Rogue One Production Designer Talks Bridging Gap Between the Star Wars Trilogies

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story production designer Doug Chiang recently spoke with IGN for a new interview surrounding his work on the film. Here are some of the highlights:

Was anything particularly special/daunting about doing a film so tied to Episode IV: “For sure, and that’s one of the primary reasons why I really want to be more involved in Rogue One than any of the other films, was because it actually was going to be a film that touches one of my favorite films, which was Episode IV, and it actually was one of the first times where I could actually contribute designs that would be classic era designs. When I first saw Episode IV when I was 15, [afterwards] I drew nothing but classic era designs. And then, I really thought when George hired me to design the prequels, that I would be doing classic era designs. And when he said that, no, we were going to go earlier in the timeline, that completely threw me for a loop, but it was actually great because I got to understand his thinking – his foundation of what makes a Star Wars design. And so for Rogue One, it was actually a combination of all that, where I got the big history lesson of how to design for Star Wars, but then it gave me the opportunity to actually design something that would fit into one of my favorite films.”

On trying to come up with designs that were original but fit within the Star Wars era: “Yes. But the great thing is, we knew that at least eighty percent of the designs had to seamlessly fit with Episode IV. And our thinking was okay, let’s design that eighty percent as if these were designs and sets and such that George built in 1977, but he never shot on it. And we were gonna shoot on them for ourselves. But then there was that extra twenty percent, and we thought, okay, well, we have a prologue sequence which is actually closer to Episode III. Maybe we can actually use that to kind of help bridge Episode III with Episode IV, with that new twenty percent. And it was really a fun, challenging experience, because Krennic’s shuttle resulted from that, along with some of the new Stormtroopers. And it’s a really fun exploration because, ultimately, the design history for Star Wars is very connected. There is an evolution that you can connect the dots from one film to the other. And our film was really gonna bridge the two aesthetics – the romantic designs of I, II, and III, with the more practical, functional designs of IV, V, and VI. And so we were able to touch both.”

Krennic’s ship and other vehicle designs: “I think the vehicles are probably one of the most challenging [elements], because we were gonna have classic X-Wings of course, and TIE fighters, but then we also knew, well, maybe we can have license to have something new, because Gareth [Edwards] wanted a new vehicle – what eventually became the U-wing. And he described it as the Huey helicopter version of the X-Wing. But yet it’s earlier technology, so it’s obsolete, it’s decommissioned after Rogue One. And so then the design task became, well, how do you design something that dovetails seamlessly with the X-Wing, but yet fulfills the story requirement of being a troop carrier – and yet bridges a little bit of the design aesthetics of Episode III? And so it’s a really fun design challenge for me, because it’s the one design that I think effectively kind of hits all those notes and checks all those boxes. And yet it was also one of the hardest designs to do because it had to hit all those requirements.”

Creating elements like Vader’s castle that will likely be utilized later in other Star Wars stories: “Yeah, and that’s where a lot of the designs we do, I’m glad that fans will kind of discover the real purpose behind it. Because when we design something like Vader’s castle, which was inspired by an early Ralph McQuarrie sketch, we really think out everything in terms of, “Why is he there? Where is he? What’s underneath? What’s the supporting structure? What is the history of the thing?” And then ultimately in the film, you don’t get any of that. None of this is conveyed, because it’s not important to the narrative. But all that layering of information is there, and all the logic is there, and I think the audience can feel that it makes sense and it feels very real. But if you were to go in there, I could explain to you exactly what all the functions are, how the rooms connect. And it’s cool to create things that, now that all that information has been designed, that can be carried on and expanded further in other films, or new medias, or other experiences. But it’s all there, and I think that’s one of the distinguishing factors about designing for Star Wars, is that we do a lot of homework. So things aren’t designed just to look pretty. There is a strong foundation, and all that layering of information is there to be told if someone wants to know.”