As part of EW’s Rogue One cover reveal, we confirmed the Sith lord will be back at the height of his powers in the Dec. 16 film, which takes place just prior to the events of 1977’s original Star Wars.
At 85, James Earl Jones will also reprise his role as Vader’s foreboding voice, while a variety of large-framed performers will embody the character behind the mask. (David Prowse, now 80, was often inside the suit in the original trilogy.)
Jones has lately performed the character on episodes of Disney XD’s animated Star Wars: Rebels – but many actors have imitated the voice over the years for games, cartoons, and other products. Onscreen, however, there can be no substitute.
That leaves the question: How much Vader are we going to get? The answer – just a little bit. (That’s why there isn’t a new image of him, unfortunately.) Kennedy says Rogue One has to make careful use of Vader. “He will be in the movie sparingly,” she says. “But at a key, strategic moment, he’s going to loom large.”
EW also learned a little about Vader’s reputation in the galaxy at this point in the chronology, roughly 19 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin Skywalker lost most of his limbs and was horrifically burned in a battle with Obi-Wan, necessitating the life-sustaining armor he wears forever after. As Rogue One unfolds, Vader is still a background player in galactic politics.
Vader is the muscle. The fixer. And also… the breaker, when he needs to be.
The Empire’s grip on the galaxy is beginning to be pried open, and the Death Star is how Emperor Palpatine intends to maintain his dominion over the star systems rising up against him.
The Rebels are barely familiar with Vader. Even within the Empire, he is more legend than everyday presence. “Within the Rebellion, it’s not commonly spoken about,” says director Gareth Edwards. “Within the Empire, there is the culture of knowing of the existence of Darth Vader. There’s definitely an underlying feeling that there is a power – a dark power – available to the Empire and that if you overstep your mark, you will suffer the consequences.”
With the man in black as a background figure, that brings us to the central villain of Rogue One: a man in white.