In Rogue One, Diego Luna became the first Mexican actor to play a Star Wars hero — a decision that meant a lot to Latino fans and had an added benefit for Rogue One‘s Spanish translation team. A new NPR segment (co-produced with the Latin culture and music site Remezcla) delves into the significance of Luna’s casting as Cassian Andor and the fascinating process of dubbing Star Wars movies for Latino audiences.
Luna isn’t the first Latino actor to appear prominently in the Star Wars universe (others include Jimmy Smits and Oscar Isaac). But he is the first to speak in character with a Spanish accent. Luna said his accent was never an issue with the film’s creators, telling Telemundo, “I think the conversation was: ‘This is my accent.’ It was a short conversation.” What might seem like a minor decision was a very big deal to Star Wars fans across the globe who share Luna’s accent, one that’s too often used in Hollywood as a punchline. Witness that very sweet fan story Luna posted on Twitter in January from a woman who had an emotional experience seeing Rogue One with her Mexican father.
Not only did Luna speak with his real accent, but he also made the rare decision to dub his own voice in the Spanish-language translation of Rogue One. As explained by translator Katya Ojeda, creating the Spanish dub is a difficult, time-consuming process made more so by the secrecy involved. For her first-draft translation, based on the shooting script, Ojeda worked alone in a Mexico City studio.
“Everything is encrypted. All the material arrives to the studio, and I have to work at the studio,” she explained. “We do not print it. Everything is on only one computer, and when I arrive to work, the script’s already there, open, just for me. And when I close up, I turn off the computer, and if you turn the computer on at that moment you cannot read the script. That’s all I am really able to say.”
After the film was shot, Ojeda had to tweak the language so that the Spanish words closely matched the actors’ lip movements. But because she wasn’t allowed to see the footage, for fear of leaks, Lucasfilm sent her a version with everything blacked out except for the characters’ mouths. “Only when the characters speak they open a little kind of bubble where you can see the lip movement,” she explained.
Even the director of the Spanish-language dub, Héctor Gómez Gil, was only allowed to see the film once before working with his actors. “I prepare basically from the screening and try to not forget the movie,” he said.
And that’s where having Luna in the studio was so valuable: During a difficult translation moment, he was able to explain what was happening in the story. It’s just one more reason to celebrate the growing diversity of the Star Wars universe. Listen to the full NPR segment here.