We're finally in the home stretch to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which releases in just a few of the longest weeks of your life. The first of the Star Wars spin-off films has its work cut out for it, serving as a genuine test of sorts to see how audiences will react to these supplementary films. It's navigating uncharted space, and when looking for inspiration, the production team and actors would frequently look back on one Star Wars film in particular. Surprisingly it isn't A New Hope -- the film it leads right into -- but The Empire Strikes Back.

Press junkets for Rogue One are starting to enter full effect, which means that actors and filmmakers will be dishing out anything their Non-Disclosure Agreements will allow. Entertainment Weekly spoke with Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso) and Diego Luna (Cassian Andor) about the upcoming film. While Rogue One sets up events in A New Hope, according to Jones, it's actually much closer in tone to The Empire Strikes Back.

The one that we always would come back to would be The Empire Strikes Back. And I remember with [director Gareth Edwards], we'd keep coming back to it as kind of an inspiration and a reference point. I feel like Mark Hamill's performance in that really captures absolute authenticity, and so that was really our kind of benchmark for Rogue One.

One of the benefits about not being tied to the main trilogy of films is that the spin-offs have a freedom to do their own things. They don't have to be locked into a similar tone, style, or story, and the only thing they really have to do is feel like a Star Wars movie. That can mean a lot of different things, and to Rogue One, it means offering something a little bit dirtier. That makes it similar in spirit to The Empire Strikes Back, a film that took a decidedly darker and more serious turn from its predecessor.

Rogue One

Where Empire Strikes Back became more emotionally grounded, Rogue One hopes to follow. Jones goes on to say that there's a grittiness in Empire Strikes Back that can be recognized in Rogue One. She insists that everything in the film is real, from the torrents of mud constantly getting thrown in their face, to the sweat beading down their necks. These Rebels go through the ringer to steal the plans to the Death Star and it was reflected as much as possible on set. Frankly, that's a great thing to hear, and you can't go wrong by looking at the best Star Wars film to inspire your own.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will finally hit theaters later this month on December 16.

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