It was visual effects ace John Knoll who first pitched the idea for the standalone Star Wars hit Rogue One to Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy. And now we know how the film’s heroine, Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, got her unique name.
“I wanted a really strong, smart, and active female character as the lead of this movie,” Knoll, chief creative officer of Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic effects house, told Yahoo Movies. “I have three daughters, and they were all growing up, and they were all young when I was working on the prequels. I felt like Star Wars could really use another good strong smart and decisive female character.”
When it came to naming her, Knoll didn’t have to look far for inspiration. “My youngest daughter is Jane, and my wife is Jen, so [Jyn] is sort of mashup of them. And growing up my aunt was Aunt Ginny, [short] for Virginia, so there’s a little bit of that, too. It’s a mix up of a lot of my favorite women in my life.”
There’s plenty of good nerd fun to be had trying to decipher the origins or inspirations for Star Wars character names, and Rogue One is rife with monikers waiting to be cracked. Mysterious resistance leader Saw Gerrera is an obvious nod to Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. Director Orson Krennic might be an homage to the iconic Orson Welles, who was originally considered for the voice of Darth Vader. Cassian Andor is practically an anagram of Lando Calrissian. And Bodhi Rook is probably not a tribute Patrick Swayze’s Point Break surfer-criminal, but we like to think it is anyway.
As for Jyn Erso, I figured it was a play off of Charlotte Brontë’s literary heroine Jane Eyre. Not only do the names sound alike, Jane, like Jyn, is orphaned as a child and rises to prominence as a young woman. Eyre has long been viewed as a proto-feminist, and Erso, along with The Force Awakens‘ Rey, ushers in a new breed of empowered women in the Star Wars universe. (Another theory out there pointed out that Jyn Erso sounds like Jan Ors, a character who appeared in the LucasArts videogame Star Wars: Dark Forces.)
Earlier, we ran some of these theories by Kennedy and Rogue One director Gareth Edwards (watch the video below), and while they gave credence to a couple of them, they did debunk any Eyre connection. Edwards, though, thought Jyn was named after women in Knoll’s family. He was right.