The Rebellion used many kinds of ships in its fight against the Empire, but none was more popular than the X-Wing. Arguably the most utilitarian of the Rebel starfighters, the X-Wing was present in all the major space battles of the original Star Wars trilogy, and they continue to be used 30 years later in The Force Awakens era. So it's not surprising that they'll be seen next week in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but unlike in previous movies, the Anthology spinoff took a different approach to shooting the X-Wing scenes by actually having the cockpit move. According to director Gareth Edwards:
When we were filming the X-wing footage in the film, we had the X-wing [cockpit] mounted to a gimbal so it could move around, like it was really flying. Then all around were the screens, in 180 degrees, that were projecting space and this pre-animated flight path as the X-wing was moving around, like it was really flying.
Gareth Edwards explained to EW that because he wanted the X-Wing moments in Rogue One to feel like a rollercoaster, he and the movie's crew decided to turn the X-Wing "ships" into the equivalent of an amusement park ride. So rather than simply have the cockpit be stationary with some shaking here and there, Edwards and the crew were able to pivot the cockpit around to simulate the ship moving through space. Add in those screens and the flight path, and that's probably the closest any actor within an X-Wing cockpit has come to feel like they're actually piloting one of those vessels.
However, that wasn't the only unusual shooting method Gareth Edwards implemented to make the X-Wings flying in Rogue One feel more real. Staying true to his unique style of filmmaking, Edwards also had a handheld camera attached to the top of the X-Wing cockpit and maneuvered it around so it could follow the ships around from a "first-person" viewpoint during the insanity of a space battle, from dogging explosions to weaving around obstacles. In fact, Edwards himself was the one operating that camera. He stated:
I got inside this X-wing, put the camera on top of my shoulder and they closed the cockpit. Then the thing just started flying and we started going through space in a space battle. And I was filming it, trying to film everything and trying to get the shots as well as I could.
According to the article, these approaches to the X-Wing scenes, along with numerous other creative decisions, were meant to give Rogue One a "documentary feel." As has been mentioned many times over the course of Rogue One's production and post-production, the movie will feel more like a war movie, adding grittiness that hasn't been seen in the main saga movies. So even though this is a story involving lasers flying and spaceships caught in dogfights, it could feel like the most realistic Star Wars movie yet.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on Friday, December 16.