The Inside Story On The 40-Year-Old Star Wars Footage Used In Rogue One

“It’s the sort of thing you think, ‘How many people will notice?’ Is this a lot of effort for very little reward?” Those were Rogue One director Gareth Edwards’ thoughts after he, along with the effects experts at Industrial Light and Magic spent countless hours manipulating footage from the 1977 Star Wars movie that spawned the franchise in order to fit it into the latest instalment.

The classic footage features never-before-seen shots of two X-Wing pilots from the climactic attack on the Death Star in A New Hope. The director discovered it during a research trip to George Lucas’ home base.

“We went to Skywalker ranch, and there’s the archives there,” Edwards said in an interview with Radio Times. “And 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. And we said ‘What are they?’ and they said ‘Oh, it’s Star Wars.’ And you go… ‘Has someone gone through all this? And it’s like ‘Not really, they’re not fully digitized.’”

That didn’t deter Edwards. “We got the neg documents and found the clips from A New Hope that hadn’t been used,” he recalled. “And there’s pilot photography and lines that were never featured. Through the magic of ILM,” Edwards explained, “they cut round them [them being actors Garven Dreis and Jon Vander] and manipulated them and stuck them into our cockpits.”

So, did anyone notice? Um, this is Star Wars, so: YES. Edwards said that fans picked up on his homage early on, at the premiere in Los Angeles—but don’t worry if you missed it, consider it your excuse to go see Rogue One a second time.