‘Rogue One’ Writer Gary Whitta on Making ‘Star Wars’ Like ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

     March 27, 2017

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By now, you’re probably pretty burnt out on the various different endings and changes made to Rogue One.  All of these questions make a pretty good case that Disney should just release a warts-and-all behind the scenes book or documentary since it’s not like it’s going to hurt the revenue of Rogue One or any future Star Wars movie.  They print money, and secrecy doesn’t automatically create mystique.

So last week while I had a chance to speak with writer Gary Whitta about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I was more curious about the overall process of working on a Star Wars film rather than being the 3,497th person to ask him “How did the ending change?” During our conversation on the phone, we spoke about how he got involved with the project, the level of studio involvement, how writing on Rogue One compares to his work on Star Wars Rebels, the unique process of writing a story-driven game like The Walking Dead, his thoughts on the Sherlock Holmes 3 writers room, and more.

Check out the full interview below. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, and DVD on April 4th.

rogue-one-blurayCOLLIDER: So the first thing I wanted to ask you about was how did you get involved with Rogue One and sort of how is your involvement reflected in the finished film?

GARY WHITTA: Wow, that’s a very big question. So the first part, I mean, going all the way back to the beginning, I remember specifically when I learned the films were coming back, this was before they announced JJ [Abrams] or any of that, they were just going to make new films, there was no talk of standalones or anything, really, but I was so excited just as a fan that the films were coming back, but also as a writer, I literally went straight from the news story on my phone to calling my agent, as I’m sure every writer in town that day was calling their agent saying, “You’ve gotta — I want to be apart of it.” So I never seriously expected I would end up doing anything because, you know, it’s Star Wars, they can take their pick, they can get the best screenwriters in the world to work on these movies, and they truly did, I mean, Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, they helped make the movie way better. But they did eventually call me in for a general meeting, and I had a very vague conversation with them, it’s a little bit like the CIA. They’re very closely guarded, keep it a secret. So I went away not really sure why I even met with them, it was a very general chat, they asked me to kind of talk about what I like about Star Wars and I told them about when I was a kid growing up with the Star Wars films, and a couple of weeks later they sent me this document John Knoll [the one who came up with the original story] created called Destroyer of Worlds, which was this, you know, basically the idea of the rebels who stole the plans for the Death Star. And it was, you know, they had a good framework, it wasn’t a really a finished film, and kind of an early version of the Jyn Erso character and a couple of others, but it wasn’t, you know, a full screenplay or even like a full treatment for a story, it needed a lot of fleshing out, and so I went back and pitched some ideas to John Knoll, and I must’ve said something right. Actually I think I remember what I said, I remember looking at and saying, “This feels to me a little bit like a Star Wars version of Zero Dark Thirty,” and then you’ve got this kind of strong female character who’s determined to, you know, complete the mission and at the end there’s this really cool scene where they actually go do it, and much like Zero Dark Thirty, the idea of the film would be gritty, kind of militaristic, deep underground type feel. I remember when I referenced that movie, John kind of nodded a little bit, wow, I said something right there, I’m not quite sure what I did but I said the right thing. And then later, after they hired me, they showed me John’s original kind of presentation for the film, they had a bunch of clips and references to Zero Dark Thirty, and I said, okay, that’s kind of what — we were on the same page about the sensibility we were going for, so that’s how I got the job.

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