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'Rogue One' star Felicity Jones happy there won't be a sequel

Mark Daniell.

By Mark Daniell, Postmedia Network

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SAN FRANCISCO — Sorry Star Wars fans, Felicity Jones is actually happy Rogue One: A Star Wars Story isn’t getting a sequel.

“It’s quite special because they’re one-off films,” she says about the new standalone title set inside the Star Wars universe.

“These films are auteur-driven movies. There’s not a whole list of rules that they’ve got to conform to. It gives everyone a lot of freedom. It’s quite wonderful that there’s a real hands-off approach in terms of the esthetic and really letting the director dictate the tone.”

After acquiring Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney announced plans for a new trilogy of Star Wars films (last year’s Episode VII - The Force Awakens was the first instalment) as well as a series of standalone titles.

Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), is the first in this series and leads directly into the events of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.

Penned by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, Rogue One is part heist, part war film, telling the new story of Jyn Erso (played by Jones), who is recruited by the Rebel Alliance to help steal plans to the Empire’s new super weapon — the Death Star.

Erso is joined by Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and other Rebels, including Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) and new droid K-2S0 (voiced by Alan Tudyk). The team is led, in part, by Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) and Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), both of whom appeared in the prequel trilogy“It’s very true to Star Wars, and the films that have come before, in the sense that it is rooted in an emotional story,” Jones says.

The thrust of the story is the father-daughter relationship, after Jyn is orphaned as a young girl when her father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), is abducted by the villainous Orson Krennic, played by Ben Mendelsohn, to help finish the Death Star. It is Galen’s insight into the weapon that presumably leads the Rebels to recruit Jyn.

Jones, who was nominated for an Oscar for The Theory of Everything, says that Rogue One is perhaps the most “grown up” Star Wars film so far, but assures fans there’s a lot of fun that they get to have along the way

“There’s some humour in it, but, like all the previous films, there’s a lovely balance between this seriousness and lightness at the same time. Rogue One is consistent with the other Star Wars movies in that way.”

Before the film’s world premiere, Jones spoke with Sun Media exclusively about being a role model for young girls, meeting Darth Vader and who her favourite Star Wars character is.

So far in your career, you’ve done a lot of corsets and talking. Jyn kicks a lot of butt in Rogue One so how did you prepare for that?

You become an athlete when you’re making a film like this. You always know the cast of Star Wars will be in sweatpants; you know there’s a lot of time spent in the gym. It becomes a daily routine; a daily obsession and everyone starts talking about their special diets and what it is everyone is eating and these strange protein bounce balls that I have never eaten in my life and will never eat again that are kind of essential for the training program. It takes an enormous amount of training and practise — it’s a bit like you are competing in the Olympics. You feel great pressure because you are performing in front of a crew.

Thousands of young girls are going to grow up idolizing Jyn in the same way boys in the ’70s worshipped Luke Skywalker. What’s that like?

I like Jyn being a role model. She’s someone who’s very resourceful. She definitely has her own way of doing things; there’s an independence about her. She’s not a princess; she’s not from a privileged background. She’s a real working woman who’s making her own way. That’s an excellent model. Nothing’s been handed to her on a plate; she has to forge her own destiny.

How did you react when you saw Darth Vader?

The first time I met Darth Vader he didn’t have his helmet on, so I was like, ‘Well, you’re not that scary.’ And he was sitting down and we had a nice chat. The moment he stood up and put the helmet on, I realized he was 6-foot-5, clad in a black cape; he was a little bit more intimidating. You do suddenly start to feel a little bit quieter and everything gets a little bit hushed around him and there’s this strange reverence. But I would say that Darth Vader is a triumph of design, actually. The reason a lot of Star Wars has had such longevity is the design is just fantastic. The X-Wings, the Death Star — they are these iconic designs that tap into something in the way we view the world. I think that’s why it has endured.

What is going to surprise Star Wars fans the most about Rogue One?

It’s incredibly immersive. It’s a lot of handheld camera. I feel like when you’re watching it, you’re going to feel like one of the rebels. It doesn’t let up for a second. It’s an absolute roller-coaster ride; you’re in it from beginning to end. There’s also a great balance between great special effects, but some really great drama and relationships.

