‘Rogue One’: A ‘Star Wars’ Movie Director’s Cameo Still Goes Over Many Viewers’ Heads

Rian Johnson’s fingerprint on the Star Wars universe with The Last Jedi was either a refreshing update on the franchise’s mythology or a disturbance in the Force.

Despite his polarizing presence in the Star Wars fan community, Johnson’s impact goes beyond the one movie. While preparing to make, to date, his only Star Wars movie, Johnson made an uncredited cameo in Rogue One. 

Rian Johnson goes to space

Rian Johnson
Rian Johnson | Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

According to his IMDB page, Johnson has been making films since he was just a kid. After years of small, short movies, he entered the mainstream lexicon with a neo-noir film called Brick. The film, which starred Joseph Gordon Levitt in the leading role, put Johnson on the map. Before long, he directed some of the biggest stars in Hollywood in action, comedy, and high-concept genre films. 

From Looper to several Breaking Bad episodes, Johnson was one of Hollywood’s most stylish and eclectic directors. When Disney looked for a director for The Last Jedi, Johnson was a home run choice. His genre-bending ability harkened back to George Lucas’s early days as a journeyman director before his biggest hit. 

Johnson threw the rule book out and made Star Wars in his image. Throughout his addition to the Skywalker saga, Johnson did away with the themes of predestination and genetic greatness by implying that The Force was not something that one was born with but something that anyone could strive to use in many different circumstances. 

To some, this was the most interesting Star Wars movie since the originals. For others, it was a step too far in removing established rules from the universe and starting something new. However, Johnson’s divisive film was not his first inclusion into the galaxy far away. When Rogue One released in 2016, Johnson made an uncredited appearance on the screen. 

Johnson goes ‘Rogue’

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Rogue One was Disney’s first attempt at creating a live-action Star Wars spin-off away from the film’s main saga. With Johnson hard at work on Episode XIII, he and Rogue One director Gareth Edwards likely ran into each other more times than one. This would help explain why Johnson, who previously never appeared on camera, briefly appears as an extra in the most war-like Star Wars film. 

As noted by The Wrap, Johnson’s cameo continues the Star Wars tradition of having several strange cameos from around entertainment. Audiences can see Johnson in the background as one of the gunners in the Death Star. It’s a subtle nod of what was to come while Johnson prepared his movie for release. For Johnson, a lifelong Star Wars fan, it was just cool to get to be a part of the on-screen action, too. 

Johnson on ‘Star Wars’ 

Johnson grew up in a post-Star Wars world where the original trilogy was the only media that fans had seen. As such, he knew that taking on a new film would be divisive from the get-go. After all, if there’s one thing Star Wars fans like more than The Force, it’s complaining about Star Wars. 

“Having been a “Star Wars” fan my whole life, and having spent most of my life on the other side of the curb and in that fandom, it softens the blow [of criticism] a little bit,” the director told Insider

However, Johnson couldn’t let the inevitable discourse veer him away from getting the chance to make his version. The Last Jedi fulfilled a lifelong dream. That opportunity was too good to pass up. 

I’m aware through my own experience that, first of all, the fans are so passionate, they care so deeply — sometimes they care very violently at me on Twitter,” he told Insider. “But it’s because they care about these things, and it hurts when you’re expecting something specific and you don’t get it from something that you love. It always hurts, so I don’t take it personally if a fan reacts negatively and lashes out on me on Twitter.”

Disney must have appreciated what he did. Despite handing the maligned ninth film back to JJ Abrams, Johnson will return to the writer and director’s chair for a new trilogy reportedly being made after years of limbo. While Johnson’s film may not have been for everyone, his love of Star Wars remains inarguable.

As a director and writer, he was able to tell his own story. However, with a cameo in Rogue One, he also got to see himself on-screen.

For a lifelong fan, that was special in and of itself.