‘Star Wars’ fan wrote for a galaxy far, far away

Decades after the original release, one fan wrote for the space saga he grew up loving.

By Mickie Shaw, Multimedia Editor

The 42-year-old “Star Wars” saga, which started with the blockbuster 1977 release of “A New Hope” and will continue with the latest installment “The Rise of Skywalker” due out in December, has inspired fans to pursue careers in the film industry, including Oscar-nominated screenplay writer Chris Weitz.

Weitz is a film producer, a successful author, an occasional actor, director, activist, and screenplay writer for the second biggest movie franchise in Hollywood. He co-wrote the film “Rogue One: A Star Wars’ Story,” taking over the reins after the film’s first writer, Gary Whitta, exited the project.

How were you approached by Lucasfilm to write “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?”

I got a call from my agent. I always wanted to write a “Star Wars” film; I basically tried to not fanboy out too heavily. I think that they absolutely wanted somebody who sort of knew their stuff in terms of familiarity with the films … and not lose their mind about the pressure of writing a “Star Wars” movie.

Are there writing boundaries when working on an established story and universe?

Yes, I think there is. You always need the canonical stuff and having to know where the story is going. But, I was surprised about how much freedom there was within that construct. The key is to tell a good story and to have characters people feel involved with.

Did you feel pressure taking on something that is so beloved and has such devoted fans?

Yes, absolutely. I mean, I am a fan too. I absolutely didn’t want to get it wrong. There are the expectations of the fans.

The movie was based on an original story by Lucasfilm ILM executive John Knoll; how much of his story made it into the final script?

The key elements were, and that it was going to be a team effort. Originally, the movie was a lot more focused on [lead characters] Jyn and Cassian. I am kind of responsible for fleshing out the scenes. Chirut and Baze are my guys. Bodie Rook was kind of on my watch. I was kind of able to add the character, which was great, and sort of change the feel of the movie from one of just a coming-of-age story to more of a heist film and a change story.

The scene where Jyn and her father are reunited at the moment of his death was powerful. The father/daughter relationship, is that your creation?

The idea that Jyn’s father was the designer of the Death Star was already there. Originally, her mother was a Jedi. So, her mother was more of a hero. I recall in Gary’s last draft, Jyn was quite preoccupied with revenge, and the question was whether she was going to go over to the dark side by committing murder out of her own sense of desire for revenge. I think during my tenure it turns a bit more into the question of whether Jyn was going to complete the relationship with her father and whether there was going to be redemption.

Why were there no Jedi?

We decided to have no Jedi whatsoever in this story. So, it’s a story about people without any supernatural validation to what they are doing, struggling against an impossible to defeat power.

So, although Chirrut Imwe does do these pretty extraordinary things, he is not a Jedi.

Is there a religious belief in the Force by non-Force users?

Yes, absolutely. The idea also was that not everybody that believes in the Force believes in exactly the same way. In the same way that there are all these different Abrahamic religions, there’s Judaism, and Christianity and Islam, and they share some things in common, there are also differences, different beliefs.

Who is your favorite character from the original “Star Wars” movies?

Luke Skywalker. I was this 7-year-old kid [when I first saw “Star Wars”]. He’s the guy I really identified with. Luke Skywalker was my guy. He was the example of being good. I still feel that way.

Weitz directed "Operation Finale" (2018) and in February, his production company, Depth of Field, signed a two year first look deal with Paramount Television for TV and digital series.