If you haven’t seen Star Wars: Rogue One yet, shame on you. Also, don’t read the next few paragraphs. But most importantly, this movie has been out for MONTHS.
Talking to EW, Rogue One screenwriter Gary Whitta and director Gareth Edwards opened up about the film’s original ending – one that was a bit less depressing, but perhaps not as effective as the version we actually got. The original ending, as pitched in the treatment by exec producer John Knoll, didn’t quite have as long a list of casualties. The most notable difference is that Jyn and “Cassian” survived the mission on Scarif.
It certainly would have been a much more Disney ending if the two main heroes of the movie had survived the suicide mission against all odds instead of being blown away by the Death Star. That didn’t sit well with Whitta or Edwards, though. It didn’t feel like the natural course of things to them.
“The original instinct was that they should all die,” Whitta told EW. “It’s worth it. If you’re going to give your life for anything, give your life for this, to destroy a weapon that going to kill you all anyway. That’s what we always wanted to do. But we never explored it because we were afraid that Disney might not let us do it, that Disney might think it’s too dark for a Star Wars movie or for their brand.”
Eventually, Edwards and second screenwriter Chris Weitz, who also agreed all of the Rogue One team should die, pitched the new ending to Disney. The studio agreed and the rest is history. The movie is much better for it too, if you ask me.
According to Whitta, there were still plenty of casualties in the original ending:
“I didn’t say everyone made it off. Kaytoo always died,” Whitta said. “Jyn did survive. ‘Cassian’ also survived. There were a lot of casualties on both sides, in both versions of the scripts.”
Poor, Kaytoo. The best droid since Artoo and Threepio, but he still takes all of those laser bolts to the chest, no matter the ending.
The question remains: how would Jyn and her remaining comrades have escaped the Empire in the original ending? For one thing, Jyn’s original squad was a bit different in the original version. In its earliest drafts, Rogue One (which was actually called “Destroyer of Worlds” in Knoll’s story treatment) didn’t feature Bodhi Rook, Chirrut Imwe, or Baze Malbus. It did feature a Cassian parallel but the character wasn’t Diego Luna just yet.
As for the escape from Scarif, some of that might have actually made it to the cutting room floor at the very least. There are some images in early trailers of the film – before reshoots – that show Jyn and Cassian running through the beaches of the Imperial installation with the data tape containing the Death Star plans. There was no transmision in the original draft, which means that Jyn and Cassian’s daring rush through the beach existed in the earliest version of the story.
“A rebel ship came down and got them off the surface,” Whitta said. “The transfer of the plans happened later. They jumped away and later [Leia’s] ship came in from Alderaan to help them. The ship-to-ship data transfer happened off Scarif.”
Darth Vader would have still given chase on the Devastator and hunted down the Rebel ship, cutting through the Rebels one by one. Leia would have escaped with the plans in her Blockade Runner, setting up A New Hope. As Vader gives chase once again, the audience would have spotted a final glimpse of an escape pod falling through space, suggesting that Jyn and her friends had made it off the ship before it was completely destroyed.
“They got away in an escape pod just in time,” Whitta said. “The pod looked like just another piece of debris.”
Basically, Jyn and friends would have survived both the Death Star and Darth Vader in one movie.
“The fact that we had to jump through so many hoops to keep them alive was the writing gods telling us that if they were meant to live it wouldn’t be this difficult,” Whitta says. “We decided they should die on the surface [of Scarif,] and that was the way it ended. We were constantly trying to make all the pieces fit together. We tried every single idea. Eventually, through endless development you get through an evolutionary process where the best version rises to the top.”
All in all, I’m glad the film ended the way it did. The sacrifice carries so much weight and adds so much to what we already knew about A New Hope. Rogue One might be one of the few prequels ever made that actually makes the original film a tad better.
Star Wars: Rogue One arrives on Blu-ray on April 4.