This event was hosted by Disney. All travel & accommodations were provided by Disney.
The true heroes in our lifetime are the regular guys. They are the regular people who do extraordinary things: fire fighters, policemen, paramedics, nurses, doctors, etc. In Rogue One, Riz Ahmed plays one of the regular guys, but he’s far from normal. I had the opportunity to sit in a room with 24 other bloggers to interview the humble man who just got nominated for a Golden Globe, what an honor!
Bodhi Rook: The underdog with huge plans!
I wasn’t personally familiar with Riz Ahmed’s previous work, which actually intrigued me more. He walked into the room more enthusiastically than any of the other actors. I’m sure after keeping the film a secret for so long, it was exciting to finally talk all about it. Riz Ahmed began by introducing us to Bodhi Rook:
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. It’s the main employer in town. The only show in town is working for the Empire. So he’s a cargo pilot. The name Bodhi means awakening. So 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.
It’s interesting how each character in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story delivers such a powerful message. Just imagine how empowered children will feel to stand up for what they believe in and to fight for what’s right, no matter the cost. Riz Ahmed wants Bodhi to be a “relatable character for a lot of people.” I feel like a lot of us, adults and children, will feel a huge connection with this character. Maybe he will encourage us to speak out and follow our dreams.
He’s just an average Joe. He finds himself in a crazy situation. He’s not like Cassian, who’s a rebel spy. He’s not a hardened assassin or a criminal rebel. He’s just like a truck driver, basically. And 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.
Becoming a part of the Star Wars saga
It’s funny to think about Riz Ahmed’s role and how it relates to his real life experiences. His character, Bodhi Rook, is a simple guy making huge contributions and Riz Ahmed is a simple guy making a huge contribution to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. So how did this all come about? The story is actually quite funny. Sometimes, persistency is key.
After asking Riz to audition for Rogue One, Gareth gave him his email address to send in his audition. Notice the word ‘audition’ is singular? That’s funny because apparently, Riz didn’t notice.
I literally emailed him one version of the scene. Then, a few hours later, I had another idea and sent him another version. I did that again and in 4 days, I sent him 12 takes.
He only stopped sending him takes when Rogue One Director, Gareth Edwards asked him not to email anymore. At this point, Riz Ahmed thought that he blew it. He knew for sure that he didn’t get the role. It wasn’t until a month later that Gareth called to tell him that he landed the role!
I guess I can be kind of obsessive with my work. And luckily this time it didn’t cost me a job.
From independent films to big ticket films
It must have been a really big deal for Riz Ahmed to come from making independent, low-budget films to being on set of the biggest film franchise to ever exist. I can’t attest to the exact budget for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but I can definitely say that it’s outstanding!
Riz Ahmed describes working on Star Wars as “a joyous thing” that “makes you want to work really, really hard.” His difficulty came from drawing inspiration from real-life figures, as he’d done with past roles. The only thing is, he can’t really interview Imperial Cargo Pilots, haha. He described his frustrations in the beginning as “really confusing because you don’t know where the reference points are“. Only he didn’t need reference points, which he didn’t realize until he stepped on the set.
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’s 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.
I can’t wait to see Riz Ahmed succeed. I just know that his role is going to touch us all. Sometimes letting of control can make a world of a difference. As far as the actual working set of Rogue One, there’s a huge difference in terms of scale. Riz mentioned showing up on the first day of shooting a seeing “cranes carrying palm trees” and “two hundred stormtroopers” surrounding him. He described it as very surreal.
The most interesting thing that I took away from our interview with Riz Ahmed was about the props on set. You’ll be happy to hear about the realism of everything. Star Wars doesn’t cut corners!
If you pick up any random prop 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 gonna be on camera!’ And 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 being on an indy film. 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 working really hard.
Top Secret Scripts
Riz really gave us a sneak peek into how serious and strict they were on the set of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. At first, they didn’t even have a script because they (whoever they are) were too afraid of the story being leaked. “We had to log into a website and read our scripts and finally, Felicity was like, we need scripts on set.” They finally got their way, but boy they didn’t make it easy. “At the end of each day we had to give back the day’s pages and they had to collect them and you had to sign for them!” I’d say that’s a good thing because I haven’t come across a single spoiler!
3 words to describe Bodhi Rook and the final message to fans
When asked to describe his character in 3 words, Riz Ahmed’s response was really deep: “Full of Regret”
A lot of the people in this film have got quite a dark history. Or have got a past that they’re not proud of. And they’re trying to make things right. And that’s what drives them to take big risks. And to link up with other people who you’ve got nothing in common with 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.
Riz Ahmed wants fans to understand that “even normal people can make big contributions”. He goes on to explain that sometimes you don’t think your voice matter, but it really does.
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. Try to make a contribution for what you think is right.
And, as usual – here is our group photo!
See Riz Ahmed in Rogue One on 12/16
From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes 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.