SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which is in theaters now.
After a long wait, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is finally in theaters. Years of spoilers, rumors, trailers, reports and casting news have given way to the movie itself. If you’ve seen “Rogue One,” then you now know what happens in the film and, maybe more importantly, who is in the film. Much like the previous prequel films, “Rogue One” is packed with cameo characters and supporting players that we’ve seen on the big screen before.
That makes sense considering that the film takes place in the days — yes, days — before the start of 1977’s “Star Wars.” Since it’s in such close proximity to the start of the franchise, it makes sense that we would see so many characters from “A New Hope,” some of them having “aged” incredibly well thanks to CG. With that in mind, here are all the cameos and characters from previous “Star Wars” films to look out for in “Rogue One,” whether you’re seeing it again or for the first time. And if it’s the latter, one more time, major spoiler warning from here on out!
10. Mon Mothma
Thanks to “Rogue One’s” numerous trailers, fans knew going in that Mon Mothma would receive a lot more screentime in this film than she did in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.” In that movie, Caroline Blakiston delivered a speech to the gathered Rebel troops about the second Death Star and their upcoming two-pronged mission against it. While Blakiston conveyed gravitas befitting a respected Rebel leader, we didn’t get to see Mon Mothma do anything else. That changes in “Rogue One.” Played by Genevieve O’Reilly, the same actor that played Mon Mothma in deleted scenes from 2005’s prequel film “Revenge of the Sith,” we get to see this Rebel leader take command. She delivers orders, argues passionately about the future of the Rebellion, plans courses of action and is shown to be the active leader fans always assumed she was.
9. General Jan Dodonna
Prior to “Rogue One,” General Dodonna only ever appeared in 1977’s “A New Hope,” where he was played by Alex McCrindle. Dodonna actually originated the role of “respectable Rebel leader that appears in one big scene to deliver a speech about the Death Star,” which Mothma filled in “Return of the Jedi.” Unlike Mon Mothma, though, we don’t get to spend too much more time with Dodonna in “Rogue One.” Played by Ian McElhinney (“Game of Thrones'” Barristan Selmy), Dodonna pops up standing around the big circular display table with other Rebel figures in a few shots. While he doesn’t have much to do, he’s an essential figure to include in “Rogue One.” After all, numerous scenes in the movie take place in the Rebellion’s Yavin 4 base where Dodonna was stationed. If they didn’t include him, diehard fans would note his absence.
8. Saw Gerrera
If you haven’t seen the “Star Wars: Clone Wars” cartoon, then this cameo might have flown over your head. But Forest Whitaker’s battle-hardened, quasi-mad cyborg is a character pulled straight from the “Star Wars” animated series. A much younger version of Saw appeared in a four-episode arc of “Clone Wars” season five, where his extreme tactics put him at odds with his allies. His sister Steela, a fellow resistance fighter, didn’t survive the “Clone Wars” storyline.
“Rogue One” takes place around twenty years after his animated debut, and finds him even more on the outs with the Rebellion due to his extremist tendencies. It also finds him looking much worse for wear now that many of his limbs have been replaced with mechanical parts. He also has to use an oxygen tank to breathe at times, and his mental state has deteriorated as he’s become overcome with paranoia. This cameo appearance also serves as Saw’s final chronological appearance, as he perishes in the fallout from the Death Star’s attack on Jedha.
7. Bail Organa
While “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” definitely pulled from the original trilogy in numerous places, it relied way less heavily on characters from the prequel trilogy. Aside from a few stray bits of Obi-Wan Kenobi dialogue performed by Ewan McGregor, Episodes I-III were way less represented. That’s less the case this time around, most likely due to the fact that “Rogue One” is essentially “Episode III And A Half.” Genevieve O’Reilly returns as Mon Mothma and Jimmy Smits reprises his role as Bail Organa, Senator of Alderaan and adoptive father of Princess Leia. Bail was previously seen in 2002’s “Attack of the Clones” and 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith,” but “Rogue One” finds his character in darker territory. Clad in an olive green tunic, Organa stands alongside the Rebel leaders during a few tense scenes of dramatic negotiation. He also gets an exchange that is heartbreaking in retrospect; he says he has to get back to Alderaan, and that he knows the exact right person to trust with delivering a message to the Jedi Ben Kenobi. If you’ve seen “Star Wars,” then you know that Bail returns to Alderaan only to die when it’s destroyed by the Death Star, and that person he trusts is his daughter, Leia Organa. This is the first and only time we get to see Smits portray the love and awe Leia’s father has for her.
6. Grand Moff Tarkin
Tarkin’s involvement in “Rogue One” has been rumored for a while, and now we know those rumors were true. As one of the two main villains of “A New Hope,” excluding Tarkin from this adventure would seem like an oversight. But including Tarkin would be a difficult feat since Peter Cushing died in 1994. To include Tarkin, “Rogue One” pushes CG effects to a new level to present a straight up Peter Cushing Tarkin, one that appears in numerous scenes throughout the film. This might seem like a curious choice since “Rogue One” had no problem recasting Mon Mothma for the film, but this new Star Wars film’s proximity to “A New Hope” might explain why they opted to go full-CG for the Grand Moff.
At least four years’ time in-universe pass in-between O’Reilly’s appearance as Mon Mothma in “Rogue One” and Blakiston’s in “Return of the Jedi.” If you’re watching the films in chronological order, then there are two whole movies in-between them. But if you’re watching “Rogue One” immediately before “A New Hope,” you’re seeing back-to-back Tarkin appearances. That doesn’t mean “Rogue One” couldn’t have recast the role; they just opted to take the more groundbreaking route of trying to make “Rogue One” as consistent with “A New Hope” as possible — and that means all-digital Tarkin.
