Live-action Star Wars stories have always been on the big screen, with only animated tales getting a shot on television. Until now. The Mandalorian is the first live-action Star Wars TV series and Disney knows this is a big deal – it’s being positioned as the flagship series for the new Disney+ streaming service. Much like how CBS used a new Star Trek show to draw people into their new subscription service, Disney and Lucasfilm know that all it takes is one great show to get people hooked…and the next chapter in a beloved franchise certainly helps get people through the door.
In case you weren’t able to attend Star Wars Celebration panel or watch the live stream of the event, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about The Mandalorian, collected from the panel.
Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni: Dream Team
The panel for The Mandalorian kicked off with Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, taking the stage alongside executive producer Jon Favreau and director Dave Filoni. It was an impressive line-up: a powerful creative executive, the director of Iron Man and The Jungle Book, and the mind behind Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.
Kennedy kicked things off by noting that Favreau is a lifelong Star Wars fan and that he brough The Mandalorian straight to her:
“When we found out that Disney+ was going to let us make TV shows, we got so excited. And Jon sat down and pitched the idea of Mandalorian. And we were so excited to bring this idea to the screen.”
Of course, she also praised Filoni, whose animated shows have kept Star Wars fandom (and Star Wars itself) fresh and interesting in the years between movies:
“We were so excited that there was an opportunity to bring this to the screen. And I get the feeling that everyone in this room knows that [Dave Filoni] is a rockstar. What can be more exciting than Dave Filoni directing live-action? So the fact that John and Dave have come together and are working together on The Mandalorian, this has been the most fun, the most exciting experience.”
And then Kennedy left the stage, letting Favreau and Filoni take control of the panel. And they proceeded to share a great deal about their new show.
A Perfect Meeting
Interestingly, Favreau and Filoni have known each other for years, even before Favreau lent his voice to a character in Star Wars Rebels. They met in 2007 at Skywalker Ranch, when Favreau was mixing Iron Man and Filoni was working on the first season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The ended up screening their work each other, as Favreau explained:
Dave and I meet each other at the Ranch, I was mixing Iron Man. And I brought him to the Kurosawa stage and he was the first person to ever see Iron Man. The very first test audience. And I said to him, this is awesome, and if you ever need a partner let me know.
Soon enough, Favreau mentioned that Mandalorians are his favorite Star Wars characters, so Filoni went straight to him when he needed someone to voice a new Mandalorian character on the series. And thus the seeds were planted for future collaboration.
After the Celebration
Favreau and Filoni then started sharing hard details about the series itself. The Mandalorian is set five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Empire has fallen and the Rebels have won, but…now what? Favreau explained:
“I had been working on this idea for a long time. Because I was thinking what happened after the end of the Empire and the celebration [died down]? Because if you look at history…What was it like until the New Republic took over? You have the survival of the fittest. It’s fun at first, but it gets really complicated quickly.”
The Mandalorian asks what kinds of characters would survive in the fallout following the destruction of a central government, with “chaos taking over in the galaxy.” In the outer rim of the galaxy, far from law and order to begin with, stories can be told. “The scum and villainy,” Favreau said, “That was the environment to tell a story, a rich tone.”
Filoni noted how this corner of the galaxy is so open to story possibilities, saying:
“It’s been 15, 16 years working on Star Wars and I’ve never seen them run out of ideas, but this area is so unique […] Star Wars has so many groups of people with so many different aspects to it, and we wanted to bring that together.”
Like previous Star Wars projects, Favreau and Filoni looked to classic cinema for inspiration when it came to molding the world of The Mandalorian. Naturally, they gravitated toward what inspired George Lucas in the first place. Favreau explained:
And just getting to the roots of what inspired George. The old Westerns and the samurai films, getting back to that imagery on a scale that felt like when it began, with planets that were separated and each world was different, it felt like that time in history that was so fertile for the samurai films, back when the time of Seven Samurai when the age of the warrior was starting to end, or post-Civil War in the old West, when order had to be brought to the universe. And in Mando’s world, we had talked a lot about that.
