“The Mandalorian,” the newest gunfighter in the “Star Wars” galaxy, gets his own live-action series this fall. Sunday at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, series creator Jon Favreau debuted footage to thousands of screaming “Star Wars” fans, revving up anticipation for the spinoff that helps launch Disney’s Netflix-disrupting streaming service Disney+ in November.
Set between the events of “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens” — or in the parlance of canonical “Star Wars” mythos, “after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order,” per Lucasfilm — “The Mandalorian” stars Pedro Pascal of “Game of Thrones” as the titular space gunfighter as he adventures across the outer reaches of the galaxy.
It’s a character new to the “Star Wars” universe, but one whose origins will be familiar to fans: Like legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett and his mercenary space daddy, Jango, the Mandalorian hails from the planet Mandalore and runs in similar cantina-dwelling circles of bounty hunters, rogues and assorted scum and villainy.
Gina Carano is Cara Dune in Lucasfilm’s “The Mandalorian,” the first live-action “Star Wars” spinoff to come to the small screen.(Melinda Sue Gordon / Lucasfilm)
Carl Weathers stars as Greef in “The Mandalorian.”(Melinda Sue Gordon / Lucasfilm)
Pedro Pascal, who played Oberyn Martell of “Game of Thrones,” stars in the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.”(François Duhamel / Lucasfilm Ltd.)
“The Mandalorian” has a "lone gunfighter" theme.(Lucasfilm)
Gina Carano, Nick Nolte, Giancarlo Esposito, Carl Weathers, filmmaker Werner Herzog, Emily Swallow and Omid Abtahi also star in the series premiering Nov. 12 — the same day $6.99-a-month service Disney+ launches with a slate of original programming.
Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy, who helped announce the expansive Disney+ lineup to investors Thursday and joined “Episode IX” director J.J. Abrams and stars onstage to reveal the ninth “Star Wars” film title, “The Rise of Skywalker,” on Friday, returned to the Celebration stage to introduce “The Mandalorian” to fans.
Favreau, joined by “Star Wars” animation veteran Dave Filoni, who makes his live-action directing debut and also acts as executive producer, described “The Mandalorian” as taking place in a time when only the strong survive amid rampant chaos in the galaxy. “Yes,” agreed Filoni with a grin. “Good chaos.”
The show brings the space-western emphasis back to “Star Wars,” taking inspiration from the original trilogy’s influences and “getting back to the roots of what inspired George,” said Favreau. Among the guiding inspirations behind “The Mandalorian”: Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns and the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa. Also, the infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special” (from which Pascal’s signature blaster originates) and, according to Favreau, the Ewok adventure “Caravan of Courage.”
“ ‘Star Wars’ has so many different people and so many different aspects, we wanted to bring them all together,” he said. The show will bring to life previously unseen planets, species and starships including the Mandalorian’s own ship, the Razorcrest.
Standing ovations greeted stars Pascal, Carano and Weathers as they took the stage to see footage for the first time themselves.
“The Mandalorian is a mysterious lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy. … Some might say he has questionable moral character,” Pascal hinted, struggling to describe his character without spilling top-secret details. “And he’s a badass.”
Carano will play an “ex-Rebel Shock Trooper” named Cara Dune. “I’m a bit of a loner, which isn’t a far stretch, and I’m having a bit of trouble reintegrating myself into society,” she said of the character.
Weathers plays a member of the bounty hunter community named Greef, who connects the Mandalorian with a shady client played by Herzog. “The Mando is a guy he figures can get the job done,” said the actor, “and the Mando does what needs to be done.”
Lucky fans who snagged seats inside the packed Wintrust Arena were treated to a three-minute, behind-the-scenes featurette with sneak peeks from the set and brief comments from series directors Filoni, Deborah Chow, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa and Taika Waititi.
Old-school animatronics and puppetry, practical effects and a grime-covered look lend the footage a gritty, analog feel, even while the production utilizes cutting-edge effects and 3-D printed scale models to bring the story to life.
Favreau, who worked on the show while simultaneously finishing post-production and VFX on “The Lion King” for Disney, said cast members Carano and Weathers did many of their own stunts, including a battle scene for which former MMA fighter Carano did take after take lifting and carrying a fellow performer.
“The physicality in that, it comes across onscreen,” Favreau said.
“I’ve been doing my squats,” Carano added.
At the conclusion of the panel, which was live-streamed through StarWars.com, Favreau signed off for the viewers at home — and then told fans in attendance to stay in their seats for a special treat.
He then screened a full scene for Celebration attendees in which Greef offers the Mandalorian a high-paying bounty for a secretive client, sending him across town, down an alley and into a secured bunker full of Stormtroopers — where Herzog’s character presents him the assignment. Herzog’s voice-over brings an ominous tone to the ensuing sizzle reel, which offered glimpses of lawlessness, fighting Jawas, Gina Carano throwing down, Giancarlo Esposito and a flamethrower-wielding Stormtrooper.
“Is the world more peaceful since the revolution?” Herzog asks in a very Herzogian tone. “Look outside. I see nothing but death … and chaos.”