My interview with Rogue One‘s Diego Luna for Malibu magazine, November 2016.
With the flip of a hyperdrive switch this December, Diego Luna is about to find himself rocketing toward the white-hot center of the planet’s biggest and most beloved movie franchise. The versatile Mexican-born actor takes on the male lead in Rogue One, the first of Disney’s forthcoming standalone Star Wars features set in the fabled galaxy far, far away. Luna plays a Rebel Alliance officer charged with the dangerous mission of stealing the plans to the Empire’s fearsome new Death Star, and yes, director Gareth Edwards’ prequel is set to directly establish the events we know so well from George Lucas’ 1977 original—Darth Vader included. We spoke with Luna, just as he finished ADR on the film, to talk all thing Star Wars and why the film matters in the current social climate.
Diego, hello! How’s Rogue One going?
Hello, man! Very well, very well. I’m excited to see it because I haven’t seen the whole film, you know? I’ve seen bits and pieces and stuff that I’ve been working on, but I haven’t sat down and experienced the film from beginning to end. I want to save that for the moment that I’m in the cinema with an audience. I’m a fan, and a very lucky one, because I got to play the game from the inside, but I want to be back to being a fan when I watch.
This is your way of saying you can’t tell me anything about the film because you’re bound to the Disney secrecy act.
[Laughs.] No, I can tell you a lot of things about it!
Well, we know that you guys are at least successful in stealing the Death Star plans, given that the rebels have them at the beginning of A New Hope. What should we expect along the way?
Well, you can expect a lot of references to that genesis of the old Star Wars, the first film, obviously. So, for those who are big fans of that one, this film will be very special. At the same time, it’s a nice dialogue between the past and the present, between the past and the world we live in, because the film reflects a lot on the world we live in—Star Wars is always a tool to reflect on our reality. By saying this is a galaxy far, far away, you know, you can say what you probably can’t say straight to someone. So this film, it’s a dialogue, an homage to that genesis but also taking a very modern approach, and I think it’s going to be interesting. The film also has this energy of the people getting involved; in many ways, I would say it’s the most grounded of the Star Wars films. It’s about people with their feet on the ground.
You don’t have any Jedi in this movie, I guess, because they’ve all been wiped out or they’re in hiding. So, this is about the people, the nonbelievers, the Han Solos of the universe.
[Long pause.] Well, the first part of your question—you said it, I didn’t. [Laughs.] I cannot say any more! But yes, it is a film where the characters we’re going to be following are these rebels, and the rebels are just like you and I. This is the film that invites you into the world of Star Wars as a hero; the hero we could all be. That is very contagious, and it’s going to make it connect with the audience in a way that I think this film needs to connect—which is to tell people, “Yeah, change is in your hands,” you know? That’s the message behind this film. The energy behind this film is like, “We can get involved, and we can make things happen.” I think it’s very pertinent; it’s a very modern and necessary message today in the world we live in, that people get involved.
It’s coming out at the right time, isn’t it? A bunch of people standing up against dangerous political figures.
Exactly. Standing up, saying “Were going to take control of the reality we live in.” Which is this thing about the message that is important in the time that it comes. The genesis of Star Wars  is also a message, a marker of that time. If you see what was happening in the country in the ’70s, clearly the first film is a reaction to that, and it was sending messages that mattered back then. So this film is also very Star Wars-ish, you know? It’s talking about diversity, it’s rethinking the role of men and women, it’s exploring new subjects.
Tell me about your character, Cassian Andor. He sounds a bit like a cousin to Lando Calrissian.
[Laughs.] It’s just the name, I guess. He’s an intelligence officer, a wounded man and therefore a very lonely character. Probably the only person that you’ll see around him is K-2SO, who happens to be a droid reprogrammed by Cassian. So he’s a very lonely man and sort of fighting for the Rebellion since he was very young, almost all his life. It’s, again, a guy who has sacrificed everything—everything—for the cause. He’s a difficult man to read.
What was it like stepping into this new world of Star Wars? There’s been a lot of press about it having a darker, more warlike tone. Was there a way that you and Gareth approached it that felt different to the other movies?
Well, I mean, Gareth is a very particular kind of director. There’s a very specific look and feel to what he shoots. He loves the feeling of getting very close to the characters and living the intimacy of the story he’s doing. So even though this film has the scope and the big shots and, again, the homage to that first film, there is also a feeling, a proximity to the characters that is quite special and unique. In the shoot, he was living the things with us, you know? We were not shooting for the angle, we were living the experience and the camera was catching moments and living with us. We would go from the beginning to the end of each scene with the camera improvising around us and fishing for those moments of truth. It was quite an interesting thing to witness on such a big set with all this construction and special effects and creatures and all of that going on—the camera was there as if this was a documentary about that world.
There’s been a lot of rumor about reshoots on the film. Do you think that was blown out of proportion by the media?
Well, yeah, everything gets blown out of proportion on Star Wars. I did two weeks of reshoots on the last film I directed. It’s just that its called Mr. Pig, and no one gave a shit about it, you know? [Laughs.] It’s something every film does. It was in my contract—I was booked at the beginning for that time to go back [and reshoot]. It’s not like it came out of nowhere. And I have to say, with the process of Gareth, it’s a very good thing to say “Okay, let’s go and put this thing together, and come back to make sure it’s completely right.” And that’s exactly what we did. But yes, in Star Wars, whatever you do, it gets out of hand. I mean, I’m impressed by that: how much expectation this film generates and how much people are eager to know more and more about something that is unstoppable, you know?
As a fan, what was your earliest memory of being around Star Wars?
I think it was trying to belong to the world of my cousins. I’m the youngest of the cousins in my father’s family in Mexico, so I think I was around 6 or 7 years old when I really wanted to belong to that world they were talking about. I guess it was a necessity of belonging. Obviously, I didn’t see it in cinemas, because this was ’84, ’85, but I saw the first film, and I remember it connecting with the beginning of my life as an audience somehow. Star Wars is very important. It was like feeling that I grew up, you know?
Do you have a favorite moment in the series?
I have many. I mean, I have a passion for Darth Vader. The presence of Darth Vader has been around in my life.
Did you share any scenes with him?
Ahhhh, I cannot tell you that! You’re going to have to be patient, but what I can tell you is that in the first two weeks, I had to pinch myself once or twice a day because I’d find myself living the experience as a fan and not as an actor being hired to actually go and do work. I was going crazy with this world. There’s so many references to the first film, the original, and my love for this world. I just wanted to photograph myself, you know, and ask for autographs.
I can’t wait to see it.