only person that knew I was part of Star Wars before the news came out was my agent and then my lawyer. Then I called my father and then I told my family when it was pretty imminent that I had to move for six months to England. But that was it. So you carry this information and it makes you go a little crazy. It makes you very paranoid. I remember in England going to a pub and you know that moment when you’re gonna go “Yes please, can I get a Scotch?” I would always think “I should be very careful. I can’t get wasted because I might tell a stranger right now what I’m doing here!”
You mentioned Gareth showing you designs at that first meeting. I felt like, of all the heroes, yours is the one, with the hair and the costume, that looks the most like he just stepped out of A New Hope. Once you signed on, did you get any input into the look of your character?
Oh yeah. Once this family is put together, it’s a very generous family. Everyone is part of everything — at least on this film. I’m not describing how they were shooting Episode VIII or VII, but this family that got together to do Rogue One, we were pretty much involved with the whole thing. Not just our characters. Our opinions mattered, and we had a chance to talk to, you know, to the writer and to the producer, to the director, to the costume designer.
They brought us in to see where they were designing all the models for the scenes we were gonna act in. They showed us all the models. It was like a place like five or six times the size of this office and they would be like “Okay you guys, this is Jedha, and this is Scarif.” And we would be looking at the little models and little figures of us. Understanding the geography of what we were gonna be shooting, you know, and with costumes. I had more costume fittings than I’ve ever had in my life! I got to England and I had one every day for the first 10 days. There’s so much attention to detail. There’s never “Just put something there!” There’s nothing there that doesn’t have an explanation and that doesn’t work.
So yes, on the look of the character, we’d be discussing if this pocket is needed or not, and why. Do you want to do that with boots? No boots? I was like, “Okay, the terrain is what? Sand? Is it wet? Is it this?” If that hadn’t happened, today I would be very disappointed, because this is something I love so much, that I care so much about. It’s not that I don’t care about other jobs, but this story — I’ve been following these characters and this world for many years of my life. So I wanted to get involved. That’s the only way I could conceive being a part of this. Gareth and [Lucasfilm President] Kathy [Kennedy], everyone was very generous. They made a big team and they listened to all of us. Obviously there’s a director and there’s a moment where the director says, “No, we’re not going to go that way.” But he’ll listen to you. That was pretty special.
They showed us 25 minutes of the movie yesterday, and just in those scenes there were some surprises, like a character from previous movies unexpectedly popping up. No matter what happens to your character in Rogue One, it’s clear that with these “Anthology Films” there’s opportunities for characters to return or appear in other films or shows. Is that something you’d be interested in?
I’m already doing it. I’m shooting a parallel Star Wars in my room every night just in case. [laughs]
No, I mean, I’ve asked myself that same question many times, but I also want to avoid it. I want to concentrate on doing this film. And I wanted to avoid the idea of action figures and avoid the idea of video games. I do film because of the films. Then everything around it, people can explain to me how important it is, and I’ll be very happy to do it. But I do film. My concern is on the story we’re telling, and there was enough to get distracted with in terms of being part of this film and this story we’re telling.
What happens later, I don’t know want to think about. That’s the most dangerous thing, thinking how this is going to affect my chances to come back later. It’s like, woof, there are so many questions that have no answers. You have to do one film and see how it works and then we’ll see what happens.
Based on the footage I saw, I’d guess the potential breakout character is K-2SO. He’s just immediately hilarious. Could you tell on set that he was going to be a huge hit with fans?
The soul of that character is there because of Alan Tudyk, and I can tell you there’s no one more fun to be around than him. But that motherf---er had the chance to improvise! He was the only person that knew that he had a second run that we didn’t. He can f--- up and he’s going to be [turned into] CGI later, so he had the freedom to experiment with that. He enjoyed that and came up with amazing stuff on set, in the moment, that was very exciting. It was clear that he was going to do a great job with this character.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the post-production of this movie; the editing, the reshoots. You’re a director yourself, so I’d be curious to hear your perspective on the whole process. Based on your own experience, did the Rogue One reshoots seem like business as usual? Or was this different?
Nothing that happened on this movie hasn’t happened to me before. It’s just that before no one cared about it. My contract that I signed two years ago talks about being there for reshoots. It’s something we all do. We edit the film, we see what’s missing, and we go shoot it. It’s just that when you do reshoots of Mr. Pig, no one gives a s---. In fact they f---ing hate it because you’re back there with all your trucks and mess and they go “Oh no, not again!”
It’s not a sign of anything going wrong. That’s filmmaking. But with Star Wars, everything gets out of proportion. Everything. One day, I scratched my eye. I told someone and suddenly there was a feeling of “Oh my god! He got injured! After what happened to Harrison Ford, now it’s him!” You’re like, “No, I just scratched my eye. I’m going to be fine tomorrow. Relax.”
It’s an interesting thing, I’ve never gone through a process like this. You have to keep sane and try not to get affected by all of that so you can actually make a good film, because that’s what we are here for.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on December 16.