Fleshing Out the Canon
Favreau and Filoni are aware that they’re working in a universe that has fans of all ages who approach this universe from different angles. So it was vital that The Mandalorian appeal to every kind of fan. “Star Wars has so many [elements], sp we wanted something that would bring everything together,” Favreau said. That meant melding concepts, characters, and ideas from both the original trilogy and the prequels.
In a particularly exciting revelation, they noted that aspects of the old “Expanded Universe”, now relegated to “Legends” status and considered mostly non-canon, will be returning as part of the series. Said Favreau:
We wanted to bring in elements from— Star Wars has so many groups of people that like so many different aspects to it. But the idea of creating something that brings them all together. And everything from the original trilogy that I was more of a fan of when I grew up, with the prequels, and then the sequels, the Clone Wars, and even some of legends, and starting to bring some of that EU stuff back in.
And yes, the show will attempt to explain gaps in the galaxy’s history. As Favreau said:
We had talked a lot about the Jedi and Mandalorian history and also where is the Mandalorian during the original trilogy and even the prequels. So now we’re coloring in the missing tiles here.
Favreau and Filoni were then joined by cast members Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, and Carl Weathers and while they couldn’t share too many details, they did shed some light on this dark corner of the Star Wars universe.
Pascal, best known for this work in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Game of Thrones and Narcos, plays The Mandalorian, a bounty hunter and gunfighter with questionable morals. And, of course, he wears the coolest armor in the galaxy. When asked to describe his character, Pascal described him as “fantasy fulfillment”:
The Mandalorian is a mysterious, lone gunfighter from the outer reaches of the galaxy. Some might say he has questionable moral character. He’s in line with some of our best Westerns, some good samurai, all of the good stuff. And he’s a badass. I think [Dave] is incredibly talented. I’ve loved Star Wars so much and he’s an incredible iconic character that I get to play!
When asked about his influences, Pascal said The Mandalorian has “a lot of Clint Eastwood in him” and that he watched the films of Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa to prepare for the part. As you’d expect, Pascal has been a lifelong Star Wars fan and shared an amusing anecdote about how he learned he was going to star in the series:
“Jon asked me to come in to meet with him on ‘something Star Wars.’ I came into the room and it was wall to wall story illustrations. I was born in ’75, so I am a product of Star Wars fandom. So I was looking at it, saying ‘Who am I auditioning for? The bug?’ And they were like ‘You’re the Mandalorian.’”
The Mandalorian may be the title character, but he’s not alone the Outer Rim of the galaxy. Also out there is Cara Dune, a character played by MMA fighter turned action movie badass Gina Carano. While Pascal is playing someone without a side in the fight, she is playing someone who used to have a side and now has to deal with the fact that the war is over and her side won:
“I have to say when I got this job I instantly was like oh my gosh I’m going to be part of a whole other community. My character is an ex-Rebel shock trooper….I’m a bit of a loner and I have a bit of trouble reintegrating myself into society. I was blessed to work with such amazing people and have such amazing direction.”
After all, what does a soldier do when the fighting stops and they have to go home? It’s a question that many veterans in the real world face and it could prove fascinating to see it play out in the Star Wars universe.
In any case, Cara is going to get a ton of action. Favreau joked that the only person not having any fun on set was Carano’s stunt double, since the star herself was doing all of the heavy lifting. Literally. At one point she dragged a character off the battlefield after they had been injured, and she happily did the take several times.
The great Carl Weathers seemed to reveal the most about the plot of The Mandalorian when he talked about his character, Greef, who commands a team of bounty hunters and hires the title character for job. Weathers explained:
Of all the things I’ve been involved with, I don’t think anything has been on the level of this. He’s this character running this group of bounty hunters and he’s part of this guild of bounty hunters. There seem to be a lot of nefarious people, so he’s looking for someone to go after a product that’s worth a lot to a lot of people. And he finds a bounty hunter named Mandalorian. So he hires this guy and sends him out here and the Mando does what needs to be done.
Carl Weathers as the gruff leader of a team of deadly assassins and killers? Sign us up.
