Since the marketing machine for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story started rolling in the lead-up to the film’s release, fans were sold on a wartime story with heist elements that centered around a crew of misfits who would play a huge role in the fate of the galaxy far, far away. Then Gareth Edwards‘ anthology film hit theaters; the resultant theatrical cut was mostly, but not exactly, what the marketing had promised. Discussions soon began to focus on the film’s script changes and rewrites, drafted in part by Gary Whitta, John Knoll, Chris Weitz, and Tony Gilroy, and speculation sparked up that there was an entirely different third act–if not a totally different movie–waiting somewhere in an editing bay.
Some of these changes are fairly obvious, like the early looks at the film which revealed the Rebel heroes running down a blasted beach with a harddrive-looking device in hand, or a TIE Fighter cutting off Jyn’s presumed escape at the end of a gangplank; neither of these shots were in the film. Other changes are less obvious, like the fact that Jyn Erso was originally Sergeant Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) of the Rebel Alliance. Today, EW has some insight into more changes that occurred throughout the course of Rogue One‘s trip from script to screen, including details on the film’s alternate (and happier) ending.
Spoiler alert for Rogue One, since we’re going to discuss the ending in contrast to what it was originally intended to be. As you’ll remember, the Rebel heroes had managed to secure the Death Star plans and then uploaded them to their waiting allies, just before the tropical sand of Scarif was blasted out from under their feet, turning them all into martyrs. Whitta said, “The original instinct was that they should all die. 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.”
But the writers didn’t initially explore the idea since they feared Disney would find it too dark for the brand. When they finally decided to let the heroes succeed in the mission but fail to return, they had to get the okay from Disney/Lucasfilm brass, says Whitta: “We told them, we feel they all need to die, and [Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy] and everyone else said to go for it. We got the ending that we wanted.” This early happy ending was without Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), or Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), and originally had Sgt. Erso as an enlisted soldier rather than a recruited criminal. A Cassian Andor-type character still commanded the team alongside Erso, but he had a different name. The snarky droid K2-SO, however, was always part of the team and was always intended to die on Scarif.
Here’s where things differ markedly from the theatrical cut. This alternate ending was never shot, but it was scripted, as Whitta confirmed. In the happier ending, the Death Star is still about to destroy Scarif, but rather than have our heroes disable the planet’s shielding and upload the data, Jyn and the Cassian character managed to flee down the beach with data tapes in hand, as seen in earlier marketing material. “A rebel ship came down and got them off the surface,” Whitta says.
All well and good, until Vader pursues the shuttle and ultimately destroys it before turning his attention on Princess Leia’s own craft. However, audiences would have seen something interesting hidden in the remains of the shuttle fragments:
“They got away in an escape pod just in time,” Whitta said. “The pod looked like just another piece of debris … 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.”
Obviously that’s not the way it all worked out in the final cut. Personally, I’m still holding out hope that there was at least a discussion to have Darth Vader cut down the Rogue One heroes in the same manner that he did the nameless Rebel Soldiers at the tail end of the movie, but that day may never come. However, EW has word on another Vader scene that didn’t make the cut, so keep your eyes peeled for more on that later this week.
Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the alternate ending in the comments!