It is an understatement to say Tony Gilroy came to the project Rogue One: A Star Wars Story late. The film had in fact already been shot and a “director’s cut” of sorts had been delivered to Disney. Hence why the displeased studio was so eager to bring in someone like Gilroy—the writer-director of Michael Clayton and the writer of the first four Jason Bourne movies—to oversee some in-depth last-minute reshoots. In the aftermath, we know that the entire ending was reconceived and that Gilroy earned a writing credit on the film (as well as millions of dollars). Yet still his input might have been larger. Rumors continue to suggest he “ghost directed” the movie.
This is something that Gilroy neither exactly confirms or or denies during his new appearance on the Brian Kappleman podcast, but now after finally speaking about his role on the film, he does make it clear he rescued Rogue One from what he viewed as a mess that was scaring the upper echelon of Disney, and he did so with relative ease because he has no love or reverence for Star Wars as a universe or brand.
Describing the environment that he discovered when Disney first brought him onto the film as “confusion,” Gilroy reflects on his last-minute reshoots and re-edits as a chance to find a large problem that was very simple to solve.
“You just go, ‘Folks, just look. Everyone’s going to die.’ So it’s all a movie about what all these people are going to sacrifice, and you need to motivate them with a purity… so is that a theme? Everyone is going to die and sacrifice?”
He goes on to elaborate, “I knew exactly when I saw what I saw, it was instantly clear to me the first thing that needed to happen… I saw the purity that was missing.”
This is an interesting admission, because it seems to suggest the film was in more trouble than any amount of studio spin let on. Indeed, while Gilroy does not claim he directed the picture, he does note he won an arbitration dispute to get a writing credit from the WGA “easily.” He goes on to also note that while he found the process something akin to therapeutic, as he was just fixing the movie’s tonal, thematic, and apparently character problems (he had major notes on at least “one or two characters”), it took him a while to become fully invested in it being his movie.
“It was just a mess and fear that they gotten themselves in,” Gilroy said. “And because it wasn’t really my movie for a while, I slept every night. Like for my own movie, I wouldn’t sleep, but because it was somebody else’s—but at a certain point, everyone’s looking at you.”
The other secret Gilroy credits for the success he found in the movie—as it did end up with mostly positive reviews and more than a billion dollars in box office—is that he approached it as a war film, not a Star Wars movie.
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Says Gilroy, “In fact that was my superpower…. I’ve never been interested in Star Wars ever, so I have no reverence for it whatsoever. I was unafraid of that. And they were in such a swamp—they were just in terrible, terrible trouble, that all you could do was improve their position.” But it is also for that reason he later confirmed he has no interest in making a future Star Wars movie. “No, I don’t like it. It doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t think Rogue is a Star Wars movie in a lot of ways. It’s a Battle of Britain film.” It’s a point we’ve certainly broadly reflected on in the past.
This confirms grumblings we’ve heard in the past, including actor Ben Mendlesohn suggesting there are entirely different versions of “20 or 30” scenes in the movie, as well as the fact that fans have long noted the ending teased in early Rogue One trailers is not the ending found in the actual film. You can listen to the full Gilroy interview on The Moment with Brian Koppleman podcast right here. Gilroy’s next screenplay for Beirut is in theaters on April 13.