Rogue One might be the first standalone film in the Star Wars universe, but that doesn’t mean it’s detached from the original saga. In fact, director Gareth Edwards went to great lengths to ensure continuity between Rogue One and A New Hope, including adding previously unseen Star Wars footage to push one scene even further into the canon.
While some of the CGI effects were a bit odd-looking (I’m looking at you, Tarkin), one of the most impressive feats was how Rogue One digitally resurrected Garven Dreis and Jon Vander, the Red and Gold Leaders from A New Hope. The characters were added into Rogue One’s Battle of Scarif pretty seamlessly, leading many to wonder just how the hell Edwards was able to do it.
Turns out, the whole thing kind of started by accident. Edwards told RadioTimes that he came across some never-before-used footage while hanging out at Skywalker Ranch doing some research for the upcoming film.
“As we’re walking around, and doing all the cool things and looking at the Millennium Falcon and trying on Han Solo’s jacket and things like that, in the back at the bottom was all these cans of film,” Edwards said. “And we said, ‘What are they?’ and they said, ‘Oh, it’s Star Wars.’”
Edwards was told the footage hadn’t really been looked through in a while because it wasn’t digitized, so he grabbed the negatives and pored through the footage himself. There, he found original negatives from A New Hope that included deleted scenes of the pilots, mainly from the Death Star attack at the end of the film. There was even an X-Wing call sign exchange that didn’t make it into A New Hope.
Edwards figured out how to add the pilots’ scenes into the script during the Scarif battle, so with the help of Industrial Light and Magic, Edwards digitally cut around the footage of the pilots and inserted the characters into the cockpits used in Rogue One. It’s a really impressive feat, especially just for a few seconds of footage that could easily be done with new actors. Plus, it great to see these characters in action again, especially because they’re killed during the Battle of Yavin.
Edwards said he didn’t think that bringing Garven Dreis and Jon Vander back from the cinematic dead was something a lot of people would care about—but lo and behold, this is Star Wars we’re talking about. We notice everything.
“At the world premiere in LA, there was this massive cheer at a particular point in the film,” Edwards said, referencing the pilots’ appearance. “It was the only time during the premiere where I actually punched the air.”