A sizzle reel of footage from the show and behind-the-scenes looks at the set was shown, as well as even more footage from the end of the panel. The footage has not been released online yet, but our own Ethan Anderton sent over a description of what was shown in one section straight from Star Wars Celebration:
The Mandalorian’s ship, the Razorcrest, blasts through space. He walks out on a planet different from the one seen in the opening moments of the first sizzle reel shown during the panel. He sees Gina Carano’s character Cara Dune sitting at what appears to be some sort of outdoor cantina. Mando asks, “What’s her business here?”
A series of shots has Mando sparring with Cara, trading blows until they both land flat on the ground, pistol blasters drawn and pointing at each other’s heads.
Next, Giancarlo Esposito is wearing a black cape and black Imperial armor with a small group of Death Troopers behind him. Blaster shots have riddled the small desert dwelling he stands in front off as voiceover from Werner Herzog’s character says, “The Empire has improved every planet it touches.”
We see that improvement first-hand as Giancarlo Esposito says, “Burn them out.” Suddenly a Stormtrooper with red paint accents on his armor and a flamethrower comes in and starts torching the exterior of the building.
A complete breakdown of everything was shown can be read over here.
As with any television show, Favreau and Filoni aren’t the only ones steering the ship. A diverse team of directors were hired to helm individual episodes: Taika Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa, Deborah Chow, and Filoni himself. Favreau explained that there was only one rule for hiring directors on the series: “The primary prerequisite was that they had to be a fan of Star Wars and love Star Wars.”
And while all of the assembled filmmakers love Star Wars, their love stems from different backgrounds and perspectives, which feeds into the idea of this truly being a Star Wars series for fans of all kinds.
Embracing Fans of All Kinds
Although The Mandalorian is set in a very specific time and place in the Star Wars galaxy, Jon Favreau said it will be a “great way to invite people in.” He compared it to what he did with Iron Man in that it will appeal to old school fans and newcomers alike:
“For the people who have been fans for 40 years, we got a lot in there for you. But these are new characters and new stories so it’s a great way to invite more people in and get them on the merry-go-round. It’s like Iron Man where if you weren’t a fan, you can jump in, but if you’ve been a fan we got a lot of details in [there].”
And in its own way, The Mandalorian has utilized more fan involvement than any previous Star Wars project. When a large group of Stormtroopers were needed for an episode, they decided to call upon the 501st Legion, the organization of fans who dress in exact replica costumes and organize charity events that raise thousands of dollars. These men and women were ready for their close-up, as Filoni explained:
“The thing I know about Star Wars fans is that in all honesty a lot of the costumes you guys made are even better than what we see onscreen. So I had no doubts that they would look great. And they act like Stormtroopers. They know what to do.”
Amusingly, the 501st members did not know they were being called upon for an actual Star Wars shoot. But when all was said and done, their homemade armor is screen-used.
The Razorcrest is a Practical Ship
Like many Star Wars fans, the people who actually make Star Wars movies love practical effects: real sets and locations, working droids, aliens that people in costumes, and so on. But in recent years, most space sequences have been created entirely with CGI, a far cry from the practical models and special camera rigs that were used back in the original trilogy. However, Favreau and Filoni decided to do something different for The Mandalorian’s ship, named the Razorcrest:
Favreau:: Part of what made that possible is a lot of cutting edge technology, stuff I learned from Iron Man, Jungle Book, even Lion King, using all this tech and VR for planning. But Star Wars at its core has to feel practical. What was interesting was when we startd to plan, the name of the ship is the Razor Crest. It’s sort of a reflective silver old army surplus gunship. I thought we should make a miniature for my desk. The trick I learned from Guillermo del Toro, make sure you build practical props so you can have something around your house. [Dave] has nothing from Clone Wars…You can’t hang a Quicktime up in your office!
Filoni: We started talking [with ILM] about the process of building a model and there was a lot of interest in that. Then we started hearing about Jon building a model in his garage.
Favreau: It was like Star Wars club back in high school.
Naturally, the folks at ILM learned about this got involved, the result is that at least some of the splace flight sequences where shot the old fashioned way. Literally. And Favreau certainly seems pleased. “I think there’s a physicality that comes across onscreen,” he said.
The Mandalorian will arrive when Disney+ launches on November 12, 2019.
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