Riz Ahmed Interview Rogue One
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop/momstart.com

Rogue One Event

Catch up now, if you missed any of the posts! Read all about it in the Rogue One Event posts.

Skywalker Ranch/Lucasfilm HQ | Ben Mendelsohn | Mads Mikkelsen + Alan Tudyk | Felicity Jones | Donnie Yen | Diego Luna

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters TOMORROW!

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY follows a group of unlikely heroes in a time of conflict who  band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, with Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel are producing, with John Knoll and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The story is by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and the screenplay is by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.

Golden Globe Nominee, Riz Ahmed plays “Bodhi Rook” in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Tell us a bit about your character.

My character is called Bodhi Rook and he actually works in The Empire.  He’s a cargo pilot and he’s from this planet called Jedha which is occupied by The Empire.  He’s just trying to earn a living.  The main employer in town.  The only show in town, really, is working for The Empire.  So he’s a cargo pilot.  But the name Bodhi means awakening.  He goes through a kind of awakening and realizes that that’s not the way. He’s got to try and stand up for what he believes in to make a difference.  So he takes a big risk and he defects from The Empire to try and help The Rebels.

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How was your relationship with the other cast members?

We ended up spending a lot of time together because it’s quite an ensemble film and story.  It’s really about this kind of gang.  It’s about myself and K-2SO, and Cassian, and Jyn, and Baze Malbus, and Chirrut. We’re like this little troop.  We spent a lot of time together closed off in sweaty space ships.  We got to kind of keep each other alive, and awake, and we just cracked a lot of jokes. We had to make each other laugh, and keep each other’s energy up.  So it meant we bonded, for sure.  Definitely.

What was the most difficult part about being a part of Star Wars?

You know, it’s interesting.  The difficult thing wasn’t so much of, oh my god, I’m in Star Wars, because that was a joyous thing.  That was something that was exciting and makes you want to work really hard.  If you love a job that’s not a bad thing.  The thing that was difficult is when I’m playing a character, I like to try and interview people who are close to that character…

I went to visit Rikers Island prison, or I interviewed lots of people that been to prison, and spent time in high schools in the Bronx and interviewed people for hours.  But you can’t interview anyone who’s an Imperial cargo pilot.None of them wanted to speak to me.  So I didn’t know what to and that’s confusing!  You don’t really know where the reference points are, where starting points are.  And in the end, I realized that the reference point is the world that is around you.

When you turn up on set and they’ve built these mountains and space ships, and there are alien creatures walking past you. The preparation doesn’t have to be in your head.  It’s right there in front of you and you just have to soak it up.  So that was quite a big exercise in letting go when I can be a bit of a preparation freak.

Photo Credit: Louise Bishop/momstart.com
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop/momstart.com

What character traits, if any, do you share with your character?

I’d like to think that he’s quite a relatable character for a lot of people.  He’s just an everyman, an average Joe. He finds himself in a crazy situation.  He’s not like Cassian, who’s a rebel spy.  He’s not like Baze Malbus who’s kind of a hardened assassin, or Jyn, who’s this criminal Rebel.  He’s just like a truck driver, basically. He finds himself in the middle of this crazy intergalactic heist movie.  He freaks out a little bit!  So I think I’d freak out in that kind of situation.  I think most of us would.  So hopefully that’s kind of relatable.

What physical training did you have to have for this movie?

I was so muscly, I had to lose weight for [the role] so that Diego didn’t look too bad, you know.  That was the main issue for me.  No, I think the issue really is that my character isn’t a soldier.  So he’s not super physically fit.  He needs to look like when he’s running through a war zone with a 50-kilo backpack on him, he’s out of breath, and it’s difficult.  So yeah.  My preparation was to get really out of shape.  And just kick back.

So you ate donuts while everybody else worked out…

Yeah.  A lot of Netflix and donuts.  That was my… That was my preparation.  You know.

Any words to describe your character?

He’s full of regret.

That’s deep.

Thank you.  Yeah. That was deep!  I think it’s true for a lot of the people in this film.  A lot of the people in this film have quite a dark history.  Or have a past that they’re not proud of and they’re trying to make things right.  That’s what drives them to take big risks and to link up with other people who you’ve got nothing in common with, really, to try and fight a cause that’s bigger than any one of them. It’s about redemption.  People trying to make things right for themselves, and for people around them.


Given the fact that your character was an Imperial pilot, we saw in the trailer that you essentially name the team.  Rogue One.  So without telling us too much about that moment what would you say is the impact on your character that he was the one that named the team?

I can tell you about filming the scene.  It was the last day of shooting. In the reshoots, just kind of last minute. That wasn’t one of the lines that was scheduled for the day or anything.

It just last minute, I think John Swartz, one of the producers, was like, oh yeah!  Can you do a take when you say this?  So it was just a very last minute thing they threw in.

So it’s kinda interesting…It’s not like I got to read the script.  I was, like, yes!  I get to name the team! In scene hundred.

So just happened organically…

It’s really interesting, a lot of the film took shape like that. It evolved.  My character started out as a totally different character with a different name.  With a different job.  With a different relationship to the other characters.  Comes into the story a different time, and by the end, it was just a totally different guy.

