Warning: Spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story managed to successfully hit a thermal exhaust port-sized nostalgia spot with an accessible, non-Jedi-centric Original Trilogy tie-in story. Yet, one famous Force user in Darth Vader memorably grabbed the spotlight with scenes showing the signature franchise baddie at the height of his massacre-making malevolence. However, it seems that a bonus Vader scene was originally on the slate, connecting the Sith Lord to a key character’s final fate.
In an interview with EW, Gary Whitta, who helped develop the Rogue One screenplay that was ultimately written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, dished on a fascinating detail from his own early version of the script. While the film’s primary villain Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) was killed – along with main heroes Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor – by a surface-scouring friendly fire Death Star blast aimed at the Imperial base on the planet Scarif, it seems that Whitta’s script had Krennic somehow surviving the incident. As Whitta reveals of the fantastical scenario:
“They tore him out of the rubble and they brought him back. When they’re going over the ruins, he somehow survived.” Adding, “It’s a bit of a reach, which is why it isn’t in the finished film.”
Like his recent reveal of an alternate plan to have heroes Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor survive, Whitta explains how Krennic, the Empire’s director of Advanced Weapons Research and ultra-ambitious overseer of the Death Star’s construction, originally avoided an ironic destruction from his own celestial contraption; a move ordered by Grand Moff Tarkin, who had no qualms with claiming credit for Krennic’s accomplishments. However, it seems that Krennic’s proverbial ninth life would have been spent, since he would have been held responsible for the Rebels’ escape with the Death Star plans. As Whitta continues of Krennic’s fate:
“He survived the blast and they pulled him up and brought him to the Star Destroyer to report to Vader. He’s all beat up, his cape’s all torn up and stuff, and he thinks he has survived. – Vader kills him for his failure.”
Interestingly, since director Gareth Edwards always planned to use Vader sparingly, the unrealized “Vader kills Krennic” scene was originally designated to be the culminating Darth Vader scene of the film, bookending their initial menacing meeting on Mustafar. The real culminating Vader scene with the adrenaline-imbued massacre of Rebel fleet soldiers in the mad scramble to get the Death Star plans safely away was a component added to the script after Whitta’s contributions. While Whitta did state he considered adding a scene where Vader ran through a large group of Rebels, he claims it would have been set in a different battlefield.
Considering that the final Vader scene we did get with the hallway massacre has already become an iconic moment in its own right, the omission of Krennic’s Vader-dealt death was probably for the best. Indeed, the scene where Krennic, wounded and beaten, looks up at the viciously verdant glow from his own creation and realizes that the Empire had so little regard for his contributions that they would destroy him to tie loose ends was a powerful epiphany and a far more poignant ending than having him simply die in a manner akin to Admiral Ozzel and Captain Needa in The Empire Strikes Back.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gets ready to deliver its own crucial secrets with a post-theatrical debut on Digital HD set for March 28, followed by a DVD/Blu-ray release on April 4.