Rogue One might be my favorite Star Wars film in the “Disney Era”. In my opinion, it creates the perfect balance between effective use of nostalgia and creating something new. This film also leads seamlessly into A New Hope, the film that started it all. Rogue One introduces a new cast of characters that I instantly fell in love with, while also including (but not overusing) legacy characters. Rogue One puts the “war” in Star Wars in a film that creates high stakes and grave consequences with the mission at hand. As seamless as Rogue One may seem, the process of getting to the final product involved multiple writers, reshoots, and changes along the way. IGN recently did a “Watch From Home Theater” with screenwriters Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz, which can be found here: IGN. In this article, I will highlight some of the most interesting details of what could have been, revealed by the screenwriters of the film.
Let me begin by directing your attention to the image above of Jyn Erso wearing an imperial uniform in a very Star Wars looking hallway. This shot could be seen in one of the trailers for Rogue One, but it never actually ended up in the film. Interestingly, this shot was never meant to be in the film at all; director Gareth Edwards just thought it was a cool shot. In fact, there are several scenes from the trailers of Rogue One that were left on the cutting room floor. If you remember, there was a shot of Jyn Erso facing off against a TIE fighter on Scarif that didn’t make it into the final film either. Also, in the original script, there were two different facilities on Scarif: one held the Death Star plans, and the other contained the communications tower. In the trailer, you could see Jyn carrying the plans and running across the beach. It seems that much of the third act of the film was edited when Tony Gilroy came on as a screenwriter for the film later in production. I would love to see deleted scenes from this film, but given the controversy of the extensive reshoots, we probably never will.
Opening Crawl and Titles
If you think about it, Rogue One is really the story of what we see in the opening crawl of A New Hope. Speaking of opening crawls, I wish Rogue One had an opening crawl. It was the one thing I felt was missing from the film when I saw it for the first time. However, Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz revealed the reason behind this decision. Gary Whitta actually wrote an opening crawl for the film, but they decided not to use it because they wanted to separate the standalone films from the “Skywalker Saga” films. While I understand this decision, Rogue One is so connected to Episode IV that I feel it could have benefited from having one. There were also other titles that were considered for this film, including “Dark Times”, “Rebellion”, and “Shadow of the Death Star”. Personally, I’m happy with the title we got, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Planets and Names
Apparently, in Rogue One, we were very close to seeing a couple of planets that were mentioned in the original trilogy. Originally, Jyn went to Ord Mantell instead of Jedha to find Saw Gerrera. Ord Mantell is a planet that was referenced in The Empire Strikes Back by Han Solo. Additionally, the rebel base was supposed to be on Dantooine and then moved to Yavin during the course of the film. It would have been interesting to see what the original rebel base on Dantooine looked like. However, due to budgetary reasons, these planets had to be removed from the story. A new planet that we did get to see in Rogue One got its name in a very humorous way. A barista at Starbucks pronounced Gareth’s name “Scarif”, and thus the tropical planet got its name.
Epic Scale and Visual Effects
One thing that Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz really stressed was Gareth Edward’s ability to create epic shots on a large scale. This is certainly evident when you consider one of my favorite shots in the film. In Rogue One, we are treated to the visual splendor of a Star Destroyer emerging from the shadows, and behind it is the enormously daunting Death Star. The scale of this shot is just incredible and a testament to Gareth’s talent as a director. Another interesting reveal was that Grand Moff Tarkin was supposed to have a smaller role and be in the shadows more, because the writers were uncertain of the ability to bring Peter Cushing back to life (digitally). As it turned out, they were happy enough with the results to give the character more screen time. This character was designed by using an old mold of Peter Cushing’s head to recreate the character digitally. While it can be a bit jarring, especially for diehard fans, it was certainly a bold and impressive move by the filmmakers.
From the beginning, Gareth Edwards wanted to create something bold and new, and he wanted to take risks. What is riskier than killing off nearly the entire cast? However, Gareth and the writers were concerned that Disney/Lucasfilm would not support this idea, so only K-2SO was going to die initially (that poor droid just can’t catch a break). Interestingly, when Tony Gilroy came onto the project, he decided that all of the characters needed to die because “this is a film about sacrifice”. As it turned out, Lucasfilm and Disney loved and supported the idea! Another thing we almost didn’t get was the famous Darth Vader hallway scene. Originally, Darth Vader mowed down some rebels on the beach. The scene with Vader in the hallway was added very late in production, but quickly became one of the most memorable moments in Star Wars history.
If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend checking out the Rogue One “Watch From Home Theater”, which can be found in the link at the beginning of this article, or on IGN’s YouTube channel. There were many more details revealed that I didn’t mention here, and it will definitely put you in the mood to revisit Rogue One! While Rogue One went through many different iterations, I am very happy with the film we got, and it is among my favorite Star Wars films of all time.