LONDON The "Star Wars" universe landed in London on Tuesday with Stormtroopers standing guard at the riverside Tate Modern art gallery for the launch of the sci-fi franchise's new standalone film "Rogue One".
Instead of walking the red carpet in the central Leicester Square, where movie premieres are usually held in the British capital, actors Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker promoted their film at the gallery, home to contemporary artworks.
Logos from the movie were projected on the gallery's bare walls around the main hall, dotted with Stormtroopers.
The first spin-off movie in the space saga's reboot since Disney bought filmmaker George Lucas' Lucasfilm Ltd for $4 billion in 2012, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" does not follow the latest trilogy which kicked off with last year's "The Force Awakens" box office blockbuster.
Jones, known for "The Theory of Everything" and "Inferno", stars as new heroine Jyn Erso, who bands together with other rebels to steal the plans for destruction weapon, the Death Star. The new lead follows other popular female "Star Wars" characters such as Princess Leia and Rey.
"I looked back at those early films and used them as inspiration but I definitely wanted Jyn to be her own person," Jones told Reuters.
"Rogue One" is set before Lucas' 1977 "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" movie and also stars Mexican actor Diego Luna, Chinese actor Donnie Yen and British-born actor Riz Ahmed.
"It's the people that have to come out and fight for freedom (in this film)," Luna said. "I love that, I think it's a good message to send today."
The movie, which hits cinemas worldwide from Wednesday, has split movie critics. It is expected to make more than $300 million at the global box office this weekend.
Asked about "Star Wars: Episode VIII" film which follows "The Force Awakens", producer Kathleen Kennedy said: "It's doing great ... We're chugging along in the cutting room."
That movie is due for release in December 2017.
(Reporting by Francis Maguire and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Andrew Hay)