Lucasfilm has announced that principal photography is officially underway on the first film in the new standalone ‘Star Wars’ stories series, ‘Rogue One.’ Gareth Edwards (‘Godzilla,’ ‘Monsters’) is behind the lens for the film, telling the story of resistance fighters who have united to steal plans to the dreaded Death Star.

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The stellar cast includes Felicity Jones (‘The Theory of Everything’), Diego Luna (‘Milk,’ ‘Killing Them Softly’), Ben Mendelsohn (‘Bloodline,’ ‘Mississippi Grind’), Hong Kong action star and martial artist Donnie Yen (‘Ip Man,’ ‘Blade II’), Jiang Wen (‘Let the Bullets Fly,’ ‘Devils on the Doorstep’), Forest Whitaker (‘The Butler,’ ‘The Last King of Scotland’), Mads Mikkelsen (‘The Hunt’ ‘Casino Royale’), Alan Tudyk (‘Con Man,’ ‘Trumbo’), and Riz Ahmed (‘Nightcrawler,’ ‘Four Lions).

“Rogue One takes place before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and will be a departure from the saga films but have elements that are familiar to the Star Wars universe,” says Kathleen Kennedy. “It goes into new territory, exploring the galactic struggle from a ground-war perspective while maintaining that essential Star Wars feel that fans have come to know. Gareth is such an innovative director and I’m so excited to be working with him and the extraordinary ensemble cast he’s selected for ‘Rogue One.’”

Veteran ILM visual effects supervisor John Knoll, who shares a long history with the ‘Star Wars’ movies, dating back to the mid-1990s, originated the idea for the movie. Allison Shearmur (‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,’ ‘Cinderella’), John Knoll, Simon Emanuel (‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ ‘Fast & Furious 6’) and Jason McGatlin (‘Tintin,’ ‘War of the Worlds’) are executive producers. Kiri Hart and John Swartz (‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’) are co-producers.

STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE is slated for a December 16, 2016 release.