5. Ponda Baba & Doctor Cornelius Evazan
There’s perhaps no more iconic scene in “A New Hope” — or perhaps all of Star Wars — than the cantina scene. It makes perfect sense for “Rogue One,” which is set right before “A New Hope,” to include a quick shout out to that iconic scene. There are numerous scenes of wild and new alien creatures chilling and doing their thing in “Rogue One,” just like in the cantina scene — and then there’s this cameo.
While walking the crowded streets of Jedha, Jyn Erso bumps into a pair of aggressive smugglers named Ponda Baba and Doctor Evazan. They have a heated exchange where Evazan gets in Jyn’s face, but the interaction deescalates before it can get physical. Too bad that doesn’t happen when Baba and Evazan pick a fight in a cantina on Tatooine. As seen in 1977’s “Star Wars,” these two ruffians try to mess with Luke Skywalker and then meet the business end of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber.
4. Darth Vader
Like with Mon Mothma, Vader’s inclusion in the film was revealed in plenty of “Rogue One’s” trailers. Like Tarkin, his inclusion makes sense because he’s — duh — the main villain of “A New Hope.” Vader’s in the film a little bit less than Tarkin, but “Rogue One” still allows James Earl Jones to deliver even more menacing dialogue as the Dark Lord of the Sith. We even get to see another scene of Anakin Skywalker out of his armor and at “rest” in what looks like a bacta tank.
None of that compares to what we see at the very end of the movie. Special and practical effects have come a long way since we got a prolonged scene with Darth Vader. The armored Imperial we saw from 1977 to 1983 moved slowly because, well, that costume was heavy. We got a glimpse of Vader in 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith,” but that was just for one “Noooo”-filled moment. The end of “Rogue One” includes a Vader action scene unlike any we’ve seen before, one that shows him truly unrestrained and reveals why he’s so feared. Darth Vader boards a Rebel ship and cuts through alliance members as they scramble to get the Death Star plans to safety. He uses the Force to choke, throw and crush them in the dimly lit passageway, illuminated only by the glow of his blood red lightsaber. It’s Darth Vader like we’ve never seen him before, but also right in line with how we always pictured him.
3. C-3PO & R2-D2
It’s not a “Star Wars” film without Artoo and Threepio. This droid duo has appeared in every single film in the franchise, from “The Phantom Menace” through to “The Force Awakens.” While “Rogue One” isn’t part of the franchise’s “saga” storyline (a.k.a. the trio of trilogies that form the series’ spine), Artoo and Threepio still get a quick cameo in the hangar of the Rebel base on Yavin 4. As Rebel pilots rush to their fighters, Threepio turns to Artoo and notes that no one told him they were going to Scarif (which is where the battle for the Death Star’s plans is going down).
Keeping these two droids in every Star Wars film is a fun tradition, one made easier in “Rogue One” considering where it falls in the franchise. We know from “A New Hope” that the two droids were loosely part of the Rebellion, and “Rogue One” confirms that by placing them right where they logically were during the days before “A New Hope.” But keeping Artoo and Threepio in every “Star Wars” film might be harder to pull off in future anthology films. It’d be really hard to work them into 2018’s young Han Solo film, considering the fact that Han didn’t run into the droids until the first “Star Wars” film. Of course there’s always the chance that young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) will walk past the two droids on some random planet, similar to how Jyn crossed paths with Ponda Baba and Doctor Evazan.
2. Red Leader Garven Dreis & Gold Leader Dutch Vander
While “Rogue One” used digital effects to completely recreate Grand Moff Tarkin for a few scenes, the new film reused footage from the original “Star Wars” to insert two Rebel pilots into the dogfight above Scarif. Red Leader and Gold Leader appear in the film via footage from “A New Hope” as they lead their squadrons against Imperial fighters. Their inclusion in the film makes sense, and is a fun Easter egg for “Star Wars” fans that have memorized the names of every Rebel pilot. Of course some of the pilots that flew in “A New Hope” would also fly in “Rogue One.” Also, it wouldn’t make sense to recast the roles since the parts in “Rogue One” amount to a few lines said in a cockpit, and the original roles were minor as well. Who would look at a new actor and be like, “Aw yeah — that’s Dutch Vander!” Even if they identified themselves by their call signs, there might still be confusion. By using the original footage of the original actors, “Rogue One” sidesteps that confusion and gives new life to two “Star Wars” characters and allows two unsung heroes of the Rebellion to fly one more mission.
1. Princess Leia
This is the big one, as it comes in the very last few shots of the film. The plans make it to the Tantive IV space-corvette and are delivered into the hands of a person wearing pristine white robes. The person turns around and, obviously, its Princess Leia Organa. And just like Tarkin, young Carrie Fisher has been recreated for her few seconds onscreen via CG. This shot is a big deal as it establishes even more about Leia Organa’s backstory; we now know that Leia was present during the entire battle over Scarif, and that she escaped on board the Tantive IV by the skin of her teeth. Even before we see Leia for the first time in “A New Hope” as she uploads the plans into Artoo, she’s already survived one harrowing space battle. We’ve always known that Leia’s tough as nails and a survivor, and this one scene in “Rogue One” just confirms that. And on top of all that, Leia gets the final line of the movie as she states, a smile on her face, that the rebels now have a new hope.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is in theaters now.
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