Diego Luna is very excited to be in a Star Wars movie. To be honest, if you’re a Star Wars fan (I am), it’s nice to see the overwhelming excitement. How much of a bummer would it be to meet someone just cast in a Star Wars movie who said, “Well, it’s just another job. I treat it no differently than I would a Nicholas Sparks movie”? Make no mistake, Diego Luna is not that person. When I met Luna at Disney’s offices in Midtown Manhattan, he was practically bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm. Yes, Diego Luna is excited to be in Rogue One.
In Rogue One, the Mexican-born Luna (who first received worldwide acclaim in Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También) plays Captain Cassian Andor, an intelligence officer for the Rebel Alliance. There’s a scene early on in Rogue One when we meet Cassian, who is meeting with one of his sources that establishes, in the coldest way possible, that Cassian has his eye on the prize, and that’s victory for the Rebel Alliance, no matter who gets in the way.
Ahead, a very excited Luna shares many, many experiences of what it was like to make Rogue One, including the first time he met Darth Vader. (Oh, and there’s the day helicopters were spying on him.)
You have an action figure.
I do! I’m part of Star Wars! It’s just a crazy idea! It’s a lovely thing I never imagined.
Really, never as a little kid?
I was a kid playing, for many years, to be a Jedi. But as an actor – when I became a professional actor, which has almost been 30 years of my life, I started very young – I never sat down and told someone, “I’m going to do a Star Wars film.” I mean, I don’t think like that and I don’t see my career like that. And I didn’t do anything for this to happen! It just came to me as a surprise.
At what moment on set did you think, Oh, wow, this really is a Star Wars movie?
It was the first day. The first day, in England, a month and a half before we start shooting, I go to see Gareth Edwards at the studio and he’s doing a camera test. I go there and I say, “Hi.” He says, “Welcome, I’m glad you’re here.” And I start listening and I hear, [Darth Vader breathing sound] “koohh paaaah.” And I was like, “Holy shit, holy shit.” And I turned and there he is! Darth Vader! The guy in the costume and he has a little speaker where the breathing happens that has haunted me for so many nightmares. And he’s there! Then the actor approaches.
I bet seeing him in real life would be frightening.
And he’s standing in an Imperial base! And there’s silence all around! And it’s, “Holy shit, holy shit.” Then the actor talks, “Gareth, what do you want me to do?” Then you go, “Oh my God, I’m doing the film! I’m doing Star Wars!” I got to jump to the other side and see the whole process.
And there are a couple of other surprises from the old films…
The connection to your childhood? That hasn’t happened to me when I’m working at all, ever! This is the first time I’ve felt such a strong connection with what I’m doing. And I live it from the perspective of the actor working here, but also from the fans – and also the parents who want to share this with their kids, it is the most complex feeling ever.
We see early on Cassian murder one of his sources. He’s intense.
He was going to blow everything!
I bet Cassian has done that before.
Yes. He’s fighting for the Rebellion. He’s been fighting all his life and obviously coming from a traumatic experience that makes him decide to go all they way and put his life aside and just fight for the cause. That’s what makes him a true hero. He’s putting aside what I would never put aside. If someone asked me not to see my kids or not to be the parents of my kids, I would be like, “No way.” And this guy, his life is the Rebellion. His best friend is a droid. So, he’s a pretty lonely character – a very mysterious man. A spy, basically. So he has a lot of information and he has seen many things he’d like to forget.
You and K-2SO have a pretty funny rapport.
It is. The thing about this droid, it’s an Imperial droid, reprogrammed. So he’s a great tool to get information, but something went wrong in the reprogramming and now he says everything he’s thinking. So that makes him a very funny character. He has no filter. [Laughs] He’s a very honest droid.
There are some fun cameos in this movie I won’t spoil.
This film is an interesting balance between a very different and modern approach to Star Wars – because it is and that was the premise, that you can do a different film. And you should, you’re expected to do a different film. It’s a different concept. At the same time, it’s full of little Easter eggs for the fans of that first film. It’s full of those, because chronologically we can, basically. It makes sense. So it’s a nice balance between a film that can engage with new audiences and a chance to pay homage to that film we saw – well, I didn’t see it in the ‘70s. Did you? Or did you see VHS?
No. I saw The Empire Strikes Back first in 1980 when I was five. Then I saw the original when it was rereleased in theaters in 1981.
I saw it as soon as I thought I was old enough.
Was your audition secretive? Did you have lines from random movies?
I mean, they gave me a few scenes. They weren’t fake scenes, but they are scenes that today aren’t in the film. But it was the character and I had all the information I needed. It happened this way: Gareth called my agency and they want to meet with me, then know nothing more than that. I even thought he might be preparing the film he’s doing after Star Wars that’s going to be a tiny film. I never thought he was going to ask me to be in Star Wars. And I sat down with him and he tells me the whole story and, by the end, I realize he’s saying, “I want you to play this role and I want to know if you want to, because if you do we have to go through many filters to get there.” So, he was telling me, “I’m going to propose you.”
But then the higher-ups have to agree.
Then everyone has to agree. So I said, “Yes.” I put myself on tape once in Mexico – then I flew to London to put myself on tape again. That one was directed by Gareth and it was very special. I landed in London and was taken through the back door of the hotel. I had to sign in as a different person.
That sounds like a movie of its own.
I was thinking all the secrecy helped me to play a spy.
That’s a good point.
I had so much information I couldn’t share with anyone. The day he called me coming out of a meeting in San Francisco to say, “Welcome to the world of Star Wars.” The next thing he says is, “And you can’t tell anyone.” And you go, “Shit.”
I would fail.
You can’t tell anyone! And you just received the most important news related to work in your life! It starts to build paranoia in your head. And it’s true, I’ve seen the craziest things.
One day we are shooting an hour away from London, so in the middle on nowhere. So there’s this helicopter doing rounds above us and we’re like, “That’s weird.” The third time I saw that helicopter, we looked at it and there’s a guy hanging out of it with a camera.
And telling people you think helicopters are following you is a sign of paranoia.
Yeah! But there was a guy with a wire on his back holding him to the helicopter, with all of his body out of the helicopter, with a lens, taking pictures of us! We were looking at him, “What the fuck is he doing?” And there’s this guy risking his life to take a picture of the set and the actors there. And you’re like, this is crazy. What this film generates is so special and unique.
Did you keep anything? Did you take a souvenir?
[Laughs] No, no, no. And you don’t want to.
You don’t want a blaster?
Probably later, but not before the film comes out. What if something happens? I don’t want to jinx anything.
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