Rogue One's callbacks and Easter eggs: familiar faces, blue milk, Guardians of the Whills, and more.

All the Star Wars Callbacks in Rogue One

All the Star Wars Callbacks in Rogue One

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Slate's Culture Blog
Dec. 16 2016 10:43 AM

All the Star Wars Callbacks in Rogue One

Quite a few familiar faces in this movie.

Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm

This post contains spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Rogue One is the eighth major film entry in the vast Star Wars universe, which also stretches across television, books, comics, video games, and more. That means that Rogue One, a prequel to the original Star Wars (now subtitled A New Hope), has a lot of history to keep up with, and the finished result is full of familiar faces, foreshadowing, and even a few Easter eggs for diehard fans. Below, we’ve put together a guide to the many Star Wars callbacks in the film.


The opening shot

All seven Star Wars movies open with a camera panning (or tilting) from a starfield to a spaceship. Rogue One’s opener shot is virtually identical, except that when the camera pans up from the starfield, we see the rings of a planet, rather than the bottom of an Imperial Destroyer, cutting into the frame.

Galactic farm life

“You’re a hard man to find, Galen. But farming, really?” says Ben Mendelsohn’s villainous Orson Krennic. The farm where young Jyn’s father settles their family is heavily reminiscent of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s farm in Episode IV. Inside their home, we even see a tall glass of blue milk, a beverage produced by banthas and a favorite of one Luke Skywalker.


Shot/stabbed in the back


Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm

When Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) meets with his informant and things go south, he realizes that the man can’t escape with an injured arm, so he shoots the informant in the back. While on the surface this might seem like a “Han shot first” moment for the character, it’s actually much darker than that: a classic Anakin Skywalker move.

Yavin 4

The Rebel headquarters on a jungle-covered moon should look familiar, since we first saw it in A New Hope.


Familiar faces from the Rebellion

Plenty of Rebel favorites from the original trilogy return in Rogue One, which is welcome, given all the new characters being introduced. Genevieve O’Reilly plays Mon Mothma, the Rebellion’s civilian leader, previously played by Caroline Blakiston in Return of the Jedi. (O’Reilly also shot scenes as Mon Mothma for Revenge of the Sith, but they were cut before release.)



Game of Thrones’ Ian McElhinney takes over the role of General Jan Dodanna, leader of the Death Star Mission in A New Hope. Jimmy Smits reprises his role in the prequel trilogy as Bail Organa, adopted father of Princess Leia. He also brings his droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, who continue their streak of being in every Star Wars movie, however briefly.

A bonus aside: Though she doesn’t appear in the film, the loudspeaker on Yavin 4 pages a “General Syndulla,” a probable reference to Hera Syndulla of Star Wars Rebels. However, this could also be her father, Cham Shyndulla, a Twi’lek freedom fighter. Hera’s ship, the Ghost, has apparently been spotted in the movie’s marketing material.


“Never tell me the odds”

C-3PO was always offering up the probability of a given course of action’s potential for failure. (For instance, that the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.) K-2SO tries to do the same throughout Rogue One, but Cassian, like Han Solo, never wants to be told.

Dr. Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba

Yes, not only do these characters have names, one of them even has a medical degree. Evazan (the one with the disfigured nose) and Baba (the one with the butt chin) first appeared in A New Hope as disgruntled cantina patrons whose run-in with Luke ends with Obi-Wan slicing off Baba’s arm. Jyn and Cassian also run into them on Jedha and almost wind up in a confrontation of their own. Even the dialogue is similar, with Cassian assuring them, “We don’t want any trouble.”


Force of the others, Guardians of the Whills, protectors of the kyber crystals

Donnie Yen’s character, Chirrut Îmwe, is first introduced telling fortunes on the street of Jedha, saying “May the Force of others be with you.” “The Force of others” was one of Lucas’ original names for the Force in an early draft of Star Wars.


Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Chirrut and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) are also described as “Guardians of the Whills.” The Order of the Whills hasn’t been mentioned in previous films, but it is established in various novelizations as a group of Force-sensitive beings who preserved the history of the galaxy. This is also a reference to one of Lucas’ original titles for the first film in the saga: Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars.

Kyber crystals, which the Empire harvests to power its Death Star, are sacred to the Jedi and power their lightsabers. Part of a Jedi’s training was to harvest a kyber cystal from caves on the ice planet Ilum to build his own lightsaber, as seen on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Jyn also wears a kyber crystal on a necklace.



A couple of Saw Gerrera’s men play a game similar to Holochess, a type of chess played with holograms in A New Hope and revisited briefly in The Force Awakens. However, the pieces Gerrera’s men are using look more solid.


Another one of Saw’s cronies has a hologram of a Twi’lek dancer playing on a table. It’s a little hard to tell, but the recording looks a lot like Oola, the ill-fated dancer from Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi.


The hologram message recorded by Galen for his daughter flickers, fades, and pixelates in a satisfactory imitation of the holograms from the original trilogy, which creates a sense of continuity.

Familiar faces from the Empire

Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin was the perfect foil to Darth Vader in A New Hope, and here we see him brought back to life. Cushing died in 1994, but rather than recasting, Rogue One recreated the actor using computer-generated imagery, and the effect is a little uncanny. There’s another beloved classic character in the movie who gets the same treatment, but we won't spoil the surprise.

Speaking of Vader, he’s in Rogue One snapping his cape, making Force puns, and being generally villainous, voiced yet again by James Earl Jones.



Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.

After the rebels fail to decide on a plan of attack, Bail Organa says he needs to get back to Alderaan to tell them there will be no peace, which at this point is a bit like booking a ticket for the Titanic, given that we know the planet is the Death Star’s next target in A New Hope. Organa and Mon Mothma also allude to “your friend the Jedi,” and Organa promises to get a message to him, kicking off the events of the next movie in the sequence.

“I have a bad feeling about this”

Around the time of the final attack, there is the obligatory recitation of the “bad feeling about this,” as is said in every movie. K-2SO says “I’ve got a bad feeling about—” but is interrupted by Cassian and Jyn shushing him, another reminder that while Rogue One is a Star Wars movie, that doesn’t mean it plays by the rules.

X-Wing squadrons

Two pilots from A New Hope, “Dutch” Vander (Gold Leader) and Garven Dreis (Red Leader) make appearances in the space battle over Scarif via archival footage. Red 5 conveniently gets blown up, leaving that slot available for Luke when he joins the rebellion to blow up the Death Star.

Hammerhead corvette

Admiral Raddus, who is a Mon Calamari, just like Admiral Ackbar of the original trilogy, tells someone to pull his hammerhead corvette around. This is a type of ship used frequently used on Rebels.

Sam Adams is a Slate senior editor and the editor of Slate’s culture blog, Brow Beat.

Marissa Martinelli is a Slate editorial assistant.

Forrest Wickman is Slate’s culture editor.