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The Empire used more than just the standard Stormtroopers to enforce their will in the original Star Wars movies, from the Snowtroopers on Hoth to the Scout Troopers on Endor. When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story jumps back in time to explore events that happened shortly before A New Hope, moviegoers will meet the Death Troopers, the black-clad operatives who look way more intimidating than their white-uniformed brethren. However, it turns out that the Death Troopers are based off concept art created decades ago, when Star Wars hadn't yet become a pop culture juggernaut.
While being interview at Star Wars Celebration this past weekend, Rogue One director Gareth Edwards revealed to The Star Wars Show how he stumbled onto designs for Stormtroopers made from when the first Star Wars movie was still being developed, and he used them as inspiration for the Death Troopers. He explained:
[A]t the very back of the room are all of these drawers that are full of the Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie originals. The original actual paintings that they showed the studio to get Star Wars made. And on some of those images, there were these Stormtroopers that were really tall and thin and they looked so cool and athletic. When you put armor on a Stormtrooper, they look like NFL players. They were sleek and S.A.S. looking Stormtroopers. So we thought let's try to find some six, seven foot tall people who are really thin and try to figure out a new Stormtrooper that can actually hit its target with guns. And they became, eventually, the Death Troopers.
The Death Troopers were officially revealed in the first Rogue One teaser trailer back in April, and the recent Celebration behind-the-scenes footage showed a little bit more of them in action. Not only are they the best of the best in the Imperial military (at the very least, they can aim properly), but evidently they only accept tall recruits. Even though the Empire's rise to power and eventual defeat has already been told, there's always a chance the Death Troopers could appear again in another prequel tale, like in the Han Solo movie or Star Wars Rebels.
You can hear Gareth Edwards' full comments in the clip below, including how it felt going from being a regular Star Wars fan to directing one of its movies.
The Death Troopers won't be the only specialized Imperial soldiers in Rogue One. The movie will also feature Shoretroopers, who serve as the Empire's Marine corps and will be patrolling the beaches near a top-secret Imperial bunker. These particular factions will be under the command of Imperial Military Director Orson Krennic, and it's their job to stop the Rebels who are trying to steal the plans to the first Death Star. The Death Troopers will also reportedly be one of Rogue One's main merchandising focuses, so expect to see a lot of them in stores later this year.
You can watch the Death Troopers targeting Rebel scum when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives in theaters on December 16.