Diego Luna, who plays Captain Cassian in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, was our first interview during the Rogue One press trip. The first interview tends to set the tone of the day – and he sure did. He walked in to the room confidently and ready to have some fun. He told us he would hang out with us all day and answer all of our questions. He seemed really excited to talk about his character and about the movie – and that made us all even more excited than we already were.
My Cassian Funko bobblehead was sitting on the table he sat at – and he immediately picked it up and started playing with it. I can’t help but smile as I look at it sitting on my desk now. The first thing Diego did was tell us about his character. “My character is called Cassian Andor and he’s a captain – an intelligence officer for the rebellion. He’s a pretty damned good rebellion captain. He’s in charge of the most important mission for the rebellion and he has to make sure this thing works. He’s a spy so he’s quite a mysterious man. He has a lot of information he would like to forget. He doesn’t like war but he believes in the cause and would do anything for the cause. He’s ready to sacrifice everything and he’s a true hero. He’s the kind of hero we could be – he doesn’t have special powers, he’s no Jedi. He’s just a man with conviction that knows that working together as a team makes you stronger.”
When Diego talked about Gareth Edwards (the director of Rogue One) explaining the movie to him, he said it sounded like a speech. No matter what role he was offered, Diego would have eagerly accepted. He explained, “I would join just as a fan, just as part of the crew. If he would’ve said ‘I want you to be a Storm Trooper and just wear that outfit and be miserable for quite a long time until Felicity’s character kills you’, I would’ve said ‘yeah, let’s do it’. I’m glad he didn’t said that, but it I would’ve said yes because I think this film has a lovely message behind it. It’s about people getting involved and taking control of their reality. We need that in this world that is going crazy now. We need to live different as a society and understand the diversity, culture, and racial diversity – it just makes us stronger and richer. There’s a great thing there for us to find so let’s live different as a society and just do it.”
Star Wars is very much a family franchise that is popular among generations of fans. We asked Diego if he would be sharing Rogue One with his children. “I bring them – I bring my kids to see how we’re doing it so they can see it more from the perspective I see it and get less affected by the story. I grew up in theater so I used to witness things I should probably not have witnessed. But because I was watching from the dressing rooms or from the inside of the theater, I always saw the actor coming out and he was alive. I understood that it has to look real but doesn’t mean it’s real. I invited my kids to witness this process because my son is huge fan of Star Wars. He knows the world of Star Wars better than I do. He’s eight years old but he has seen everything and I didn’t want it to stop him because everyone’s gonna be talking about it. I want him to feel part of this. He’s so excited.”
He continued on with a personal story, “This film is important for me as an actor for many reasons, but one is because it connects me with the kid I was. At seven years old, six years old, I saw A New Hope. I saw it because I wanted to belong to the world of my cousins. All of my cousins were playing something I didn’t get. I wanted to be part of that universe and be able to be part of that gang, to belong to that. But it also connects me with my kids as a parent and as a fan, it connects me with my son. I share the excitement with him. When we were watching The Force Awakens, we were there holding hands, and enjoying the moment. It wasn’t me [saying] let’s watch this cartoon and let’s talk about what they’re saying – I wasn’t the dad there. It was two pals watching a film, and that was very sweet. My work is something that has always separated us. It represents something very negative to my kids. It’s what keeps me away. It’s that thing that I go do that they cannot be part of. And then I finish the films, and they cannot watch them. My stuff is not meant for them. Until I did The Book of Life, that’s the first film I could actually share with my kids. So this is a special because I am telling them, I’m going to work, and my son, instead of crying goes, like, yeah, yeah, go, go. I mean, you’ve gotta be on time, Dad, and make sure you do it right, please. Do what Gareth says. Don’t mess up.” I loved this story, and related to it, as my job takes me away from my kids as well. It is fun when I do something that they care about and get excited about. For example, they are big Star Wars fans like me (my 5 year old adores Rey) and so they wanted me to go and bring them back Star Wars goodies.
Diego Luna has worked in TV a lot before this role, so we asked him how he got from doing Telenovela to starring in Star Wars – as well as the difference between TV and film. “I don’t know how it happened. I have no idea. I started at six years old doing theater, and then around ten, I did my first film, and that’s when they invited me to do TV. I would say that those first years of doing TV were difficult in my life and I’m so glad I survived. The fame that TV brings is quite unhealthy, I think. It’s too fast. Everything happens too fast. [With film], I’ve been working for two years for this to come out, so I’m ready for this moment. I worked to be here. In television, that’s not the case, you know? In television, you’re shooting something one day, and it airs the next day. [Then] the reaction hits you two days later and then people forget the next Monday because there’s someone else on TV. It’s a weird thing to digest and when you’re getting used to it, it’s gone. I don’t find that healthy. Cinema is different – it stays there. You can always go back to that and remember where you were. It leaves a stamp and I feel very lucky to be doing what I’m doing now.”
Cassian has a very physical role, just like Felicity Jones’ character Jyn, so we asked if there was any training he needed to do to prepare. “First I went to the gym – a place I didn’t like before. They (LucasFilm) got me into a whole program; they were even taking care of my sleep. It was necessary because I’ve never worked seven months in a film so intense and every day we were doing something crazy – running, jumping, climbing – it was hardcore scenes. Gareth really likes things to happen. He doesn’t like pretending. He [would say] we’re gonna do this so you’re gonna be running, and there’s gonna be explosions, and these guys are gonna be shooting from this angle, this from this other angle, and you have to make it work – how would you do it? He gave us military training. I had two weeks of military training where I learned how to patrol, and I did a camp with ex-military and I was hearing all their stories. I spent a lot of time with them and that was very helpful. But [Gareth] actually thought a soldier was gonna come back from these two weeks. [He said] you’re the captain – solve this. I had to talk to Felicity and start to organize a plan, and then execute, and [Gareth] would be following us, improvising on the way and reacting to what we were doing. It was a free process. It’s was full of that feeling of not knowing what’s gonna happen which brings some interesting tension and gives you those little moments of vulnerability that Gareth was looking for.” I found that really interesting and thought it was a fun and smart way to capture real moments on film.
The last question we got to ask Diego was how he separated home and Star Wars. I imagine it is difficult to spend all this time as Cassian and then have to switch back to Diego when he was home and with his family – and especially after filming ended. I loved his response. “It was difficult because I’m a fan. Imagine, you’re a fan, and they tell you you’re gonna go live this amazing experience of actually living [the Star Wars] world from the inside, but you cannot tell anyone. It’s [like it is] not happening until I tell my best friend, until I share this with my father. Obviously it makes sense for the idea of actually hiding everything from people, and I love that because the experience of watching it with an audience that doesn’t know what’s gonna happen is so unique and it doesn’t happen anymore in cinema. So that is very cool, but the process of living through this was painful and very frustrating because amazing stuff would happen, or very difficult things happened, and I had to talk to myself about it. That also created a nice, beautiful family [within the cast] because we were going through this [together]. We couldn’t tell anyone out there – so Felicity was my shrink, my friend, a little bit of everything, and I was the same for her.” I love how close the cast got, it really was obvious from listening to all of them speak about their experience. I already wanted to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story more than anything, but after speaking to them all, I can’t wait to watch their interactions.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th!
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