Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, and Forest Whitaker make up just some of the incredibly diverse cast of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and director Gareth Edwards sees its importance.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a great change of pace from the franchise’s past. Not everyone was thrilled with the diverse casting of its leads, and that’s sadly still continuing as we head towards Rogue One’s opening weekend, but those involved know how important it is to move forward. In a recent interview with Edwards, Vulture brought up the multicultural cast of this latest installment to the franchise.
They touched on Jones’, Jyn Erso, and how we came to have two female protagonists in a row:
John Knoll, who wrote the original treatment, has two daughters and he wanted to have a hero they could look up to. I feel like one of the most successful heroines in science-fiction cinema is Sigourney Weaver in Aliens — I love her, and as a guy, no part of my brain thinks of her gender. She’s just Ripley, that character. We tried to write Jyn as neither male nor female, as just a person. Obviously, she’s female, but even with the clothing, my goal with the costume department was to design clothes that I would wear as a guy on Halloween. She wouldn’t look feminine, and she wouldn’t look masculine — she’d be neutral. Jyn is a person who just happens to be a girl.
As Jones herself has said, everyone should relate to her character. In their casting as a whole, Edwards explained they were lucky so many people love Star Wars and were interested in being involved. “It’s an embarrassment of riches with the cast in the film,” he said. “Those white, male British X-Wing pilots and Americans you see in the original Star Wars, they make it into the movie, but we have soldiers who don’t go beyond this film and we wanted to represent new parts of the world,” he told them. “Star Wars is so rich and it seems crazy that everyone’s, like, a white male guy.”
Edwards says this is due in part to them filming Star Wars in the ’70s in Britain but is aware of his particular privilege. “I was very lucky: I’m British, I grew up in England, and I got to see myself represented in a film. I think it’s about time that we represented the rest of the world,” he said. “We were all in agreement that not just because of the story, but because it’s 2016, it’s great to have such a diverse cast.”
As far as diversity behind the scenes, Vulture also asked him about Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy’s search for a female director and his ideas for who should take the job. “I’d love to see an Andrea Arnold Star Wars, or even a Lynne Ramsey Star Wars, or a Sofia Coppola Star Wars,” he replied. “I’d be first in line for that.”