Exclusive: Timothy Zahn Puts ‘Star Wars Rogue One’ Thrawn Rumors to Rest
Timothy Zahn, the author behind the “Star Wars Expanded Universe,” discusses future film influences.
While Disney taking over the “Star Wars” franchise was a blessing for fans wanting more, the disassociation from the EU (Expanded Universe) was quite a blow. A majority of fans know “Star Wars” only on a cinematic level, but there is much more content for those that have a deeply embedded perspective beyond the films.
As the pioneer and author for much of the “Star Wars” novelizations in the EU, Timothy Zahn is a name that this niche group of fans know well. From him we received a more expansive universe outside of the films introducing us to characters that could be considered far more unique than what we’ve seen on screen. We’ve learned the intricate details of the Empire and Rebellion as well as learning about the main characters’ lives after “Return of the Jedi.” Given the current state of the franchise and the removal of these stories from cinematic canon, we spoke with Timothy Zahn about his take on the future of “Star Wars.”
Attending a panel with Timothy Zahn two years ago discussing “The Force Awakens,” I was curious as to how his perspective has evolved. On the surface level did he like or dislike the film? What did he think of this new direction for the upcoming trilogy?
“We’re definitely picking up speed. ‘Force Awakens’…’Rogue One’ comes out I think this Christmas. I think we’ve just finished season 2 of [Star Wars] Rebels and I’ve heard they’ve been renewed for a third season. Knowing the time lag in animation, they’re probably already working on season 4. So that’s been going great. They’ve got a whole slew of new books out that are now canon, new comics and such. So yeah, after a pause to kind of take a deep breath, they’re pulling out all the stops with ‘Star Wars’ so it’s going to be an exciting time.”
Expressing my own praise for Zahn’s work and calling it a “saving grace” when compared to the poorly received prequels, I was curious as to how he felt about the EU no longer being canon. He was surprisingly happy with the route they took for excluding the Expanded Universe. Instead of calling it “non canon” Zahn referred to the EU’s state as “legend status.” This means Disney has the option to declare a particular storyline of the Expanded Universe canon if it can be integrated well into a film. So while many think the EU is labeled as false, it’s more of a “false until proven true” situation.
“It’s really about the best situation they could have put the EU in. The option would have been to throw it out completely, which really isn’t very useful for anybody, or to pick and choose what they thought was canon. But to do that they would have needed to know exactly what they wanted to do with ‘Star Wars’ for the next 30 years, which is obviously impossible. So by putting it into legend status, what you’ve essentially got is these books are like the legend of Robin Hood. Probably don’t exist but maybe they do. And if they ever decide they want to bring something back from legend into canon, it would be just as if somebody found a letter from the Sheriff of Nottingham complaining to Prince John about Robin Hood and suddenly Robin Hood is no longer a fictional character but he’s part of history. They can do that very easily. They can come in and pluck Talon Karrde or the Noghri or somebody out of legends or Admiral Thrawn or anybody and suddenly that character is canon again. So they’ve done about the best they can do and I’m satisfied that the Expanded Universe is in good hands.”
With a character like Grand Admiral Thrawn being such a prominent character in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, rumors have begun to circulate regarding Thrawn eventually making his way into the film. Some have already speculated that Ben Mendelsohn’s character in “Rogue One” has a lot of similarities to the look of the character. Given that Timothy Zahn is the creator of Thrawn, he gave some definitive proof as to why Mendelsohn’s character is definitely not Thrawn. Although the attire looks similar, that uniform is actually pretty common in the Star Wars universe and worn by many characters of that supposed Admiral/Grand Admiral ranking.
“I’ve seen the trailer for ‘Rogue One’ [and] I point out that Imperial Security Bureau, ISB, also has white tunics. They may have entirely white uniforms, I’m not sure, but we saw some white tunics in ‘A New Hope’. So we know ISB does have a similar uniform. I would love that [character] to be a Grand Admiral or an Admiral but we don’t know yet. As to rumors of Thrawn in [Star Wars] Rebels, there are rumors about everything. I remember people swearing up and down that Mara Jade was going to be in ‘The Force Awakens’. So my rule is until it’s announced on StarWars.com, don’t even waste your brain power thinking about it. It’d be cool, I agree, but until it’s confirmed, not even going to worry about it. However if you’ve got their ear, certainly you can nudge them in that direction.”
My last question revolved around other rumors regarding the “Star Wars” film universe. In particular, the the rumors about Snoke and who he could be was the topic of discussion. Timothy Zahn didn’t have any sort of insight regarding the subject but instead showed what a true fan he is stating that he refused to follow anything that could be spoiler related. I have to say that I respect that answer.
“…I’ll just wait and see. I try to avoid the spoilers as much as possible because I just like to see the movies…fresh.”
Timothy Zahn was a very enlightening individual to speak with, especially for someone like me who is a huge “Star Wars” fan. I thanked him for the interview and attending Awesome Con and he was very gracious for being part of the interview and convention.