Alan Tudyk's Improvised Star Wars: Rogue One Slap Nearly Made Diego Luna Break

In Gareth Edwards' 2016 studio-sanctioned fan film "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," a group of brave Rebels defy their superior officers, go rogue, and steal the blueprints for the Death Star, a planet-killing machine run by the evil Empire. The thieves are all killed in the process (spoilers?), but their mission will prove successful. "Rogue One" doesn't make explicit what will be done with the Death Star blueprints, but the filmmakers made the assumption that everyone in the audience had already seen George Lucas' 1977 "Star Wars" film, and trusted them to connect the dots. "Rogue One" also inspired a spinoff TV series called "Andor," which many critics have said is one of the best dramas to come from the "Star Wars" universe in years. 

In "Rogue One," actor Alan Tudyk played the droid K-2SO, providing the character's voice and body movements via motion capture technology. K-2SO was once in the thrall of the Empire, but had since been reprogrammed to help the Rebels in their cause. He was flippant and sarcastic, providing the film with small amounts of levity. Because K-2SO still bears the markings of the Empire, there will naturally be a scene in "Rogue One" wherein the droid has to pose as an enemy to rescue his compatriots Cassian (Diego Luna) and Jyn (Felicity Jones) from a tight spot. 

According to a 2017 article in Inverse, Tudyk improvised a line of dialogue — and a rough slap across the head — that had Luna cracking up. Tudyk said that it was his favorite moment in the film, born of actorly instincts rather than staged drama or special effects. Tudyk's body can't be seen, but his unexpected movement was retained. 

A fresh one

The line in question came when K-2SO was caught walking with his friends by a Stormtrooper. The Stormtrooper asked K-2SO where he was taking the Rebel soldiers, assuming that the droid had taken them prisoner. Because K-2SO is not much of an actor, his only response was "These are prisoners." Where are you taking them, droid? "I am taking them ... to imprison them ... in prison," he says. When Cassian tries to clarify the story to the Stormtrooper, K-2SO yells "Quiet!" and smacks his friend in the head. Tudyk's unscripted line was "And there's a fresh one if you mouth off again." 

Watching the scene, you can see Diego Luna covering his mouth. Practically, this was because his character was just slapped. From a production standpoint, Luna covered his mouth because he couldn't help smiling at Tudyk's improv. Luckily for Luna, the film cuts away from his reaction quickly. One had to look very closely to see the actor "breaking." 

Tudyk also improvised another comedic line later in the film. When Jyn is contemplating her rogue mission, K-2SO steps forward and tells her that he supports her. "I'll be there for you, Jyn," the droid says meaningfully. The sentimentality of the scene is undercut by a clever moment of bathos, however, as K-2SO clarifies, "Cassian said I had to." The droid wasn't becoming warm and caring, he was just wearily following orders. Tudyk was proud of that moment as well. 

"Rogue One" isn't a terribly well-written movie, and the character work is somewhat weak across the board. Tudyk's levity, however, made K-2SO the best part of the film. We were lucky to have him.