“There will be no extraction. You find him? You kill him….those are your orders.“―Draven to Cassian Andor
I recently managed to catch up with Alistair Petrie and ask him some questions about his time working on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Alistair played Davits Draven, a human male who served as a general in the Alliance to Restore the Republic during the Galactic Civil War. He was stationed at the Great Temple on the moon Yavin 4 when Jyn Erso was given the task of stealing the Death Star plans by Mon Mothma, a leader of the Rebel Alliance. Extraction Team Bravo, the team responsible for Jyn’s break out of a labour camp on the planet Wobani, was under Draven’s command.
LB: How does working on Star Wars compare to all your work on other projects?
AP: It’s history, scale, its legacy. The iconography you see every day at work. Sorry, did I say ‘work’?
LB: How did you get the role?
AP: I got a call from my agent saying that Jina Jay, the casting director had called her and said that “Gareth Edwards would love you to join his film”. I remember where I was when I took that call. It was all very secretive and early info was scarce but I said: “give me a line and a cool name, I’m in”. I didn’t need to know anything else.
LB: When you were given the role of General Davits Draven, were you given any info to accommodate this?
AP: In practical terms a schedule, in character terms, initially what the character ‘represented’ which was the hawkish, military side of things. Diplomacy is not his area, a military response is. The amazing thing to subsequently find out is all your life details; where you were born, your whole backstory.
AP: We had ‘high stakes’ scenes. Dramatic stuff to do but whilst you focus on all that as you go about shooting scenes, on cut, there is still time to mess about with your fellow actors and crew. It can be repetitive but then every time you film a scene from another new angle there’s new things to discover: a way of delivering a line, a nuanced glance… But if you keep thinking “This is A Star Wars movie, this is a Star Wars Movie.” you’ll lose your mind, your focus and probably your job. You zoom in on the real things: who am I? What do I want from this scene? You have to treat it the same way you tell any other story. And you drink a LOT of tea and try to avoid too many doughnuts at the Craft Service table.
LB: What was the Yavin 4 set like?
AP: Huge. They wanted to build big sets and not rely on Green Screen and SFX. Awesome in the truest sense of the word.
LB: What was it like being in costume?
AP: To spend all day in a Star Wars costume – especially the iconic 70’s costumes? Like. A. Rock. Star.
LB: Was there much interaction between yourself and the directors, if so, what sort of things would you discuss?
AP: Absolutely, all the time. It’s one of the closest relationships you have. You discuss things beforehand, in the moment between takes, your ideas, their ideas. It’s collaboration. Character arcs, why you say what you say. Everything is – or should be discussed – so when he or she yells action, you are ready to go and every nuance and detail is figured. Then you take all that, throw it away and let your (informed) instincts take off. That, at least, is the plan. Then you listen to The First Assistant Director, the mighty Toby, who runs the show. He’s the real boss.
You had quite an important role in Rogue One, delivering the command to Cassian Andor to kill Galen Erso, what was it like filming that scene, and how is Diego Luna to work with?
AP: I just loved saying that line. It was a relatively new addition to the script so when I read it a couple of days before shooting it, I did go a bit weak at the knees. “You find him, you kill him…”
Then I had to watch the ship take off. Or rather I had a leaf blower in my face and followed the line of a crane to mirror the take-off trajectory.
I’m like a kid when I’m working. I take it very seriously but never forget the complete joy and privilege of doing what I do. Diego is similar. He’s relaxed and completely charming but fully engaged when it’s time.
LB: If you could play any other character, who would it be and why?
AP: I always wanted to be an X-Wing Pilot. How utterly heroic. My father was a fighter pilot in the RAF and so maybe that’s in there somewhere.
LB: Who are some of your favourite characters from the franchise and why?
AP: R2. Somehow you just understand what R2 is saying. I love that. Obi-Wan Kenobi – far too cool and kinda old…and can fight…Vader: the most terrifying villain. And Porkins. Honestly. A larger gentleman but good enough to be an X Wing Pilot. Damn right – it’s an inclusive galaxy. Leia, of course. For all sorts of reasons.
LB: What does Star Wars mean to you?
AP: Gareth and I talked about this. I remember the cinema I saw A New Hope in and where I sat. Old velvet flip down seats… Truly, I feel like the kid who stood up from that seat, walked down the aisle climbed onto the stage and into the screen. It’s magic.
LB: Did you ever think your work would lead you to be in a franchise like Star Wars?
AP: I never think work leads anywhere. I heard a great story recently that an actor who won an Oscar couldn’t get any work; I mean ANY work, for a year after their win. I always say if you ever think “I’ve cracked it’ in this business, it will come and bite you on the arse, hard.
LB: What are some of your highlights filming Star Wars?
AP: We were in Cardington and it’s such a vast cavernous space. They had built the huge Yavin 4 set but still, as a building designed to build a Zeppelin airship, it was almost swallowed. I was walking back from my trailer to the set and came across R2 parked up, just tucked away in a corner. Of all the characters I first saw in SW, R2 I loved the most. I stopped, looked around and it was just the two of us. I said…’Alright R2..?”. In my mind, he whistled and rocked from side to side. My Pal. Messing about with General Merrick (Ben Daniels) almost finished my laughing supplies for the year and I loved working with Gareth Edwards.
LB: What are some of your favourite scenes from Star Wars and why?
AP: So many for so many different reasons. I pride myself on my Alec Guinness Impression, so any opportunity to roll my hand and say “these are not the droids you’re looking for”, I’ll take it. I once called pulled over for speeding and used it on the Policeman. He thought I was mad.
AP: I did about 4 last year and honestly, I was unsure what to expect. But I loved it. People share their stories with you about their love of the films. You get some commercial collectors who are ‘doing a job’ but they come and go; the real interaction is with the people of all ages who have found something that means so much to them. It’s completely wonderful. It is a community of which we are all a part of. A safe place where people can be exactly who they want to be and nobody judges you; you all have a common bond.
LB: Are you open to doing more work for the Star Wars franchise in the future?
AP: Of course, if the Rebellion calls, you don’t say no.
Interview originally published on Hutt’s Palace on 7th February 2018.