How the Star Wars Dub Team Recorded in Spanish Without Watching Rogue One


As you can imagine, translating a movie is a pretty huge undertaking. But imagine having to translate Rogue One without watching it. Here’s how it’s done.

You’ve probably heard at this point that English is an incredibly difficult language to learn or read our article that highlights just how easily one phrase can be interpreted a thousand different ways. Of course, the simplest example is this:

  • Would and wood are spelled differently, but pronounced the same way. Yet,
  • Read and read are spelled exactly the same way, but pronounced differently based only on the context of the sentence.

Obviously, it takes a lot of practice and skill to move from one language to the next. Even for the simplest things. So imagine the giant undertaking it would be to translate something as complex and nuanced as a Star Wars film. When taking movies to non-English speaking countries, distributors have two choices: subtitles or dubbing a movie with an alternative voice cast. There are positive and negatives to each, but the most popular example at the forefront of my mind is when they dub Studio Ghibli films for American audiences.

So, here’s how it goes:

Thanks to Latino USA and Rezecla (with a hat tip to io9), we have somewhat of a better idea as to how the Star Wars dubbing comes about. Fortunately, they lucked out by having one cast member already familiar with the Spanish language. As a Mexican, who used his natural accent in Rogue One, Diego Luna also did the work for the dub.

But that still leaves a wealth of other cast members who need voiceover work. Led by translator Katya Ojeda, folks like Luna (actually, it only took him two days) and Jessica Ángeles, who voiced Jyn Erso, spent two and a half months staring at a blank black screen. It’s called “rotoscope,” but essentially, it means that didn’t have any sort of facial expressions or body movements to go off of. Unfortunately, they have no visual cues other than finding the


best word that matches with the lip movements. Additionally, they cut a Latin-American version and a version for Spain!

Ojeda explains:

"“This is not that easy because, well, there are a lot of countries and even though we speak the same language, we have different ways to use certain words, different uses, different slang, so we have to use the most neutral word we can find.”"

And though Disney and Lucasfilm keep most of the film under wraps, Héctor Gómez Gil, the “dub director,” gets to watch the film and give them cues. Basically, he would have to describe Riz Ahmed’s stance of fear or the way his hands trembled instead of letting the voice actors see it.

When you listen to the interview below, really listen to how important representation is. Note how they translate specific terms like lightsaber (or “light sword”) or Millennium Falcon:

We all know the impact that Diego Luna had on the Latin community for his role in Rogue One, but here’s a fun tidbit: My Latina aunt left the theater after Rogue One — she also has an accent — and asked, “Why was he using a fake accent?”

Related Story: Michael K Williams Joins the Han Solo Standalone Film

Having seen a variety of blockbusters in other languages, the reality is that most films sound best in their native language. But that’s across the board. Japanese or Latin-American films sound best in their respective languages as well. All in all, I think we ought to appreciate the teams beyond production and actors more, who go through the trouble of preparing a film for a broader audience.

Que la fuerze este contigo.