And exhale. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy confirmed via Entertainment Weekly that not only will Darth Vader make a short appearance in the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but that the great James Earl Jones will once again provide his iconic voice. Whatever anxiety fans were feeling about this new film should be somewhat abated by this glorious news.
The Sith lord’s deep, menacingly beautiful voice has belonged to James Earl Jones since his debut in 1977. Replacing Jones would be positively unthinkable. In fact, such an action would probably lead to lynch mobs, riots and Yoda knows what else. Let’s address the elephant in the room, though, shall we? Jones is 85 years old. Should the Star Wars saga continue for years to come, and require Vader appearances, there will be a time when we hear someone else’s voice instead of Jones’. Unless we freeze him à la The Winter Soldier.
There is still no information on who will don the suit, however. Rumors had circulated that Anakin Skywalker’s portrayer, Hayden Christensen, would be brought in for this purpose, but those look doubtful now. Alternate rumors claimed stunt actor, Spencer Wilding, would wear the suit, but those also remain simply hearsay at this point. Wilding, well-known for his stature, has had roles in Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman Begins and Game of Thrones. EW simply stated “…a variety of large-framed performers will embody the character behind the mask.”
It’s a mystery as to why Disney and Lucasfilm have been so secretive about the casting of Vader. It could be as simple as an attempt to generate even more curiosity for the film. They’re entering uncharted territory as this will be the first installment that doesn’t follow any of the franchise’s main protagonists. And while the first glimpses of the movie revealed an admirable, painstaking effort to keep the look and feel congruent with Star Wars: A New Hope, the film reportedly went through some major overhauls after early screenings found its tone out of sync with the rest of the films.
This could be why we’re only now getting confirmed information regarding Vader. Perhaps he wasn’t in the original script, or at least didn’t speak. It may be an effort to anchor the movie, giving fans something familiar they can latch onto.. Regarding continuity, Darth Vader is clearly the best character for this purpose; his presence in this timeline and setting makes perfect sense.
Rogue One takes place 19 years after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and just before A New Hope. It details the events in which the Rebel Alliance attempted to steal the blueprints of the Empire’s WMD, the Death Star. Clearly we know they’re successful, as that’s the whole premise of A New Hope. We don’t know how it happened, though. This will also be our first look at what the galaxy was like during the height of imperial rule.
According to EW, at this point in the timeline, Vader is still a mysterious and new concept in the galaxy. He’s more legend than a front-and-center threat, even within the ranks of the Empire. Director Gareth Edwards described his place in the galaxy at this juncture on the timeline:
“Within the Rebellion, it’s not commonly spoken about,” said Edwards. “Within the Empire, there is the culture of knowing of the existence of Darth Vader. There’s definitely an underlying feeling that there is a power – a dark power – available to the Empire and that if you overstep your mark, you will suffer the consequences.”
Since Vader isn’t the main villain this time around, who is? That honor goes to Director Orson Krennic, portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn. Krennic is said to be an ambitious Imperial figure anxious to rise up in the ranks and be at Emperor Palpatine’s side. As such he sees Vader as a rival, at best.
“Vader doesn’t really play by the rules,” says Kiri Hart, Lucasfilm’s chief of story development told EW. “He’s present in the military structure, but he’s not beholden to it. He’s not accountable to anybody, really, except Palpatine.”
Yeah well, not everyone can be a badass Sith lord now, can they? I guess we know how that rivalry turns out.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters December 16.
Image via Lucasfilm
Source: Entertainment Weekly