I think that’s kind of cool, you know?  When you do these big movies, there’s a lot of people think that it’s maybe quite stiff and everything has to be planned out beforehand.  Actually, is kind of the opposite.  At least with these guys. They’re willing to move around as much as they have to to make things work. To make them as good as they can be.  So is interesting.  It was kind of organic, yeah.

Photo Credit: Louise Bishop/momstart.com
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop/momstart.com

How does an Oxford graduate become a Star Wars star?

It’s a lot of groveling.  A lot of begging.  The way I got this role is funny enough because Gareth comes from a British independent filmmaking just like I do. I remember actually, the British Independent Film Awards one year, around 2012 I think?  This film won.  Best film, or something.  You know, Monster and I was like what is this film? Who’s that guy?

Some guy who’s a VFX guy who wrote, directed, produced, shot, and did the VFX on his movie for 60 Grand. And it’s really good!  I was, like, oh! I want to meet that guy one day.

So we were kind of on that same circuit of really low budget, British films.  He’d seen my work from those days so he called me up, asked me to audition.  But he made the mistake of giving me his email address.

So, I literally, emailed him one version of the scene.  And then a few hours later, I had another idea, and I sent him another version. Then I did that again.  The next morning I didn’t have a reply, so I thought, oh!  I should maybe send him some more!  And in four days I sent him 12 takes of the thing, and then he finally emailed me back, and he said… ‘Hey, Riz.  Just wanted to say please don’t email me anymore.  I’ve got your auditions.  Thank you.’  So I was, like, oh man!  I screwed it up!  And then he then called me a month later when I assumed I’ve screwed it up, to say ‘yeah, come and do this.’  But I was just glad it wasn’t his lawyers calling me…

I guess I can be kind of obsessive with, with my work.  Luckily this time it didn’t cost me a job.

Did he ever tell you which take it was that convinced him?

He said it was the first one.  And he said, every take after that made him think, maybe I don’t want to work with this guy.  Seemed kind of crazy.  Yeah.

So what big differences were there coming from independent films to a big budget film like this?

It’s a lot of differences in terms of scale.  I remember turning up on the first day of shooting, and cranes were carrying palm trees, and inserting them into the ground.  We were in a field in Buckinghamshire, in England.  It was like two hundred Stormtroopers stood around, taking a break with their helmets off, just talking to each other.  And everything about that is surreal.

It’s like, the stuff you play acted as a kid.  There are loads of things that are different.  But in a way, it’s remarkable how much is the same.  In terms of just being surrounded by a bunch of people who really care about their work, and they’re just working really hard. I’ve heard a lot of stories on these bigger blockbuster movies, people are there just for the money.  They don’t care. Maybe that is true for some of these films, but for this movie, almost all the crew have grown up watching Star Wars.

This is their childhood dream to be doing this.  So if you pick up just any random prop that’s on set, you’ll see they’ve got alien writing on it.  And, touch screen things, and buttons and dials.  And you’re, like, this isn’t even going to be on camera!  The shot’s that way.  You just realize, people just love their job and they loved being a part of this world and helping create this world.  So that sense of going above and beyond that almost felt like being on an indie film.

Did you take any cool gadgets home?  You have a memento that you kept?

We’ll talk about that later.

How is it not being able to discuss any of this, reveal any of it?  We, the press, have only seen 28 minutes of it…how do you go into these TV interviews, or these talking interviews, and discuss the film without the fear of, oh my god, what if I reveal something…

Well, you know, it’s interesting in a way, because with Rogue One, there was a lot more that was revealed to the public in advance of the film coming out than there was for Force Awakens because you’re dealing with a familiar kind of storyline, which is the Luke Skywalker saga…

They wanted to keep the details under wraps.  But with this, it’s new characters.  It’s a new storyline.  So they want to educate people about it.  So, apart from spoilers in the movie, they want you guys to know that, okay, I’m Bodhi and I defect from the Empire.  I’m an Imperial cargo pilot. They want you to understand who these different characters are to some extent.  So I don’t think it’s as intense as it was for Force awakens.  But what was intense is they didn’t even give us scripts.  We had to log into an online website to read our scripts, and…

Then, finally, I think Felicity was, like, dude, this is ridiculous.  I need a script on set. So they gave us all scripts.  But at the end of each day, we had to give back the day’s pages. And they had to collect them.  You had to sign for them…

Like, here’s your day’s pages.  You’re like, okay, cool.  Usually, I’m on the set just doing origami with my script. No, you got to give it back.  And if you didn’t get it back…It’s a whole thing…They put Darth Vader on you.

The whole thing was quite intense in a sense but it makes you realize people care about this.  The anticipation part of the enjoyment, so you’ve got to respect that.

What do you want people to get from your role?  Because this is an epic film.  What do you want people to get out of your character?

I think I want them to understand that even normal people can make big contributions.

You might think that someone else is gonna stand up for what you believe in.  But actually, at some point, it’s on you to stand up for what you believe in and try and make a contribution for what you think is right.

Photo Credit: Louise Bishop/momstart.com
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop/momstart.com

We even had a moment when Diego Luna and Riz Ahmed jumped into the picture together!

Photo Credit: Louise Bishop/momstart.com
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop/momstart.com

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ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY arrives in theaters everywhere on December 16th In RealD 3D and IMAX 3D!

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