The Politics of Star Wars
Diego Luna has rocketed 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 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 things Star Wars and why the film matters in the current social climate.
There aren't 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?
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.” 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.
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 “We're 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. It’s talking about diversity, it’s rethinking the role of men and women, it’s exploring new subjects.
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. 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.
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.
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 ... 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. x