Why do these films have such enduring appeal?

Ultimately Star Wars is about friendship and it’s friendship across all races and languages and nations and that’s what makes it special. Especially now. It’s important that we have that sense of unity.

What are your early memories of Star Wars like?

I grew up watching it with my family so it makes me very nostalgic. It reminds me of being a young girl and having that wonder and innocence that you have when you’re watching films at that age, so it definitely takes me back to those more innocent times. When I got the call, my agent had given me a big hint. She said to me that it looked like the role was mine, but she told me, ‘When you speak to Gareth Edwards, can you please pretend you don’t know either way.’ When he told me I got the role I was like, ‘Oh great,’ and then I thought, ‘Cripes, I need to get to the gym, pronto.’

Your face is plastered everywhere, there are action figures and here in front of us, you have a figurine with eight arms. Why the eight arms?

Because my nephew is one-and-a-half, he enjoys trying to pull the arms off my action figure, so the Star Wars TV channel here built a special one for my nephew so he can pull as many arms off as he wants. It’s just been rather wonderful. It brings such joy, I have to say. You can’t take yourself too seriously in these situations when you’ve been turned into plastic.

You’ve battled space aliens. Are you going to abandon period pieces for action films now?

Variety is the spice of life; I just want to keep telling great stories. I love doing period pieces, so I’m sure I’ll go back. But for me, it’ll always be two questions: is this intriguing and is it relevant.

You’re always going to be associated with this universe now. Is that a big adjustment?

I’ve been quite lucky because it’s been a slow process. I’ve been doing this for 21 years now so I definitely feel that I prepared for it. I’m 33; I’m not 18 and suddenly being thrust in the spotlight. Being a little bit older, I feel more prepared for it.

Who is your favourite Star Wars character?

Han Solo because he’s really hot.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens Friday, Dec. 16.

YOUR GUIDE TO THE STAR WARS UNIVERSE

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened in 2015, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy helped kickstart a series of films that will run until 2020 and include Episode VIII and IX, as well as several standalone titles set inside the Star Wars universe.

Rogue One: A Star Wars story (out Dec. 16) is the first of those one-off titles and it tells the story of a group of Rebels attempting to steal plans to the Death Star. The same plans Princess Leia hides in R2-D2 at the beginning of Episode IV – A New Hope.

Like Disney’s Marvel Comics, which has films dated into 2019 and a plan that goes until 2023 and beyond, the film slate for Star Wars is seemingly endless.

“Like all genres, it can hold a million different kinds of artists and stories,” Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and assisted on The Force Awakens, told Wired last year. “They say ‘Buddha is what you do to it.’ And that’s Star Wars. It can be anything you want it to be.”

Here’s a look at what we can expect to see in the coming years:

Star Wars: Episode VIII (Dec. 15, 2017): Filming has wrapped on the sequel to Force Awakens. Director Rian Johnson says that Episode VIII will pick up where The Force Awakens ended, which saw Rey (Daisy Ridley) standing before Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), ready to start her Jedi training.

Untitled Han Solo spinoff (May 25, 2018): Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller will tackle the second standalone movie, this time focusing on a young Han Solo. The smuggler will be played by Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!), with Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian and Emilia Clarke as the presumed love interest. And yes, Chewbacca will also appear.

Star Wars: Episode IX (May 24, 2019): Filming begins next spring with Jurassic World’s Colin Trevorrow in the director’s chair.

Boba Fett origin story (undated): The third standalone Star Wars story will reportedly tell the story of notorious bounty hunter Boba Fett. Lucasfilm had tapped Fantastic Four director Josh Trank to helm the picture, but he was dropped last year.

Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff (rumoured): Ewan McGregor is game — if filmmakers want to pursue a series revolving around McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. His incarnation appeared in George Lucas’ prequel series, and is considered one of the bright spots of that trilogy. “It would be fun to film that story now I’m older,” McGregor said in a recent interview with Empire. “I’d be the right age. I’m 45, Alec Guinness was what, 60? I could do two of them.”

Twitter: @markhdaniell